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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