For all 54 years of their marriage, music filled the Bryn Mawr home and lives of George Hermann and his late wife, Myrl.
Now, thanks to George’s generous gift to the Orchestra of Myrl’s beloved C.G. Testore violin, circa 1700, they will be contributing to the fabled Philadelphia Sound in concerts at the Kimmel Center, across the United States, and around the world.
“The Philadelphia Orchestra has always been known for its string section,” said George. “Having Myrl’s instrument in the section is all to the good.”
The couple met in George’s hometown of Fort Thomas, KY, when Myrl was there visiting family. While he completed his pre-medical studies at Harvard, she earned a degree in music from Radcliffe College. After graduating, the couple settled in Bryn Mawr. George worked as a pathologist at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. Myrl received her Ph.D. in musicology from Bryn Mawr College and together they raised a daughter and a son.
They were busy, but the music never stopped, nor did their attendance at Philadelphia Orchestra concerts.
George says Myrl was “devoted to Mozart. She played Mozart all her life.” Her undergraduate honors thesis was on Mozart’s Divertimentos and Cassations. As for George, he is a Bach devotee who has come around to a deeper appreciation of Mozart, thanks to Myrl. He’s also a pianist who claims with a healthy dose of modesty, “I play for myself. No one who hears me once will want to hear me play again.”
Myrl was the real musician, he said. In 1970, when she was ready to get a new violin, she purchased the Testore instrument from noted purveyor William Moennig & Son, for $12,000. It was the best instrument they could afford at the time.
Myrl played it with the Main Line Symphony, the Musical Coterie of Wayne, in chamber music groups, and other ensembles. She also performed at the Music Study Club, salons that Myrl and George, along with others, hosted in their homes. Members played for one another and discussed music and composers. George and his daughter have continued hosting one of these bimonthly events.
Following Myrl’s death in 2012, George wasn’t sure what to do with the treasured instrument, now worth $150,000. Then a friend suggested he donate it to the Orchestra.
The Orchestra has a collection of instruments it owns, some acquired, some donated, and lends the instruments to musicians in the ensemble. “Vintage instruments create one-of-a-kind tones and colors that allow The Philadelphia Orchestra to embellish and maintain its distinctive sound,” said Ryan Fleur, executive vice president for Orchestra advancement. “We are grateful when we can add these instruments to our collection.”
Just like musicians themselves, the instruments have to undergo an “audition” to meet the exacting standards of the Orchestra. In the case of the Testore, the first step in the donation acceptance process was for it to be played by First Associate Concertmaster Juliette Kang and Daniel Han. The two spent the better part of 90 minutes putting the violin through all sorts of technical exercises and it received their stamp of approval.
“The Testore has a very warm, rich, and soulful tone, especially in the high register,” said Associate Concertmaster Ying Fu, who gave the violin a tryout and will play the instrument when he returns from paternity leave. “I am very much looking forward to playing it because I have never regularly played a violin that is around 300 years old.”
Before a recent concert, Dr. Hermann’s donation was acknowledged by Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore. “This remarkable instrument was permanently donated to the Orchestra by the Hermann family in memory of Myrl Hermann, who lovingly performed on it for many years,” she said. “Please join me in welcoming and thanking members of the Hermann family who are with us today, several of whom traveled from far outside of Philadelphia to celebrate this special occasion. We thank you for this extraordinary gift and for the legacy of great music-making it will provide.”
Joining Hermann at the concert were his daughter, Heather Hermann Miller; his grandsons, Will and Robert; and family friend Un-jin P. Zimmerman.
Because Ying is on paternity leave, Concertmaster David Kim played the newest instrument as the Orchestra performed Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé, which included solos that spotlighted the violin. “I love the sound of this instrument. It is warm and buttery but also projects beautifully into the hall—just what a concertmaster needs,” said David. “It is also exceedingly easy to play and is a tremendous addition to the Orchestra’s first violin section.”
“It sounded fine to me,” George said after hearing it played in the concert. “I had a feeling of relief and gratification that the violin was going to have a permanent, very, very good home.”
Thanks to the generosity of the Hermanns, which the Orchestra acknowledges on this Giving Tuesday, the beautiful sounds of this C.G. Testore violin will continue to be heard for generations to come whenever The Philadelphia Orchestra plays.
During this season of giving, the Orchestra hopes you will be inspired by the generosity of the Hermann family to support our beloved Orchestra this year. It is because of your financial support that these Fabulous Philadelphians continue to provide us all with memorable musical experiences.
To make a Giving Tuesday gift to the Orchestra, please click here or call the Annual Fund office at 215.893.3151.
Photo 2 caption: The violin donation was acknowledged at a recent Orchestra concert attended by (back row, from left) Dr. Hermann’s daughter, Heather Hermann Miller; Dr. Hermann; Concertmaster David Kim, who played the violin at the performance; family friend Un-jin P. Zimmerman; and (front row, from left) Dr. Hermann’s grandsons, Will and Robert.
Photo 3 caption: Concertmaster David Kim prepares to play the C.G. Testore violin in Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé.