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Omar Hernández-Hidalgo, 1971-2010

There’s a lot of shock and sadness in the Mexican classical community just now: last week one of the finest violists in Mexico and the world, Omar Hernández-Hidalgo, was found dead in his hometown of Tijuana, four days after apparently being kidnapped. A principal violist by the age of 21, Grammy-nominated twice, the first violist in his country to recieve a PhD. (at Indiana University), praised by Pierre Boulez, Hernández-Hidalgo was a champion of contemporary music, especially the new and vital in his own country. While his technique was commanding and virtuosic, his own personality was warm, modest and endlessly generous. He was in the midst of a demanding schedule of performances and festivals right up to his disappearance, and the sudden hole his senseless death leaves in the Mexican musical soul is keen and intense. Our hearts go out to his colleagues, family and friends, along with our hopes for sanity, peace and determination to stand for a world that will not stand for this kind of evil. RIP.




Comment from Cary Boyce
Time: June 7, 2010, 3:30 pm

Omar played with our ensemble many times, and he has quite a historic CD coming out shortly with the Indiana University Latin American Music Center. Sadly, there isn’t much news or information about this available yet. To say he will be greatly missed is an understatement. His family, friends, and colleagues are simply too shocked and grief-stricken to know what to do with this very terrible news.

Our thanks, though, for posting this. Omar was one of the great musicians of our time, and he should be remembered.

Cary Boyce, composer-in-residence
Aguava’ New Music Studio

Comment from Jorge Montilla
Time: June 7, 2010, 6:10 pm

Escribo este comentario al recibir la noticia de su fallecimiento. Tuve la fortuna de conocerlo y trabajar con el. El mundo musical siente su partida y lo extrañara. Paz a sus restos. Jorge Montilla, Caracas Venezuela.

Comment from David Dzubay
Time: June 7, 2010, 6:46 pm

I am stunned and very sad to hear this news. Just over a week ago I had the good fortune to hear Omar perform at the Foro de Música Nueva, and as ever, he played superbly, with utmost conviction and captivating musicality.

Omar was a standout member of the Indiana University New Music Ensemble while working on his doctorate. His work with and on behalf of living composers will long be remembered through his recordings and through the many compositions written for him.

It was a joy to know and work with Omar. He will be sorely missed.

David Dzubay
Director, IU New Music Ensemble

Comment from Eliseo Fernandez
Time: June 7, 2010, 7:46 pm

Certainly, it is a very sad news, I was fortunate to be the recording engineer for many sessions with Omar, I will remember him as a fellow violist, but mostly for his simplicity and close friendship, it is a shame that the socio economical situation in Mexico is destroying all that has value. It is just another “casualty” in the stupid war that Felipe Calderon is helding against Mexico. It is a sad day

Comment from Carmen-Helena Tellez
Time: June 7, 2010, 8:30 pm

I deeply thank Steve Layton and Sequenza21 for publishing this –probably the first–obituary of Omar Hernández-Hidalgo, a great artist and a true champion of Mexican composers and of new music everywhere. The circumstances of his death are utterly incomprehensible and horribly painful to all those who knew the nobility and artistry of Omar Hernández-Hidalgo. One only hopes that everything he represents–the high ideals, the discipline, the integrity–will triumph above the moral crisis currently affecting Mexico.

Comment from Tasha and Guy Yehuda
Time: June 7, 2010, 8:50 pm

Such Sad news. Omar was a wonderful man and a great musician, both Tasha and I had the pleasure of working with him at IU’s new music ensemble. His death leaves a void in all of us.

Comment from Jorge Soto
Time: June 7, 2010, 9:48 pm

I had the honor to work with him in the OBC for 4 years as principal second. I ask him why did he choose Tijuana of the whole world and he answered: I feel very comfortable and at home and this soil is fertile for my projects. He was always inspiring. We will miss him terribly.
Jorge Soto
Oequesta de Baja California

Comment from Chris Howard
Time: June 7, 2010, 10:30 pm

I am speechless. Omar was such a kind soul and a beautiful person. I am lucky to have known him and played with him. May his soul rest in peace.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: June 7, 2010, 11:17 pm

Ivan Martínez at L’Orfeo wrote a short but wonderful interview with Omar (Spanish only) here:

Comment from Eulogía
Time: June 8, 2010, 1:37 am

This sad, dry instrument in my room, this city, and the very world of music won’t know him any more. It cannot be that no one will ever see his passion again, or hear his soul as he bared it for whomever cared to listen. It is unspeakable to me that I will never again see him on stage… that I left things unsaid, and that I will not talk to him. In spite of our final differences, I will remember my teacher as I thought of him for years. I will think often of him. All is forgiven.

He is deeply, sorely missed.

Comment from Alyze Dreiling
Time: June 8, 2010, 10:04 am

Unbelievably sad news. I had the great honor of working with Omar many times in the OBC. I am sickened at the news and pray for Carmen and his family. The world has a lost a true artist and human being.

Comment from Herine Coetzee Koschak
Time: June 8, 2010, 10:15 am

Shocked and so saddened by this devastating loss. I played with Omar in the IU New Music Ensemble and heard him perform Berio’s Sequenza VI numerous times with incredible ferocity and soul. He truly was a champion of new music and will be missed the world over.

Comment from Daniel Hidalgo
Time: June 8, 2010, 11:05 am

It was 1988 when I wrote my first quartet for two flutes violin and piano, it was a family project to perform new music, Omar was 17, this was the beggining of his aproach to new music, we had big dreams, on the flutes my brother Pablo and my wife Olivia, Omar was planning to move back to mexico city in a week, finally all together again maybe to continue with that project, and now, my nephew is gone forever…..

Comment from claudia parrilla t
Time: June 8, 2010, 11:27 am

A genius, a talent never dies, specially about music.
He done his dreams started to change actually tendencies, for ever and ever, he leaves and shows to their students, friends and musicians the right way to it.

I hope for Peace to his family.
He is gone with honor and glory like Angeles, because right now he is playing just to God.


Comment from Gordon Grubbs
Time: June 8, 2010, 12:31 pm

I was fortunate to have worked with Omar in the OBC many times. This consummate artist will be sorely missed by the musical community worldwide.

Comment from Christian
Time: June 8, 2010, 5:35 pm

I am saddened to hear of this tragedy. It boggles the mind … why would someone kidnap a classical musician?

Comment from Ben S. Jacob
Time: June 8, 2010, 6:00 pm

I am shocked and horrified by this news.

I am so grateful to have witnessed Omar’s unforgettable, passionate performances of Berio’s Sequenza and Chemins and George Benjamin’s Viola Viola while he and I were attending Indiana University. His performances and his spirit have been and will forever continue to be an inspiration to me and so many others.

Thank you, Omar.

Comment from francesca savage
Time: June 8, 2010, 7:28 pm

Omar was such a passionate musician, and as a violist in his section with the Obc I had the good fortune to witness not only his musical prowess , but also his tenderness towards his lovely mate Carmen as they sat as stand partners making music. It was romantic and inspiring, as was his music. My heart goes out to her and his family.

Comment from Victor Mendoza
Time: June 8, 2010, 11:43 pm

Omar was not only my viola mentor, but my inspiration, someone to look after and he had the power to make you get the most out of yourself, his teachings were so powerful same as his personality and playing… he was my musical guide and i will miss him forever.. I guess the evil people on this world can’t stand a person so gifted and educated, so legendary as Omar.

I miss you and i send my prayers to Carmen… which i had the priviledge to work with.

I send my hugs and sincere love to both of them… my eternal mentor and his wife. Thank you for making my life better.

Comment from sergio dodero
Time: June 9, 2010, 1:16 pm

Lamentamos profundamente esta gran perdida para el mundo, mi pais y especialmente para Tijuana. Tuve el honor de compartir el microfono con el por 32 semanas, en un programa radiofonico de musica clasica y fue muy generoso compartiendo sus amplios conocimientos musicales y su basta cultura con los radio escuchas; sin duda a mi fue al que mas beneficio, pues sus enseñanzas, enriquecieron mi vida. Descansa Omar, los que te queremos no te olvidaremos nunca.

Comment from Stephen Ng
Time: June 9, 2010, 4:39 pm

I am very sad to hear this….Omar is a fantastic musician, and a truly nice person. He saved my performance of the Britten’s Serenade once by volunteering to play in the concert, when I was desperately looking for violists. We performed with Aguava and other opportunities afterwards, and was always impressed by his amazing musicianship and skills. He will be greatly missed.

Anyone knows why he was kidnapped?

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: June 9, 2010, 6:03 pm

There’s very little to know just yet; if you read Spanish (or can get enough sense with Google Translate) there’s some information here:

and here:

Comment from Cynthia Faisst
Time: June 9, 2010, 6:06 pm

How disappointing. Here I am, trying to find well known Mexican and Latin American Violinist and string players, to serve as role models for my students of Latin American decent in Santa Ana, California and somebody out there is taking them out. This is outrageous! What am I to say to this next generation. That it is dangerous to be a successful musician in Latin America?

I am discouraged.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: June 9, 2010, 6:19 pm

Cynthia, while Omar’s death is a horrible and sad tragedy, the lesson is in his life, achievement, and phenomenal music-making. The role model is right there, in spirit and living memory. There’s real inspiration that can continue far past death.

Comment from Chris Hertzog
Time: June 9, 2010, 7:03 pm

Very sad. He was a highly respected musician on both sides of the border. Tijuana is a war zone these days, and many innocent bystanders are killed. He probably was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Comment from Cynthia Faisst
Time: June 9, 2010, 7:31 pm

I don’t know who did this, but I hope that all of your decendants participate in their local El Sistema nucleo and become fanatics about Classical Music. It would be the most artful form of justice.

Comment from Cynthia Faisst
Time: June 10, 2010, 12:27 am

I went looking for more or Omar’s performances. This Sonata by Moncayo is fittingly melancholy and so expressive.

I would love to find more of this musicians music to share with students. Please share anything you find with us.

Comment from Susan Narucki
Time: June 11, 2010, 2:21 pm

This is a horrible tragedy. My heart goes out to the family and friends of Omar. I had the privilege of hearing him play several times; his playing was an extraordinary gift. We have lost a great musician.

Rest in Peace, Omar.

Comment from Michael McDonagh
Time: June 11, 2010, 10:24 pm

It’s hard to know what to say when you hear of horrors like this, which I heard from my Mexican composer friend out here, Guillermo Galindo, when we spoke on the phone last night.

Guillermo told me that Omar Hernandez-Hildalgo was a viloist in our mutual flutist-composer friend Alejandro Escuer’s ONIX ENSAMBLE at one time, who played so beautifully on ONIX”s CD El Teimpo which I wrote up, for

A loss of this magnitude is always a wake up call. Reality, is at bottom never how do I look, or how do I get them to get me where I want to go — that’s all appearances, –but simply life, and death.
And to think that I was just in wonderful Mexico last month where I made friends with Alejandro’s ensamble, video artist, lighting designer, sound man and conductor in the 3 de Mayo world premiere in Puabela of our VIVA ZAPATA! , who were all warm, and unfailingly sweet

Comment from Michael McDonagh
Time: June 12, 2010, 3:58 am



Comment from Carmen-Helena Tellez
Time: June 12, 2010, 6:38 pm

It is a testament to Omar’s beautiful contributions to our art that so many of you have responded. Again, we thank Sequenza21 for having posted this obituary, which has become a meeting point for the English speaking friends and admirers of Omar Hernandez-Hidalgo.
I want to share here the news that a letter signed by more than 200 artists has been sent by composer and conductor Leonardo Coral to the Mexican paper La Jornada, claiming justice for Omar.

Comment from Dan Allcott
Time: June 14, 2010, 4:00 pm

I am touched by this tragic loss. Omar was quite simply, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Because of his gentle personal nature, it was always stunning to hear him play. It was as if he kept an enormous presence in check, and then it unleashed when he picked up the viola.

My prayers go out to his family.

Comment from Linda McDougall
Time: June 15, 2010, 12:59 am

Omar loved to play here in Guanajuato at the Cervantino Festival. He inspired, encouraged and played with students and professionals, and I never missed any of his intimate concerts and recitals. I still see him sitting alone after a concert on a city bench, smoking a cigarette…somehow looking so vulnerable. He was the darling of Guanajuato, and never did the viola move me more deeply than when he picked it up – turning contemporary music into something that evoked an almost Romantic passion.
The thought that he died this terrible death has sickened all who were touched by him – through his infectious smile, his generous nature, but above all, by the way he brought the viola – some almost too big for his stature – into the foreground. How his family can bear this is beyond me, and we swear that those who ended his life will be brought to the most extreme justice.

Rest in peace, if possible, our beloved musician and friend..

Comment from Carmen-Helena Tellez
Time: June 16, 2010, 5:44 pm

Dear Friends,

I want to quote here the marvelous verses about Omar that poet Ricardo Yáñez has published in La Jornada in Mexico:
Algo casual, aunque andas bien vestido/ y peinado, te ves en esa foto/ en la que sin embargo algo se ha roto/ y nada de su sitio se ha movido.// Sopla un aire de viola estremecido/ en la tanta quietud, ahora lo noto,/ un aire que no se oye y anda herido/ pero calla por ti, de ti devoto.// Alegre no te miras, sí contento/ y relajado y de reojo atento/ al pulirse la luz en tu instrumento.// Y el arco, que tus manos entretiene,/ frota la oscuridad de lo que viene…/ Y el tiempo en ese instante se detiene.

Comment from Graciela Guillén
Time: June 18, 2010, 1:55 am

Sin palabras suficientes para expresar nuestra indignación y pena, un abrazo para su familia. En este mundo de terribles contradcciones el talento de Omar ya lo ha trascendido todo y nos quedará el consuelo de su obra. d.e.p.

Comment from Michael Matthews
Time: June 19, 2010, 5:17 am

This is terribly sad news on so many levels. What a loss, not only to family and friends, but to the musical community. How senseless.

Michael Matthews

Comment from David Gil-Hidalgo
Time: June 22, 2010, 11:20 pm

For my family and all the musical community this is an irreplaceable loss and a horrendous sample of how putrid modern society is.

I thank everyone for their kind words and this website for publishing the news about my brother’s horrendous assassination. We are very comforted by your empathy and moved by the deep admiration you held for my brother.

I can only hope that the cruel criminals that ended his life so horribly are brought to justice.

Comment from Andrew Wickesberg
Time: July 8, 2010, 3:58 pm

I am truly shocked to hear the news that Omar has left this earth in such a terrible way. I remember vividly his performance of Benjamin’s Viola-Viola when I was an undergraduate at IU. The world will miss his artistry, as well as his smile.

Andrew Wickesberg
violist, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Comment from D. Butorac
Time: July 8, 2010, 5:03 pm

Rest in peace, Omar. Thank you for the music you shared with us.