Please press the play button above to hear the recorded interview, which was recently broadcast on KMFA 89.5.
Violist Michael Tree passed away last week at the age of 84 from complications related to Parkinson’s Disease. Born Michael Applebaum, Tree changed his name at the suggestion of his violin teacher Efram Zimbalist with whom he studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Following his graduation, Tree (still a violinist at that time) made a successful debut at Carnegie Hall and toured internationally. But in 1959, he began spending his summers at the esteemed Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont where he first met cellist David Soyer and formed the Marlboro Trio along with pianist Anton Kuerti.
In 1964, Tree and Soyer—along with their violinist colleagues Arnold Steinhardt and John Dalley—formed the Guarneri String Quartet. That ensemble continued making music for the next forty-five years with only one change in membership, finally retiring in 2009. At that time, first violinist Arnold Steinhardt told NPR that in the 1960s there just weren’t that many string quartets around and the idea of starting a full-time quartet seemed like an improbable dream.
The Guarneri’s rise to fame was meteoric. By 1971, just seven years after they were founded, a New York Times headline read: “The New ‘In’ Group is the Guarneri.” The group shaped the conversation around chamber music and what it meant to play in a string quartet for the next half century. Eventually, journalists seemed to focus on their longevity, often pondering how the ensemble could remain together for as long as they had.
In 2006, Rideshare host Chris Johnson had the opportunity to talk with Michael Tree about an upcoming Guarneri Quartet performance that would open The Clarion, a new concert hall in Lake Jackson, Texas. Chris played the interview this week on Rideshare as we remembered Tree's contributions to the classical music world.