Ingus Naruns was an internationally renown cellist when he joined the University of Miami music faculty and the old Greater Miami Philharmonic in the 1960s — a Latvian World War II refugee with a wide ranging background in the recording studio and on the concert stage.
“He had been a very big star in Europe,’’ said pianist Michele Levin, of New York, who performed with Naruns for years when both lived in South Florida.
A child prodigy in both cello and piano, Naruns was born April 29, 1925, in Riga, Latvia, and studied at the Latvian National Conservatory and the Moscow Conservatory before war broke out in September 1939.
A decade later, he won the prestigious Geneva International Music Competition — while still living in a German Displaced Persons camp.
Naruns died at age 87 on July 23 at his home in Lindenhurst, Long Island, said daughter Sylvia Naruns Parodi, of Key Biscayne. The cause was prostate cancer.
After immigrating to the United States in 1951, Naruns spent a decade shuttling between Boston, where he was principal cello with Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops tour orchestra, and New York City, where he gave Carnegie Hall and Town Hall recitals, played for opera and ballet companies, and on Broadway.
He can be heard in the theme for the television show “Bewitched,” and on two classic rock albums: The Beatles Revolver, the Eleanor Rigby track, in 1966, and on the original 1977 soundtrack of the Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever, partly recorded at the legendary Critera studios in North Miami . Naruns also played with television studio orchestras for the Jackie Gleason and Arthur Godfrey shows.
But he was proudest of recording as a soloist with The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Harry John Brown conducting, on a Kaibala Records release of the Concerto No. 2 for Cello and Orchestra by Janis Medins, and Concerto No. 1 in A for Cello and Orchestra by Camille Saint-Saens, said Kathryn Ellis, his companion for 34 years.
Naruns was married and divorced three times, and had two daughters with third wife Lillian Willis Naruns.
Ellis said that during the war, Naruns ran away from the Latvian army and hid in the woods, “eating snow and tree bark.’’
An only child, he was reunited with his mother after the war. His father was killed after the Soviets moved into Latvia in 1940.
While living in a camp for displaced persons near the city of Husum, Naruns was chosen by the respected conductor Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt for the Hamburg-based North German Radio Orchestra, which toured Europe.
“Since he was a refugee, he had to report every night to the DP camp,’’ Ellis said. “He was getting a good salary, and he had a luxury apartment and Mercedes and a Skye terrier, but he still had to report to the camp. He used to think that was a funny story.’’
With the Geneva competition win to his credit, Naruns had no trouble finding work in the United States. An avid boater, he bought the house in Lindenhurst, on the Great South Bay, which he kept while living on Key Biscayne.
Ellis, a fellow cellist who met Naruns in 1978, said he loved practicing the cello on his boat, in Biscayne Bay.
“He had the most beautiful sound,’’ she said. “There was always whimsy in his sound. Everything was compelling.’’