The Violin Channel recently caught up with New York-based violinist Nicholas Mann – son of the-late long time Juilliard String Quartet violinist, Mr Robert Mann.
We sat Nicholas down to get a better understanding of his legendary father’s life and legacy – on this, the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Nicholas, Tell us about your father? What words for you would best describe him as a musician, educator, and human being?
“Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my father … it is so important to keep alive the memory of remarkable musicians such as my father.
‘Passion’ is the first word that comes to mind. Passion for every aspect of life.
‘Enthusiasm’, and ‘Commitment’ in everything he did.
‘Authentic’ – He stayed true to his values, every day of his life.
‘Inspirational’ – A teacher whose magic touched so many
‘Generous’ – He was generous of spirit, of time, and of love”
What would you say were the major milestones of his career and life?
“The more typical answer might list his accomplishments –
Winner of the Naumburg Violin competition in 1941,
The formation of the Juilliard String Quartet in 1947
Commissions of literally hundreds of works such as Carter 3rd and Dutilleux’s Ansi La Nuit …..
There are so many accomplishments and milestones, however I would like to approach the question a bit differently.
He was a truly inspirational teacher whose musical DNA is now woven into the fabric of today’s chamber music artists.
So I think it is more apt to name three teachers who greatly influenced him. They were the milestones in his musical development.
Edouard Hurlimann, the concertmaster in Portand OR who first opened his eyes to deeper meaning in music.
Edward Dethier, his violin teach at Juilliard, who not only helped him develop as a violinist, but also passed his love of chamber music to my father.
And finally Eugene Lehner his mentor and friend who guided him and the JSQ though their early years”
What would you say were your father’s true motivations in life?
“My father was one of those rare individuals who was always motivated and how he accomplished so much in his life is really hard to fathom.
I don’t think there was any one specific motivation, but he was definitely inspired by nature and the mountains, a source of rejuvenation for him.
I was lucky to spend many a night out in the wilderness camping with him”
How was your relationship with your father and how was it to grow up in such a rich musical environment?
“I was so lucky … He encouraged my musical involvement whenever I showed interest. Great music and great musicians around me all the time – what a phenomenally rich environment to grow up in!
He was my mentor.
We performed together, we hiked together. I could not imagine a more wonderful relationship”
Your father had a very public life, but what is something that somebody outside your direct family might not know about him?
“He loved Chinese food beyond belief. Didn’t matter where he was, New York or even Paris, he always looked for the Chinese restaurants.
Also he was a fanatic for science fiction books … He must have ready every science fiction book, both good and bad”
When you eventually look back at your own life, what are the major tangible and intangible life lessons you will have learned from your father?
“Your love for what you do is the most important basis for a satisfying life .
He always said he strove to be an amateur (which in french literally means – to do it for the love).
And stay true to your core beliefs. The business of music will constantly test you, but your values in music should not be compromised”
How do you want your father to be remembered in history?
“A man who changed the landscape of chamber music, both as a performer and teacher. An artist who could reach your soul in the simplest phrase.
A poet on the violin.”