Obituary: Former Juilliard Quartet violist Raphael Hillyer, 96

Posted on: January 6, 2011

In Thursday’s (1/6) New York Times, Allan Kozinn writes, “Raphael Hillyer, the founding violist of the Juilliard String Quartet and a soloist and teacher known for the warmth and expressivity of his tone, died on Dec. 27 in Boston, where he lived. He was 96. The cause was heart failure, said his daughter Reiko Hillyer. Mr. Hillyer was the last of the original members of the Juilliard String Quartet to commit to the project, and in some ways he had the most to lose. … Mr. Hillyer at the time was a 32-year-old violinist with a solid job: he was in his fourth year as a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky, a post he had attained after playing in the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini. … As it turned out, the Juilliard ensemble quickly won attention for its daring programming; it was, for example, the first group to present the six Bartok quartets as a cycle, as it did in 1949. Within a decade it had built a significant discography of old and new works and a reputation as a virtuoso ensemble. … Mr. Hillyer performed with the Juilliard Quartet for 23 years, leaving in 1969 to teach at American University in Washington and to pursue a career as a recitalist and chamber player.”

Posted January 6, 2011