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February 26, 2010

David Soyer, Guarneri Cellist, passed away 2/25/2010

By Suzie Davidson

UMS has just learned of the sad news that David Soyer, founding cellist for the Guarneri String Quartet, passed away yesterday, one day after his 87th birthday.

Mr. Soyer, the violinists Arnold Steinhardt and John Dalley and the violist Michael Tree formed the Guarneri at Marlboro in 1964, and for over 40 years, the musicians of the Guarneri were among the highest-ranking aristocrats in the chamber music world. In 2001, Mr. Soyer retired  while one of his former students, Peter Wiley, joined the quartet. The quartet retired as a whole in 2009.

The Guarneri String Quartet made their UMS debut on February 25th, 1971 in Rackham Auditorium in a program which included works by Beethoven, Stravinsky, Webern, Josef Suk, and Schumann.

Prior to Mr. Soyer’s retirement in 2001, the Quartet performed 18 stand-alone concerts in Ann Arbor as well as two complete Beethoven quartet cycles: the first cycle spanning five performances during the 1976/77 UMS season, and a second complete cycle spanning six performances over three successive seasons beginning in the 1984/85 season. During the 1981 winter season, the Guarneri appeared twice on the UMS Chamber Arts Series in programs consisting entirely of compositions by Béla Bartók. In November 1999, the Guarneri appeared alongside the Orion String Quartet in a program featuring Mendelssohn’s Octet, Op. 20. In April of 2005 UMS celebrated the Guarneri String Quartet’s 40th anniversary season in the Quartet’s 30th appearance under UMS auspices as the Ford Honors Recipient. As part of the program, Mr. Soyer joined the Quartet in a performance of Schubert’s Cello Quintet.

Guarneri Quartet backstage with Ken Fischer

Following the 2005 Ford Honors Program, the Quartet returned twice more (but with new cellist Peter Wiley). On February 9, 2008 they performance a concert with the Johannes String Quartet. Together the Quartets performed the Bolcom Octet and the Medelssohn Octet, and the Guarneri performed Derek Bermel’s “Passing Through” (2007), apiece commissioned for them. They returned for their final UMS performance on January 11, 2009 as part of their Farewell Tour—and performed Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 12 in E-flat Major, Op. 127, followed by Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15 in a minor, Op. 132.

Do you have any memories of the Guarneri String Quartet? Pleaes share them with us! We’d love to hear from you.


Suzie is the proud momma of her one-year-old, Liam. She is an upbeat lady who loves theatre, hiking, and classic rock. Come visit Suzie in the League Ticket Office!