Barbara J. Sorlien, gifted violinist

Posted: August 27, 2003

Barbara J. Sorlien, 70, an elegant, gifted violinist who played with the Philadelphia Orchestra for 36 years, died Wednesday of coronary heart disease at her home in Center City.

"She was a vivacious, chic woman. People on the street would ask me, 'Who is that gorgeous blonde in the first violin section?' " said Davyd Booth, violinist and keyboard player, who came to know Ms. Sorlien during his 31 years with the orchestra. "She was a great violinist who was very devoted to the orchestra."

FOR THE RECORD - CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED AUGUST 28, 2003, FOLLOWS: Barbara J. Sorlien studied violin on a scholarship with virtuoso Rafael Druian. His name was misspelled in an obituary in yesterday's Inquirer.

Ms. Sorlien spent her early career moving quickly among the top ranks of American violinists. Ms. Sorlien, who was born and raised in Fargo, N.D., was the child of two music teachers and very devoted to the violin.

"Not a day passed when she did not practice four hours a day," said her brother, Brent Sorlien.

While at Fargo High School, she studied violin on a scholarship through the University of Minnesota with virtuoso Rafael Durian.

Every Friday, she boarded a bus in Fargo for a five-hour, 250-mile trip to Minneapolis to study with Durian, her brother said. "She took the same five-hour bus trip home each Sunday," he added.

Mrs. Sorlien received her bachelor's degree in music from Curtis Institute of Music in 1955 and also studied violin at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va.

In 1955, she married William dePasquale, assistant concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The couple met at the Curtis Institute of Music. From 1958 to 1960, he played in the Navy Band while she played with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. The marriage ended in 1975. DePasquale is still with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

A recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship in 1957, Ms. Sorlien studied in Salzburg, Austria, for one year before moving back to the States, where she played with the New Orleans Philharmonic until 1958.

Before joining the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1963, she played with the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra for several years. Ms. Sorlien also was a founding member of the Bowdoin College Chamber players in Brunswick, Maine.

Ms. Sorlien retired from the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1999 due to declining health. During the years she traveled to perform, Ms. Sorlien, like the other musicians, rubbed elbows and partied with the elite in cities all over the world, including "with the Queen Mother when she was in England," her brother said.

Bob Fitzpatrick, dean of the Curtis Institute, said: "Barbara will be greatly missed. She was a true friend of the Curtis School of Music and contributed her generosity to many events. She made a significant contribution to the musical life of Philadelphia as a first violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra."

Among the many awards she won during her career was the Heifetz Award at Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood in the early 1970s.

In addition to her brother, Ms. Sorlien is survived by her former husband and numerous nieces and nephews.

The date for a memorial service in Philadelphia has not yet been determined. Burial in Riverside Mausoleum in Fargo will be private.

Memorial donations may be sent to the Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust St., Philadelphia 19103.

Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or

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