Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi presented Robert Mann, founding violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, with the Juilliard President’s Medal, and dedicated the quartet’s longtime teaching studio in his name at a ceremony held at Juilliard on Monday, May 12, 2014. Trustees and other VIPS, including seven decades of Juilliard String Quartet members, were in attendance at the award presentation and unveiling of the plaque.
The celebration included a panel discussion in Juilliard’s Rosemary and Meredith Willson Theater, with Juilliard Provost and Dean, Ara Guzelimian, and seven decades of Juilliard String Quartet members – Earl Carlyss, Ronald Copes, Joel Krosnick, Joseph Lin, Robert Mann, Samuel Rhodes, Joel Smirnoff, and Roger Tapping – detailing how the Juilliard String Quartet has premiered some, performed all, and now recorded all of Elliott Carter’s string quartets that were composed 1951 – 1995. The boxed CD set just released by SONY Classical, Elliott Carter: The Five String Quartets features a new recording by the JSQ of Carter’s fifth and final string quartet, made possible in part by Juilliard’s Erskine Prize, named after past Juilliard President John Erskine (1926-1937) and awarded annually to school faculty members for special projects. The first four Carter quartets were recorded by the JSQ in 1990 – 1991, with members Robert Mann, Joel Smirnoff, Samuel Rhodes, and Joel Krosnick. The Fifth Carter Quartet was recorded in 2013 by members Joseph Lin, Ronald Copes, Samuel Rhodes, and Joel Krosnick. Since then, Samuel Rhodes has stepped down, and Roger Tapping is the current Juilliard String Quartet violist.
The evening concluded with Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi presenting Mr. Mann with the Juilliard President’s Medal, bestowed upon individuals who have made an indelible impact on the arts profession, and have served as important role models for the profession and for Juilliard. In front of invited guests and family from the music, recording, and publishing businesses, President Polisi cited Mr. Mann’s mentorship of a dozen young string quartets, and quoted a description of the JSQ by William Schuman, the Juilliard President who, in 1945 charged Robert Mann to found the ensemble, and later would say that they: “would play all the standard literature with the sense of discovery that should apply to new music, and play new music with the reverence that should be applied to the classics.”
Robert Mann, at 93 years of age, has been a driving force in the world of music for more than 70 years. As founder and first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, and as a soloist, composer, teacher, and conductor, Mr. Mann has brought a refreshing sense of adventure and discovery to chamber music performances, master classes, and orchestral performances worldwide.
In 1946, at the invitation of Juilliard’s President, composer 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. The quartet, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee during the 1996-97 season, had played approximately 5,500 concerts and performed more than 500 works including some 100 premieres. Its discography includes recordings of more than 100 compositions. The Juilliard String Quartet received three Grammy® Awards, and in 2011, the Lifetime Achievement Grammy® Award.
Mr. Mann continues to actively perform as a violinist, recently appearing in concert in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston. He is a member of the faculty at Manhattan School of Music and for the past two years, MSM has presented the Robert Mann String Quartet Seminar, which brings the country’s most talented young string quartets to the school for intensive week-long coachings with Mr. Mann. Since 1971, Mr. Mann has been President of the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation and his wife, Lucy Rowan Mann, is the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation’s executive director. He also is the subject of a recently released documentary, Speak the Music: Robert Mann and the Mysteries of Chamber Music, a film by Allan Miller.
JUILLIARD PRESIDENT’S MEDAL
In the fall of 2004, President Joseph W. Polisi commissioned the artist Milton Glaser to design a commemorative medal that the school could bestow upon individuals who have made an indelible impact on the arts and have served as important role models for the profession and for Juilliard. In time for The Juilliard School’s centennial in 2005, the Juilliard President’s Medal was created as a symbol of gratitude and tribute to outstanding service to the arts, representing many of the values and attributes of the school itself: creativity, collaboration, vision, and artistry – with a touch of whimsy as a defining element of the design. Previous recipients have included Elliott Carter, Alfredo Corvino, David Diamond, Jimmy Heath, James Levine, Terence McNally, James Moody, Itzhak Perlman, Leontyne Price, Marion Seldes, Billy Taylor, Joe Wilder, and Rosemary Willson, among others.