On June 27, 2016, after a Juilliard String Quartet concert at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, my 42-year career as the cellist of the Juilliard Quartet will come to an end. My time in the quartet family will actually be the longest period of time I have devoted to anything. (My wife Dinah and I will celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary in April; our cellist daughter, Gwen, will be 30; and our hip-hop producer son, Josh, will be almost 28.)
My Juilliard Quartet journey started in the fall of 1973, before the final season of my predecessor, Claus Adam (JSQ 1955-74). After my final audition, at the home of violist Samuel Rhodes (JSQ 1969-2013), violinist Earl Carlyss BS and MS '64; JSQ 1966-86) finally said to me, “Welcome to the band, if ya wanna join.” That was the beginning of the dearest dream I had for myself as a musician. For 42 years, I have had the privilege of sharing great music and deeply meaningful relationships with the most serious and inspiring musicians and colleagues: violinists Robert Mann (JSQ 1946-97), Joel Smirnoff (JSQ 1986-2008), Joseph Lin (Pre-College '96; JSQ 2011-present), Carlyss, and Ronald Copes (JSQ 1997-present); and violists Rhodes and Roger Tapping (JSQ 2013-present).
From the moment I began to rehearse with the quartet, in May 1974, I have never looked back, only forward to each new challenge. That year was the Arnold Schoenberg centennial year; so we performed and recorded the five Schoenberg Quartets, as well as the last four quartets of Mozart. (The Schoenbergs would win a Grammy Award the next season.) We played my first cycle of Beethoven Quartets, and carried the Third Quartet of Elliott Carter in the second season of its existence. We played a complete season of 12 pairs of concerts in our residency at the Library of Congress—performed on the Gertrude Clarke Whittall collection of Stradivari instruments—and played many diverse quartets and quintets at the Library in the course of that and many following seasons. (I have a particularly vivid memory that season of rehearsing and performing the Copland Piano Quartet with the gracious Aaron Copland at the piano.)
After that first season, it was one serious performance (and recording) project after another, shared with audiences throughout the United States as well as in Western and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Asia, and Australia. We programmed, with all the passion of our shared imaginations, the masterworks of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Debussy, and Ravel. And, in the Juilliard String Quartet tradition, we put them alongside many of the great works of our time by Bartók, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Janáček, Carter, Shapey, Davidovsky, Wernick, Dutilleux, and many others.
I never stopped to think that it would ever end. The repertory of magnificent music for string quartet is simply inexhaustible. Thankfully, one can never get to the end of it all. The shared explorations of this great music with colleagues who cannot live without it could go on fascinatingly forever, could it not? And indeed, “forever” is a distinct possibility for the Juilliard String Quartet. I wish my colleagues and their wonderful new cellist, Astrid Schween, the most enthralling personal and musical voyages over the next many years to come.
Teaching at Juilliard (my third family) has been another inexhaustible and exhilarating part of my “dearest dream.” The ongoing excitement of sharing music, learning, and personal dreams with the gifted young musicians and wonderful people I have met over my years here has been irreplaceable. Thankfully, this part of my life and the relationships that make it so meaningful will, I hope, continue far beyond my 42 years in the quartet.
I have no idea what I will feel that night in June, after my last Juilliard String Quartet concert. I am glad that my family will be there to share it with me, and that Dinah and I will embark the next day for a trip to the Kneisel Hall Festival in Maine, for more teaching and playing for the summer. And in the fall of 2016, gratefully, I will return to Juilliard to share my love of the cello and music with all who will listen.
Juilliard String Quartet Through the Years
|First Violin||Second Violin||Viola||Cello|
|1946-97: Robert Mann||1946-58: Robert Koff ('42, violin)||1946-69: Raphael Hillyer||1946-55: Arthur Winograd|
|1997-2008: Joel Smirnoff (BM '75, MM '76, violin)||1958-66: Isidore Cohen (BS '49, violin)||1969-2013: Samuel Rhodes||1955-74: Claus Adam|
|2009-10: Nick Eanet (BM '94, violin)||1966-86: Earl Carlyss (BS and MS '64, violin)||2013-present: Roger Tapping||1974-2016: Joel Krosnick|
|2011-present: Joseph Lin (Pre-College '96)||1986-97: Joel Smirnoff (BM '75, MM '76, violin)||2016- : Astrid Schween (Pre-College '80, BM '84, MM '85, cello)|
1997-present: Ronald Copes