San Francisco Symphony mourns principal cellist

San Francisco Symphony mourns principal cellist


norman lebrecht

December 31, 2019

We have been notified of the death of Michael Grebanier, principal cellist of the San Francisco Symphony since 1977.

Grebanier, who was 82, had not played for a whle due to ill health but remained on the active roster.

His wiFE, Sharon, has been a violinist in the orchestra since 1973.

SF Symphony cellist Barbara Bogatin said in a Facebook post: ‘Michael’s playing was a model of elegance, beauty, and musicality. Colleague, friend, leader, ardent union supporter.’

Grebanier, a New Yorker, was a student of Leonard Rose at Curtis. Aged 19 he won the Walter Naumburg Competition. He joined the Cleveland Orchestra for four years, and at 25 became principal cellist of the Pittsburgh Symphony for 14 years. With Garrick Ohlsson and ex-SF Symphony concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis, Grebanier formed the FOG Trio.

He recorded the Prokofiev cello sonatas and Rachmaninov’s complete music for cello and piano by Rachmaninoff for Naxos.



  • Amos says:

    To demonstrate further the excellence of the late 1950’s Cleveland Orchestra Mr. Grebanier was one of three Principal players in the Pittsburgh Symphony who came from Cleveland. Principal trumpet Charles Hois and Principal oboe Elden Gatwood were the others.

  • Anon says:

    A tremendous loss. I was always fascinated with a rumor about his last name. I’d heard that it was originally “Reinberg”. Early in his career he changed it, reversing the order of the letters. “Grebanier” is basically “Reinberg” backwards.

    • Alice Grebanier says:

      Not true. I’m his sister. Our name has always been Grebanier.

      • Don Beusmann says:

        Hello Alice, I had the joy to know your brother in All City High School Orchestra. We were in Midwood High School in Brooklyn N.Y. Together we rode the IRT subway to Brooklyn Technical High School for playing every Saturday with the most talented musicians. Michael had curly dark hair and was a handsome young 16 year old musician. At that time we all loved hearing him play, he along with our friend Monroe Livitisky and me on violin played some beautiful music. Michael,s playing remains with me now and forever. His High School friend, Don Beusman, violinist.. age 85

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Grebanier in his prime was a marvelous ‘cellist, and as a long-time and highly valued member of the San Francisco Symphony, he will be sorely missed.
    When I visualize the SFS in my mind, there he is in the first chair, with his left leg sticking out in that way of his.
    Thanks for all the lovely music, Michael….

  • Konas Jaufmann says:

    He looks like Stefan Zucker

  • Leslie Meeks says:

    Wonderful cellist & wonderful teacher.

    I learned so much from Michael when I studied with him in my twenties.

    He was a warm supportive person who inspired me to be the best cellist/person I could be.