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John Hsu


1931 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
John Hsu Obituary
John Hsu

Chapel Hill, NC - John T. Hsu died peacefully of heart failure on March 24, 2018, at Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Martha Russell Hsu; his siblings Nancy Li of Pasadena, CA, Thomas Hsu of Houston, TX, and Bella Bell of Honolulu, HI; his brother-in-law Robert Russell of Redding, CT; seven nieces and nephews; and nine grand nieces and nephews.

Born in Swatow, China, of Benjamin Zi and Lucy Ma Zi, he came to the US in 1949. A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, he received the Bachelor of Music degree in 1953, Master of Music in 1955, and Honorary Doctor of Music in 1971.

Hsu had the distinction of being a member of the Cornell University music faculty for fifty years, from 1955 until his retirement in 2005. Through the years, he gave lessons in cello and viola da gamba; taught courses in music theory, music history, and performance practice; conducted the Cornell Collegium Musicum, the Sage Chapel Choir, the Cornell Chamber Orchestra, and the Cornell Symphony Orchestra; and was cellist of the Amadé Trio, Cornell's resident ensemble. He was Chairman of the Department of Music 1966-71, a Faculty Fellow of the Cornell Society for the Humanities 1971-72, and was named Old Dominion Foundation Professor in 1976. In 1970, he founded the Cornell Summer Viol Program, which from 1972 to 1996 was the longest continuing summer music program devoted to the study of the French solo viola da gamba performing tradition.

Hsu was Artistic Director Emeritus of the Aston Magna Foundation for Music and the Humanities, founder and conductor of the Apollo Ensemble (a period-instrument chamber orchestra), founder of the Haydn Baryton Trio, and a world-renowned player of the viola da gamba and baryton. As conductor and instrumentalist, he recorded award-winning CDs and toured throughout this country and Europe. Among his LP recordings of French Baroque viol music for The Musical Heritage Society during the 1970s are the first complete recording of the five suites for viola da gamba by Antoine Forqueray (the Paganini of the viola da gamba), made on the tercentenary of the composer's birth in 1972, and a series of discs of solo viol pieces by Marin Marais (the most important composer of works for the instrument). He was Artistic Director and Conductor of the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra from 2006 to 2009, and guest conductor of the Vivaldi Project in 2009, 2010, and 2014.

Hsu was the editor of the first modern edition (seven volumes) of the complete instrumental works of Marin Marais (1656-1728) and author of A Handbook of French Baroque Viol Technique, both published by Broude Brothers Limited. In May 2000, the government of France bestowed the honor of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres on Hsu in recognition of his life-long commitment to French Baroque music as a scholar, performer, and teacher.

After living in Ithaca, NY, for 55 years, he and Martha relocated to Chapel Hill, NC, in 2010, where they enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and discovering new ones. They became residents at Carol Woods, a continuing care community, in 2012.

Much loved husband, brother, uncle, colleague, teacher, and friend, he was known for his warmth, generosity, and keen insights into musical performance. He will be remembered as one of the leading pioneers in the period instrument movement and a performer who thrilled audiences for decades with his artistry, expressiveness, and eloquence.
Published in Ithaca Journal on Mar. 27, 2018
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