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March 2, 2011

Eugene Fodor, the 'Mick Jagger of the violin,' dead at 60

Folks of a certain age will remember well the name of American violinist Eugene Fodor, who died over the weekend at the age of 60 in Northern Virginia.

When he shared a second place prize in the 1974 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow -- a year when no first prize was awarded -- he became quite the celebrity. With echoes of pianist Van Cliburn, Fodor was hailed not just for his musical talent, but for giving the U.S. a boost during the lingering Cold War.

And thanks to his physical attributes, Fodor attracted attention far outside the usual classical music boundaries. He became one of Johnny Carson's frequent guests on "The Tonight Show"; he performed at the White House; he posed shirtless on a horse for a publicity shot that got wide exposure. Someone dubbed him "the Mick Jagger of the violin," and, for a while, it looked like he would reach superstardom.

But Fodor, like many a sudden star in many a genre, encountered ...

some powerful personal demons. By the 1980s, he was into drugs; in 1989, he was arrested on Martha's Vineyard after breaking into a motel room and found with heroin and cocaine. Fodor went in and out of rehab, in and out of a career.

I interviewed him during one of his first comeback periods in the '90s, when he was booked to play for a large condo community in South Florida. He seemed genuinely interested in focusing on music again. That concert revealed worrisome signs of decline from earlier peaks, but still enough sparks to suggest that Fodor could turn things around.

I hadn't heard about him in years -- until Wednesday, when word came of his much-too-early death from liver disease. Here's a clip of Fodor in his charming prime, playing a bravura showpiece during a skit on the great SCTV show parodying the fabulous Joan Crawford-John Garfield film "Humoresque":

Posted by Tim Smith at 11:55 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes


i felt sad after reading this article,for i remember his brilliance as a performer but i also remember our daughter Beth Ilana participating in a violin masterclass with Eugene and thinking-something is wrong with him. His story is similar to that of Charlie Sheen,another individual who has it so good,but doesn't know it .

I had the priviledge to know Eugene and spent several days with him in an interview situation before a concert with the Flint Symphony Orchestra several years ago. He was a brilliant virtuoso and an interesting spirit to say the least.
He was charming, bright and had much to say. His death is certainly a sad one for the music world. One is fortunate that he did record for posterity. RIP!

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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