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Robert Mann, violinist, conductor and composer – obituary

Robert Mann Credit: Erika Larsen/Redux 

Robert Mann, who has died aged 97, was the founding first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, an ensemble he led through various personnel changes for more than 50 years; he was also a soloist, conductor and composer.

The quartet was founded in 1946 at the Juilliard School in New York at the suggestion of William Schuman, the school’s president, and quickly established a reputation as champions of contemporary music.

“People used to say, ‘If you want one of those awful new pieces, hire the Juilliard,’ ” Mann recalled. “Then we’d play Bartók, Webern or Berg, and they’d say, ‘Now don’t hire them for another 10 years, because we don’t want any more of those horrible pieces.’ ”

They made their first appearance in Britain in 1955, setting out their stall with a programme devoted to 20th-century music; three days later they gave a similar performance at the Wigmore Hall, leaving one critic...

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