Robert Mann (July 19, 1920 – January 1, 2018) was a driving force in the world of music for more than 75 years, one of most influential pioneers in the world of chamber music in the 20th and 21st centuries. As founder and first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, and as a soloist, composer, teacher, and conductor, Mr. Mann brought a refreshing sense of adventure and discovery to chamber music performances, master classes, and orchestral performances worldwide. Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe hailed him as, ”one of the country’s most admired and deeply loved musicians”, and Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times described him as “A musical revolutionary on par with Cage, Bernstein, Callas and Gould”.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Mr. Mann described his love of nature as his first introduction to musical sound and rhythm. Required to play an instrument by his parents, he began studying the violin when he was 8, and at age 13 was accepted into the class of Edouard Hurlimann, concertmaster of the Portland Symphony. In 1938, he moved to New York City to enroll in The Juilliard School, where he studied violin with Edouard Dethier, composition with Bernard Wagenaar and Stephan Wolpe, and conducting with Edgar Schenkman. Mr. Mann won the prestigious Naumburg competition in 1941, judges noting his remarkable expressive ability.
In 1946, at the invitation of Juilliard’s president, William Schuman, Robert Mann founded the Juilliard String Quartet, serving as the ensemble’s first violinist for 51 years until his retirement from the Quartet in 1997. In 1962, the Quartet was chosen to succeed the famed Budapest String Quartet as the quartet-in-residence at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.. The quartet, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee during the 1996-97 season, had by that point played approximately 5,500 concerts, performed more than 500 works including some 100 premieres, and, celebrated for the diversity of its repertoire, been described as “the standard by which all other quartets must be judged.” (Los Angeles Times) Its discography includes recordings of more than 100 compositions. The Juilliard String Quartet received three Grammy Awards and, in 2011, the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mr. Mann was a prolific composer who composed more than 30 works for narrator with various instruments that he performed with his wife, the actress Lucy Rowan. He also composed an Orchestral Fantasy performed by Dimitri Mitropoulos with the New York Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and at the Salzburg Festival; a Duo for Violin and Piano that was premiered at Carnegie Hall by Itzhak Perlman; and a String Quartet that was included in the repertoire of numerous string quartets. His other works include a Duo for Cello and Piano written for Joel Krosnick and Gilbert Kalish, a Concerto for Orchestra, and Lament for two solo violas and orchestra. His work Dream Time was recorded by the violist David Carpenter.
Robert Mann conducted throughout his professional career, leading ensembles such as the New York Chamber Symphony, Manhattan School of Music Symphony, and ensembles at the Ravinia, Tanglewood and Aspen music festivals. In addition, at the invitation of Seiji Ozawa, he served as resident artist at Japen’s Saito Kinen Music Festival as a conductor, teacher, and performer. He also served as head teacher at Seiji Ozawa’s International Academy for String Quartets and Chamber Ensembles in Rolle, Switzerland. Robert Mann, a renown teacher, was an inspiring mentor to younger generations of string quartets including the American, Concord, Emerson, LaSalle, New World, Mendelssohn, Tokyo, Brentano, Lark, St. Lawrence and many more.
Mr. Mann served on the faculties of The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, which for the past seven years has hosted the Robert Mann String Quartet Seminar, bringing the country’s most talented young string quartets to the school for intensive week-long coaching. Mr. Mann served as president of the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation from 1971-2015, and was president emeritus until his death. Speak the Music: Robert Mann and the Mysteries of Chamber Music, a film by Allan Miller, was released in 2014. A book, Robert Mann, A Passionate Journey, A Memoir, will be released on February 14, 2018 by East End Press.
Robert Mann is survived by his wife Lucy Rowan Mann and his children Nicholas and Lisa.
Robert Mann's music is published by Peermusic.