Faculty Artists Merger: Takács Quartet appoint violist Richard O'Neill

Congratulations to Geri Walther on her retirement after 15 remarkable years

Music Academy Faculty Artists Merger: Takács Quartet announce the appointment of violist Richard O’Neill from June 2020 

Congratulations to Geri Walther on her retirement from the ensemble after 15 remarkable years

Santa Barbara, CA — As the Takács Quartet enters its 45th year, the internationally acclaimed string ensemble continues to evolve with a change in artists. Violist Geraldine Walther will retire from the group this May, after a remarkable 15 years. Celebrated chamber musician Richard O’Neill will join the quartet in June. The Takács Quartet and Mr. O’Neill are Faculty Artists for the annual Music Academy of the West Summer Festival. Mr. O’Neill will perform his first concert with the Takács at the Music Academy of the West in June, marking the next step in the evolution of a great quartet. Mr. O’Neill is an alumnus of the Music Academy. He attended the Summer Festival in 1998 and 1999.

The merger of artistic talent on our faculty roster demonstrates the relationship-driven environment fostered at the Music Academy of the West. We are appreciative to Geri Walther for her excellence in teaching and performance artistry. Our fellows and faculty will benefit greatly from this addition of Richard O’Neill to the quartet through his continued leadership as a coach, now joining the Takács Quartet for our annual String Quartet Seminar, and in performance during our Summer Festival.

— Music Academy of the West President and CEO Scott Reed

We feel extremely grateful to have been able to share our musical lives with Geri since 2005, benefitting from her wonderful sound and vibrant musicianship in concerts and numerous recordings. We are excited to welcome Richard, who is a friend and colleague of ours at the Music Academy of the West, and whose artistry we have admired for many years.

— continuing members of Takács Quartet

I have loved being a member of the Takács Quartet and am grateful for all the friends I’ve made along the way. I am very happy to hand the baton over to the wonderful musician Richard O’Neill and wish the group every success for their future together!

— Geri Walther

The quartet’s latest appointment celebrates the extraordinary journey of the Takács since its foundation in 1975 by four Hungarian students at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. Each member is steeped in the Hungarian/Central European roots and traditions of the quartet, absorbed over decades of collaboration and commitment, and they are now fêted as, “arguably the greatest string quartet in the world.” (The Guardian, May 2018). 

Mr. O’Neill joins founding member cellist András Fejér, English first violinist Edward Dusinberre, and American second violinist Harumi Rhodes, who is of Japanese-Russian descent. The Takács affirms the power of the string quartet to foster communication and cooperation across cultures, nationalities, and generations. 

Richard O’Neill, who is renowned as both a chamber musician and Grammy-nominated soloist, adds:

Joining the Takács Quartet is the greatest honor of my life. I am thrilled to follow in the footsteps of one of my heroes, the great Geraldine Walther, whom I have listened to and adored since I was a child. I look forward to the joy of making music with Ed, Harumi,and András and will do my best to uphold the esteemed tradition of the Takács Quartet.

Looking Ahead

In the first season with Mr. O’Neill, the quartet has a busy schedule of concerts which will take them around the globe – performing at major chamber music series throughout North America and Europe followed by a tour to Australia in August 2021. An exciting commission from Music Accord will result in new pieces by Bryce Dessner and Clarice Assad for the Takács and the extraordinary bandoneonist/accordionist Julien Labro. Stephen Hough is writing a new string quartet for the Takács which they will premiere in 2022 and record for Hyperion. The ensemble will also record two contrasting albums for Hyperion. The first features quartets by Alban Berg and Béla Bartók, while the second encompasses the last quartets of Joseph Haydn. 

Ms. Walther’s last concert with the Takács will be at the Prague Spring Festival on 22nd May 2020.

About the Takács Quartet

The Takács Quartet is one of the world’s pre-eminent string quartets, performing 80 concerts a year worldwide. In residence at the University of Colorado, Boulder, the members of the quartet are also Associate Artists at London’s Wigmore Hall. The quartet is renowned worldwide for its innovative programming and first-class performances. The ensemble was formed in 1975 at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest by Gabor Takács-Nagy, Károly Schranz, Gabor Ormai and András Fejér, while all four were students. It first received international attention in 1977, winning First Prize and the Critics’ Prize at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France. Since then, the group has earned international acclaim and won numerous awards – including a Grammy, three Gramophone Awards, three Japanese Record Academy Awards and a Classical Brit. In 2001 the Takács Quartet was awarded the Order of Merit of the Knight’s Cross of the Republic of Hungary, and in March 2011 each member of the Quartet was awarded the Order of Merit Commander’s Cross by the President of the Republic of Hungary. The Takács Quartet records for Hyperion Records, with repertoire ranging from Haydn and Schubert to Britten and Janácek. Visit takacsquartet.com.

A cosmopolitan point of view is certainly one of the quartet’s strengths, but perhaps even more remarkable is the alacrity with which the newer members have become seamlessly integrated into the ensemble. Their rich, fruity, yet lean sound, unanimity of attack and discerning intelligence remain consistent.

— Washington Post

About Richard O’Neill

Praised by The New York Times for his “elegant, velvety tone,” violist Richard O’Neill has distinguished himself as one of the great instrumentalists of his generation. He has appeared as soloist with the world’s top orchestras including the London, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Euro-Asian Philharmonics, and he has worked with distinguished musicians and conductors including Andrew Davis, Vladimir Jurowski, Francois-Xavier Roth, Leonard Slatkin, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He is in his 13th and final season as Artistic Director of Ensemble DITTO, as well as Artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Principal Violist of Camerata Pacifica. Mr. O’Neill is a Grammy-nominated Universal Music/Deutsche Grammophon recording artist who has made 10 solo albums and many other chamber music recordings, earning multiple platinum discs. He has appeared on major TV networks in South Korea and enjoyed huge success with his 2004 KBS documentary “Human Theater” which was viewed by over 12 million people, and his 2013 series “Hello?! Orchestra” which featured his work with a multicultural youth orchestra for MBC and led to an International Emmy in Arts Programming and a feature length film. He serves as Goodwill Ambassador for the Korean Red Cross, The Special Olympics, and UNICEF, and serves on the faculty of the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. Visit richard-oneill.com.

About the Music Academy of the West

The Music Academy of the West advances the development of 21st century classically trained musicians and cultivates discerning, appreciative, and adventurous audiences. Founded in 1947, the Academy operates on a 10-acre, ocean-side campus in Santa Barbara, California. Music Academy of the West’s world-renowned eight-week Summer Festival comprises nearly 200 events. Programs comprise voice, vocal piano, collaborative piano, instrumental, and solo piano. The Academy began a four-year partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2018 focused on education and performance on both continents. For more information, visit musicacademy.org.


photos courtesy of the artists  

Released: October 10, 2019

Kate Oberjat

Director of Marketing and Communications

Music Academy of the West

[email protected]