Ernst’s Cello (NOT Piano) Fingers

CVA 136-460 - Ernst Friedlander, Vancouver pianist c1964 Deni Eagland photo

CVA 136-460. Ernst Friedlander, Vancouver Cellist. ca1964. Deni Eagland, Pacific Press. (Cropped by author)

Any piano student who has ‘short finger syndrome’ can spot a fellow-sufferer in an instant. So one look at the photo above was all it took for me to realize that this chap with stubby fingers could not have earned his daily bread (or at least little more than that) by being a “pianist” (as is asserted as of this date by the City of Vancouver Archives)!

Indeed, the image above is a portrait of Ernst Friedlander (1906-66), a well-known cellist in his day, who settled in Greater Vancouver in 1958 along with his professional pianist wife, Marie Friedlander (née Werbner). He lived here with her until 1966 when he died of heart failure, a relatively young man at 60.

Ernst was an Austrian Jew who studied his art in Vienna and later was appointed first chair of the Vienna Concert Orchestra and was a member of the Popa-Grama String Quartet. Ernst and Marie fled the Nazi regime by emigrating to the U.S. in 1937. They moved around a good deal during their time in America. He seems to have been principal cellist with a symphony orchestra, and/or cellist with a smaller group, and/or a lecturer at a university (or all of these, as was the case in Vancouver) in the following:¹

  • 1937-38 – Pittsburgh
  • 1939-42 – Indianapolis
  • 1943-55 – University of Wisconsin; Pro Arte (String) Quartet (1940-47)
  • 1952-54 – University of Wyoming
  • 1955 – Chicago
  • 1956-58 – University of Oklahoma
  • 1958-66 – Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; Vancouver Chamber Orchestra; Vancouver String Quartet (1960-66); lecturer at UBC.

Ernst also wrote “more than 50” compositions, mainly for cello, the most well-known being his Cello Concerto (1950) and Minnelied (1964).²

The Friedlanders felt more at home in Vancouver than they had in America (they became Canadian citizens in 1963). Said Marie: “Canada was so much more like the Old World [than the United States] and we took to it.”³ Marie died in Kelowna in 1995.


¹From Paul Helmer’s Growing with Canada: The Emigré Tradition in Canadian Music. 2009, p. 256; also: Details of EF’s career in Vienna are from: The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois), 14 Feb 1949, p. 2.

²Helmer, 222.

³Helmer, 222.

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