String quartets grieve for inspirational Tapping

String quartets grieve for inspirational Tapping


norman lebrecht

January 19, 2022

Tributes abound for the wonderful Roger Tapping, violist of three famous string quartets.

Josh Weilerstein: The first time I heard Roger Tapping play was a performance of the Ravel String Quartet at Yellow Barn when I was a teenager. It was an unforgettable display of every principle of chamber music playing that anyone could ever strive for. He was Listening, leading, giving, taking, and so much more, and his performance that night was all I could think about for weeks. It certainly played a part in my decision to become a musician. Little did I know that this chamber music genius would turn out to be one of the most brilliant, genuine, and profoundly kind humans I would ever meet.
It’s impossible to quantify what Roger meant to so many musicians around the world, whether inspiring them with his playing or with his remarkably detailed and in depth chamber music coachings. In particular I remember a coaching on the first movement of Beethoven Opus 132 where we didn’t make it past the first 8 bars for nearly an hour, and yet none of us minded, because as we attempted to mine the depths of this monumental piece, Roger was leading the way with supreme patience, taking us as close to the core of the music as we could possibly be. His playing, his musical insights, his brilliant intelligence, his wit, his curiosity, his quiet tenaciousness, but most importantly, his kindness, make this such an acutely painful loss to our world. If you were lucky enough to encounter Roger Tapping, you became a better person in all ways after meeting him. He will be missed deeply and remembered forever by so many.

Jamie Clark: The loss of Roger Tapping is such a devastating blow, it robs us of our ability to breathe.
Each time I bring my hands to touch my instrument, I am reminded of the concepts he shared with me over the years. Our conversations for the interviews for my NEC dissertation revealed a miraculous and magical human being unlike any other. I found myself wishing he would never hang up the other side of the line.
He often spoke about trusting our own instincts, making shapes in the most human way. He encouraged us to not treat the score as a secret, abstract code, but rather with the assumption that we can understand it deeply and relate on a human level.
He emphasized the importance of asking simple questions while identifying at an exceptionally high level of imagination in regards to significance and character.
He was able to marry simplicity with profundity and his presence illuminated every room. I am at a loss for words and thinking of his dear family at this time.

Keats Dieffenbach: There are a few friends in my life whom I have felt truly seen by—Roger Tapping is one of those dear people for me.
My last summer at Yellow Barn, I requested the big Schubert G Major Quartet, D887 and was ecstatic to learn that Seth had not only programmed it but put me in a group next to Roger. D887 is Schubert’s final string quartet, published posthumously. The piece is profound and transcendent (and 50 minutes long!), and the experience of performing it with Roger was nothing short of that. (I treasure being one of a small number of folks who’ve had the honor of accompanying him on that otherworldly second theme….)
It makes me sad that I can’t remember more of his comments about specific moments in the score— it’s all one giant blur of swirling sound and the sacred communion of bringing such a monumental work to life. After five intense weeks of working deeply on this piece that meant so much to us both, we were permanently bonded and would exchange knowing nods that recalled the depth of the experience whenever our paths would cross for years thereafter.
What I do remember is that during that fateful summer of 2008, both by instruction and by pristine example, Roger patiently showed me how to blend with his incredibly special sound, how to feature the inner voice, how to support the first violin without overpowering— in essence everything worth knowing about playing second violin. I’ll never forget it, and I will carry the singular, profound joy of knowing Roger and making music with him— that incredible gift that anyone who has ever spoken with him or played with him or heard him perform recognizes instantly— I will carry that joy alongside the gift of his friendship for as long as I am alive.

Mei Rui: The classical music world lost a giant today. You always called me a strong woman, but I haven’t been able to stop shaking and sobbing since talking to Seth this morning…
Dearest Roger, thank you for all the memorable and life-changing musical experiences, inspiring conversations, and delectable whiskey tastings. Having you as my mentor, collaborator, coach, friend, and ping pong buddy for the last 14 years has been one of the greatest privileges and blessings of my life. I will be listening to our Berg and Brahms with a big glass of whiskey tonight.
My heart goes out to Natasha and all my Yellow Barn and PMP friends who are grieving and hurting from this unfathomable loss 💙


  • margaret koscielny says:

    Every comment from his fellow musicians only underscores how deeply indebted we all are to musicians who bring their spiritual expansiveness to music-making. This is what we all need as we live through troubling times.

  • Gary Freer says:

    I remember hearing him play the Walton Concerto at West Road in his Cambridge days. Taken far too young.