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Robert Gerle, concert violinist was a teacher and author; at 81

LOS ANGELES -- Robert Gerle, a concert violinist, teacher, and author of books on violin technique, died Saturday of complications from Parkinson's disease, his son, Andrew, said Tuesday. He was 81.

Mr. Gerle, who helped found the orchestra program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in the early 1970s, died at home in Hyattsville, Md. He continued to tutor students until several weeks before his death.

Born in Abbazia, Italy (now Opatija, Croatia), to Hungarian parents, Mr. Gerle earned a master's degree at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest and studied at the National Conservatory of Music there before he began a career as a performer.

During World War II, he was imprisoned in a labor camp because he was Jewish, but he escaped and hid in his teacher's apartment in Budapest. He was one of about 20 people hiding in the apartment's crawl spaces when Russian soldiers raided it in 1945. Suspected as Nazi snipers, the group was ordered to stand before a firing squad, and, according to stories told of this incident, Mr. Gerle carried his violin with him.

Seeing the instrument, a Russian officer told him to play a piece by Tchaikovsky, which Mr. Gerle did. It convinced the officer that he and the others were not Nazis, and all of them were set free.

Mr. Gerle moved to Paris, then to Luxembourg, where he was staff soloist with Radio Luxembourg for a brief time.

He moved to the United States in 1950 to accept a fellowship at the University of Illinois. During the 1950s, he was concert master of the student orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts one summer.

In 1956, a group of admirers in San Diego bought Mr. Gerle a $45,000 Stradivarius violin after he had borrowed it from a New York dealer for his appearance in San Diego.

Through the 1960s, he performed with orchestras in the United States and Europe and had a lively career as a recording artist, performing works by Beethoven, Samuel Barber, and others.

In 1970, he and pianist Marilyn Neeley won an Emmy Award for a series of televised performances of the complete Beethoven violin and piano sonatas. The couple married the same year.

He taught music at several schools, including the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, before he joined the faculty at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 1972.

He was also on the faculty of Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and took part in chamber music series at the Library of Congress and elsewhere.

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