He had been the Met concertmaster for nearly a decade—and for some 1,700 performances—when he made his singing debut at the Town Hall in New York City in 1966. Richard D. Freed, reviewing that performance in The Times, could hardly contain his enthusiasm.
“Mr. Gnievec has everything one could want in a violinist – impeccable vocals, a technique so secure that he is free to focus on problems of interpretation and a clear flair for particular style is,” he wrote.
Early in his tenure, in 1958, Mr. Gnievec had to take the baton after conductor Fausto Cleve fell ill during a performance of “Manon Lescott”. Maybe it could be a fantasy that drives aspirations for some concert masters, but not for Mr. Gnievec.
“I’d rather play,” he told The Times in a 2000 interview. “I have strong feelings about sound, the actual act of playing an instrument. This is what I do best.”
Mr. Gnievec moved to Florida after retiring and lived in Naples at the time of his death. His first marriage to Doris Scott in the 1950s ended in divorce, as did his marriage to Lolita San Miguel in 1960. In addition to his daughter from his first marriage, he is survived by his wife, soprano Judith Blegen; a sister, Cecilia Breuer, who is also a musician; a stepson, Thomas Singher; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Another daughter from his first marriage, Davey Lauren, died in May.
In 2000, at the Met Orchestra concerts, which were one of Mr. Gnievec’s last concerts, Mr. Levine gave him a rare honor by standing in front of him as an encore to play the maisonettes meditation from “Thais” at the end of the program. . When he did so at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, The Star-Ledger of Newark’s Villa J. Conrad wrote, “It was pure eloquence and grace, and rendered a particularly poignant close, as a tribute to a normally invisible orchestra to the legacy of a particular composer.”