Robert Mann



Competition Winner

Born: July 19, 1920, Portland, OR

Died: January 1, 2018, New York, NY

Robert Mann, born in Portland, OR, had dreams of becoming a forest ranger in a natonal park. Rather, he was a violinist, composer, conductor and founding member of the Juilliard String Quartet, serving as the ensemble's principal violinist for more than fifty years, from its founding in 1946 to his retirement in 1997.

At age 18, Mann moved to NYC to study at the Institute of Musical Art, transferring the next year to the Juilliard Graduate School where his violin teacher was Edouard Dethier. He also studied composition with Bernard Wagenaar and Stefan Wolpe, and conducting with Edgar Schenkman. In 1941, Mann won the Naumburg competition making his NY debut in Town Hall on December 9, 1941, two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Shortly after his Juilliard graduation he was drafted into the US Army.

At the invitation of Juilliard's president, William Schuman, founded the Juilliard String Quartet. It's members included second violinist Robert Koff, the violist Raphael Hillyer, and cellist Arthur Winograd. The JSQ, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee during the 1996-97 season, had played approximately 5,000 concerts and performed more than 600 works ranging from the complete Beethoven quartets to works by Bela Bartok, Elliott Carter, Schoenberg, Lukas Foss, Milton Babbitt and Roger Sessions. Its discography includes recordings of more than 100 compositions, receiving three Grammy awards.

"The Juilliard Quartet remains one of the wonders of the music world," Newsweek wrote in 1981, further praising the JSQ for "music that is marvelously alive and varied -- music that breathes, not something that sounds as if it were put together by a precision drill team."

Robert Mann's solo discography includes Bartok's Solo for Violin Sonata, Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano, and Contrasts; Beethoven's complete violin sonatas with pianist Stephen Hough as well as Brahms sonatas; many Mozart sonatas with Yefim Bronfman; and Elliott Carter's Duo for Violin and Piano with Christopher Oldfather.

Mann composed more than 30 works for narrator with various instruments that he performed with his wife, the actress Lucy Rowan. Several were recorded on the Musical Heritage label. His Fantasy for Orchestra was performed by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos as well as with the Vienna Philharmonic  at the Salzburg Festival, and in Carnegie Hall by the American Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leon Botstein. His Duo for Violin and Piano premiered at Carnegie Hall by Itzhak Perlman and Samuel Sanders, and a string quartet was performed by the LaSalle and Concord String Quartets.

As a conductor, Mann made his public debut leading the Seattle Symphony during the 1988-89 season, and conducted Mozart's Jupiter Symphony the following season in New York City.  He also led the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a Peter Bartok recording of Bela Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 1.

As a mentor to younger generations of string musicians, Mann worked intensively with the Alexander, American, Concord, Emerson, New World, Mendelssohn, Tokyo, Brentano, Lark and St. Lawrence string quartets, as well as with members of the Cleveland Quartet and other ensembles. In later years, he expanded his teaching to include violin majors at The Juilliard School. Among his students were Juliette Kang, winner of the 1994 Indianapolis Violin Competition, and Mark Steinberg, the first violinist of the Brentano String Quartet. He also taught at Manhattan School of Music, where each January the Robert Mann String Quartet Institute takes place.

Founder and first artistic director of the Ravinia Stean's Institute for Young Artists, Mann also served as chairman of the Chamber Music Panel of the National Endowment of the Arts. He was a member of the board of directors of the New York Philharmonic and president of the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation, 1971-2018. In 1990, Mann was honored as the recipient of the Chamber Music America Service Award and the annual award of the American String Teachers Association. In recognition of his contributions to the arts, Mann was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received honorary doctorates from the Cleveland Institute, Manhattan School of Music, Oberlin College, Michigan State University, Earlham College, Jacksonville University and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Robert Mann was the subject of a 2014 documentary, Speak the Music, Robert Mann and the Mysteries of Chamber Music, as well as a book, Robert Mann: A Passionate Journey.

The Juilliard String Quartet: Robert Mann, Joel Smirnoff, Joel Krosnick and Samuel Rhodes

photo: Ruby Washington/The New York Times


1941 Naumburg Competition

First Prize

Commissioned Works

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Naumburg Performances

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Recording Awards

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