Born: April 26, 1937 (New York, NY)
Died: December 19, 2019 (San Francisco, CA)
Michael Grebanier was called a musician of powerful technique and deep musical knowledge who brought a gruff and sometimes robust intensity to his playing (San Francisco Chronicle). For 43 years he played an influential role in shaping the sound of the San Francisco Symphony cello section as its principal cellist beginning in 1977 until his passing in 2019. "Michael Grebanier was, at his best, a formidable musical force," Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas said. "He played with the strength of at least three players and made an important contribution to the San Francisco Symphony."
Michael Grebanier was born in New York City in 1937 and was inspired to pursue a musical career when his father brought home a recording of the New York Philharmonic performing Villa-Lobos' "Bachianas Brasileiras" featuring the cellist Leonard Rose. Grebanier attended Curtis and studied with Leonard Rose, Carl Ziegler of the NBC Symphony and Orlando Cole of the Curtis Quartet. At age 19 he won the 1957 Naumburg Competition and made his solo debut that year. He was a member of the Cleveland Orchestra's cello section for four years and at 25, was appointed concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony, a post he held for 14 years.
Alongside his duties as principal at the SFS he was also a frequent soloist, appearing in the cello concertos of Barber, Dvorak, Elgar, Hindemith, Walton, Haydn, Finzi and Shostakovich, Saint-Saens’ A minor Cello Concerto, Bloch’s Schelomo, Strauss’ Don Quixote, William Schuman’s A Song of Orpheus and Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin and Cello with violinist Chee-Yun. He recorded the Prokofiev cello sonatas and the complete music for cello and piano by Rachmaninoff for Naxos.
Chamber music also played an important role Grebanier's career. Together with violinist Jorja Fleezanis and pianist Garrick Ohlsson, he formed the FOG Trio.
Grebanier played a 1698 cello by Francesco Ruggeri.
Exerpt from The New York Times Review, December 4, 1957
Michael Grebanier, Naumburg Winner Gives Debut 'Cello Recital at Town Hall
"Michael Grebanier, a 20-year old 'cellist from Brooklyn, and a student a the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, made his Town Hall debut yesterday afternoon as a winner of the Walter W. Naumburg Musical Foundation Award. He was accompanied at the piano by Patricia Parr in a program consisting of Bach's G minor Sonata, Brahms' Sonata in F, Ernest Bloch's "Meditation Hebraique," and Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme." He played the first public performance of James Kurtz' Sonatina. Young Mr. Grebanier brought some nice things to his interpretations. Among his assets were good rhythm, a large sized tone and a good deal of musicianship. He also has a positive approach toward music." H.C.S.