Wolfgang Laufer, 64: Acclaimed musician often sat in with ASO

For more than three decades Wolfgang Laufer won public admiration and fellow musicians' respect as cellist of the internationally acclaimed Fine Arts Quartet, based in Milwaukee.

Little did Atlanta Symphony Orchestra audiences realize that over the past decade this celebrated musician periodically filled in for absent Atlanta Symphony Orchestra players, modestly taking his seat in the rear of the cello section.

Gloria Jones, the associate principal double bassist who stood close to Mr. Laufer during ASO concerts, said he played with the Atlanta orchestra as many as four times a season.

"Wolfi was a delightful, jovial person, a pleasure to perform with," she said, "And as a musician, his phrasing was special. He made every note count."

Mr. Laufer long had a connection with the ASO. His son, Daniel Laufer of Smyrna, has been the orchestra's associate principal cellist for the past 20 years.

As a Fine Arts Quartet member, Mr. Laufer was on tour every year regularly performing in Europe and up and down the U.S. East Coast. The quartet also made frequent recordings of the works of classical masters.

Wolfgang Laufer, 64, who maintained residences in Smyrna and Milwaukee, died of lymphoma Wednesday at Milwaukee's Froedtert Hospital. His graveside service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs. A memorial service will be held in Milwaukee at a later date. Dressler's Jewish Funeral Care is in charge of arrangements here.

His quartet colleagues of nearly 30 years, currently on tour in Finland, called him a consummate musician.

Ralph Evans, first violinist, said Mr. Laufer was able to transmit his music's emotional content in a way that moved people. "He was a hugely talented and instinctive artist, and I deeply admired his ability to communicate with audiences," he said.

Mr. Evans said it was remarkable the way Mr. Laufer constantly reached out to family, friends, musicians or people in the music business around the globe with daily phone calls or emails. "And he could do so in at least eight languages!" he added.

"Another wonderful quality I greatly appreciated in Wolfi," he said, "was his irrepressible optimism. We could always depend on his sunny disposition to cheer us up if any of us had an occasional setback."

Efim Boico, second violinist, said Mr. Laufer "produced what we call a European sound with his cello -- warm and emotional."

"Wolfi never lost his focus, pouring his soul into our rehearsals with the same energy as in our performances," he said.

Mr. Boico added that Mr. Laufer "was a wonderful travel companion during our many tours."

"He never started the day without calling me in my hotel room to invite me down to breakfast and to check that I had taken my pills," Mr. Boico said. "He was a very open and caring friend."

For more than 20 years, Mr. Laufer was in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's School of Music, teaching string players.

One of them, Calin Lupanu, now concertmaster with the Charlotte Symphony, credits Mr. Laufer for the progress he and his wife, Monica Bococ, a Charlotte Symphony violinist, have made in their careers.

"Mr. Laufer heard Monica and me play in Europe and encouraged us to come to Milwaukee to study," he said. "He and his wife were very welcoming and made our transition to life here easy -- though it took me a while to get used to the informality of calling him Wolfi rather than Mr. Laufer."

"He was a tough and demanding teacher, always telling me I needed more practice, just as the teachers I had in my native Romania did," Mr. Lupanu said. "However, you could always sense he cared deeply for you as a person and as a musician."

Born in Romania, Mr. Laufer moved with his family to Israel when he was 16. Originally a pianist, he took up the cello in Israel because, his son said, his parents couldn't afford a piano. Studying at the Tel Aviv Academy, he mastered the cello and became principal cellist with the Israel Chamber Orchestra, the Malmo (Sweden) Symphony Orchestra, the Hamburg Philharmonic and the State Opera of Germany.

Survivors also include his wife, Mariana Laufer; his daughter, Judy Laufer of Phoenix; and two grandchildren.