Violinist and Juilliard alumnus Nick Eanet, currently one of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra’s two concertmasters, has been selected as the Juilliard String Quartet’s new first violinist. He will take up the position in July 2009, replacing Joel Smirnoff, who became president of the Cleveland Institute of Music last summer but has been performing with the J.S.Q. and teaching at Juilliard this year while the quartet looked for a new member.
After putting together a list of candidates last spring, the quartet zeroed in on the top three choices and spent two days in close quarters with each one, talking and rehearsing a wide variety of repertoire. “The goal was to find a distinctive musical voice that would add to the richness of the dialogue that has always been a J.S.Q. hallmark,” explained cellist Joel Krosnick (at whose home the four musicians spent two days delving into matters both musical and philosophical). Added violist Samuel Rhodes, “Nick’s infectious love of the medium and the repertoire was so important to us. We knew from working together and our conversations that we had absolutely found the right person to be our new first violinist.” Second violinist Ronald Copes concurred: “After hearing the excitement and inspiration that Nick brought to performance, and our response to his voice, we knew this choice was correct.”
Eanet, 36, represents an opportunity to take the Juilliard String Quartet into the next generation with youthful vitality, as well as continue the ensemble’s rich legacy. A chamber-music player since the tender age of 5, the Brooklyn-born Eanet was a member of the Mendelssohn String Quartet for six years after graduating from Juilliard in 1994. (Both Krosnick and Rhodes have played with him in collaborations with the Mendelssohn.) Though he has been with the Met Opera Orchestra since 1999, Eanet has continued performing chamber music and says that he has “come to peace” with the frequent travel required as a quartet member that had felt burdensome in his first years out of school. He is also experienced as a teacher; while with the Mendelssohn Quartet, he was in residence and taught at Harvard University, and has also been a faculty member at the University of Delaware and the North Carolina School of the Arts.
The Juilliard String Quartet was founded as the School’s resident string quartet in 1946 by then-president William Schuman. In its 62-year history, the ensemble has encompassed only 11 different members, through changes that have been individual and gradual. The current personnel have been together since 1997, when founding first violinist Robert Mann retired after 50 years and Smirnoff moved into the position, with Copes joining as second violinist. (In an appropriate nod to interconnectedness, Mann was Eanet’s teacher in the College Division at Juilliard; he also studied in the Pre-College with Dorothy DeLay.)
“This is quite an exciting crossroads in my career,” said Eanet. “I have a personal relationship with this legendary quartet, as I learned most of the literature from their famous recordings and electrifying concerts, and Robert Mann was my teacher and mentor at Juilliard. I look forward to being a part of this legacy. To have this unique opportunity to help lead this historic quartet into the future is an honor, and I look forward to rejoining the Juilliard community and making music with my new colleagues with great excitement.”
Eanet will continue with the Met Orchestra through the end of this season (with a couple months off to allow for the healing of the broken wrist he sustained last month during a fall while zooming downhill in Central Park on in-line skates with a friend, celebrating his new appointment). His debut with the J.S.Q. is planned for July 8 at the Ravinia Festival near Chicago. With the fall semester, he will also become a member of the Juilliard violin faculty.