It’s musical chairs again at the Juilliard String Quartet

It’s musical chairs again at the Juilliard String Quartet


norman lebrecht

February 23, 2018

The JSQ, just back from Europe tour, has let it be known that Joseph Lin will be stepping down as first violin in the summer. He will remain on the Juilliard faculty and his seat will be taken by Areta Zhulla.

Lin has led the quartet for just seven years.

The quartet changed its violist in 2013 and its cellist in 2016.

It’s looking like a game of musical chairs.

JSQ – new lineup


  • Michael Comins says:

    The recent viola and cello changes were long overdue, restoring ensemble validity to the vaunted JSQ. The coming 1st violin swap will be interesting to hear.

  • Scotty says:

    Musical chairs, really? Five first violins (counting the new one) in seventy years. And the second first violinist, Joel Smirnoff, had been second violin for 11 years before he moved up and stayed put for another 12 years.

    Three (3!) violists in seventy years.

    Sure, new cellist in 2016. The one before that was in place for 32 years.

    Are these people expected to be immortal?

    BTW, Joel Smirnoff and I played a jazz gig or two together when he was finishing up at the University of Chicago and I was a high-school student. He was something.

    • Bill says:

      Yes, there have been a number of people who had very long careers with the JSQ. But 3 out of 4 members of the quartet will be new in their position since the start of this decade, and as far as I can tell, there is now no one in the group who was a member of the group with any of the original members still present, and only one who was a member with any of the 2nd generation members! Certainly not as much turnover as other quartets have had (look at the Fine Arts Quartet, for example), but with personnel changes every 2 or 3 years (2018, 2016, 2013, 2011), one can not unreasonably wonder about the impact…

  • YoYo Mama says:

    It means there is no continuity there, and no real significance to the group behind its tired brand name. And I did jury duty with the cellist, Joel Krosnick.

  • Waldo says:

    I’m willing to bet that anyone who is critical of the “musical chairs” going on has never played in a serious professional string quartet, and therefore would have trouble knowing the amount of personal sacrifice that is required. I’m sure Joseph Lin gave up a lot to contribute his amazing artistry to the Juilliard Quartet since 2011, and I personally am excited to see what comes next for his career, and to hear the new formation of the JSQ! The members of the quartet have the great artistry and flexibility to turn a member change into a step forwards, not backwards.

    • Bill says:

      Waldo, you’re right, I have not been a member of a “serious professional string quartet” (is there any other kind?) but i have quite a few friends and acquaintances who have been or are. They all agree that personnel changes are difficult, and it takes an appreciable time before the new group settles in. I don’t see anyone questioning the professional commitment of the JSQ, past or present. The question remains – how much of the original character of the group remains? Change is not necessarily all bad, listen to the various incarnations of the Budapest SQ. But a prospective ticket-buyer might have a preference for a group that has had enough time in the cure. Others might be excited by the prospect of hearing the revamped formation, especially if they have prior experience with the new member(s).