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April 13, 2018

Tim Kilian (1946-2017) – An Appreciation

“I first met Tim Kilian in 1964 when we both attended Roosevelt High School in Seattle. Tim was a fabulous violinist, and he led the Kilian Quartet, which also included his sisters Mary (violin), Judy (viola), and Terri (cello).

“He was a little older than me and, from the first time we met, I instantly admired his energetic and beautiful playing. We were in the Seattle Youth Symphony together, and I remember that Tim was concertmaster and he played the Scheherazade solo perfectly. Tim eventually studied with the Fine Arts Quartet in Milwaukee and I lost track of him.

“The next thing I knew it was late summer of 1973. Cellist Walter Gray and I were looking for a violist and another violinist in order to start a group. I believe it was Walter who alerted me that Tim was now a violist. And what a wonderful violist he was. Along with Jim Shallenberger, the four of us started rehearsing daily (beginning with Webern’s Six Bagatelles, Bartok’s Third Quartet and Ken Benshoof’s ‘Odds and Ends’) and, within a few weeks, we had a name: Kronos Quartet.

“Tim was known for his impeccable rhythm – he never seemed to rush the beat – his beautiful intonation and warm sound. Together, we laid a foundation for the work that Kronos has done since then. Tim was in Kronos for those first financially strapped two years in Seattle and his third and final year in Kronos was in upstate New York when we were a part of the Lenox Quartet’s residency program for young quartets at SUNY campuses. Tim moved back to Seattle in early summer of 1976. He became a member of the Seattle Symphony’s viola section.

“In Portland, Oregon, recently, a very nice young man came up to me after one of our concerts and said ‘Does the name Tim Kilian mean anything to you?’ I said, ‘Sure, Tim was Kronos’ founding violist, in the group from 1973-76.’ The man said ‘I’m his son, Seth.’ A few weeks after meeting Seth, I heard of Tim’s death.

“I have so many fond memories of those early days of Kronos. It was us against the universe. Our first world premiere was Ken Benshoof’s ‘Traveling Music,’ which opens with a memorable viola part. We played the West Coast premiere of George Crumb’s ‘Black Angels’ together. Tim helped lay the groundwork for Kronos and I will always be grateful for that. I’m very thankful to have known him and for all of his amazing work.”

– David Harrington, artistic director, founder and violinist, Kronos Quartet


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