Felix Wurman, 51; started concert series in gas station

By Kate Linthicum
Los Angeles Times / December 31, 2009

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LOS ANGELES - Felix Wurman, a cellist who founded the Church of Beethoven performance series in Albuquerque, has died of complications from cancer, his sister said. He was 51.

Mr. Wurman, who had been undergoing treatment for bladder cancer, died late Saturday night at a hospice facility in Hillsborough, N.C. Mr. Wurman was a cellist with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra when, two years ago, he recruited other musicians from the symphony to play Sunday morning concerts in an abandoned gas station off Route 66. The Los Angeles Times profiled the weekly concert series, which Mr. Wurman called the Church of Beethoven, on Sunday.

Mr. Wurman was not religious, but for him, music was spiritual.

As the Church of Beethoven grew - last year it moved to a new space to accommodate the 100 or so regular attendees - his suspicions that there were many nonreligious people “looking to be uplifted on a Sunday morning’’ were confirmed.

Mr. Wurman was born in 1958 on the south side of Chicago to immigrant parents who were also musicians.

His father, Hans, an Austrian Jew who escaped the Holocaust, was a noted composer and pianist. His mother, Brenda, was from England.

They gave Mr. Wurman a cello when he was 7. By age 12, he was performing publicly.

In his late teens, Mr. Wurman declined an invitation to New York’s Juilliard School and instead took off for Europe, where he studied with noted British cellist Jacqueline duPre.

While living in England in the early 1980s, he founded Domus, a piano quartet that performed in its own portable concert hall - a geodesic dome tent Mr. Wurman built himself.

Since Mr. Wurman was diagnosed with cancer last year, performers and attendees have stepped forward to help the Church of Beethoven continue to flourish.