The current quartet: Zakarias Grafilo, violin; Sandy Wilson, cello; Frederick Lifsitz, violin; Paul Yarbrough, viola | Credit: Shirley Singer

Now in its 39th season, the Alexander String Quartet has undergone some personnel changes, but its founding violist, Paul Yarbrough, is still in his lofty place. That will change on May 16, with Yarbrough’s final performance as a member of the ASQ, in the Herbst Theater closing of the 2019–2020 San Francisco Performances Saturday Morning Series.

Paul Yarbrough | Credit: Rory Earnshaw

After Yarbrough’s retirement, this summer the quartet will welcome his successor, David Samuel, a violist with a long history of working with the ASQ as a guest artist in recording and education projects. Samuel has a prestigious career as a chamber musician, soloist, and orchestral musician. He is currently associate principal violist with the Auckland (NZ) Philharmonia Orchestra, and serves on the faculty of the University of Auckland.

As a founding member, Yarbrough performed with the award-winning ASQ from the beginning. He and the other members have been carefully planning his departure for two seasons. He will appear as a guest artist with the quartet for two seasons of quintet repertory, and continue to perform as a soloist. Yarbrough also plans to teach and pursue personal projects.

After Samuel comes on board in the summer of 2020, the quartet will have one founding member left, cellist Sandy Wilson. The other members are violinist Fred Lifsitz, a member for 33 years, and violinist Zakarias Grafilo, who has been with the ASQ for 19 years.

“We are doubly fortunate,” says Wilson. “Paul has been an inspiring and positive colleague and friend for nearly 40 years. We are all grateful for his partnership, vision and longevity — and it’s great that we are not really saying goodbye just yet, as he will join us as a guest artist for two seasons of quintets.

“Because of his long working association with the ASQ, David is a perfect fit: a superbly accomplished musician and someone who ‘gets us’ as much as we get him. This kind of rapport is rare and important in welcoming new blood. Our future looks bright.”

David Samuel joins the quartet, succeeding founding member Paul Yarbrough | Credit: Frank Wang

“Chamber music is where my heart is, and I am absolutely thrilled to join the Alexander,” says Samuel. “They are all great friends and I have worked, performed, and recorded with them throughout my career. San Francisco has always felt like home to me, and so joining the Alexander String Quartet is a homecoming on many levels. I am excited to be part of the next chapter of this great ensemble.”

Samuel’s distinguished performance career includes concerts at Wigmore Hall, Berlin Konzerthaus, the Esterházy Palace, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, at the headquarters of both LinkedIn and Facebook, and on The Late Show with David Letterman.

He has performed chamber music with Robert Mann, Pinchas Zukerman, Atar Arad, Michael Tree, Colin Carr, Marc Johnson, Joel Krosnick, Sergio Azzolini, James Campbell, Jörg Widmann, and members of the Alexander, Cecilia, Danish, Emerson, and Juilliard String Quartets. He has worked as a producer most recently for a recording of Mozart chamber music with the Alexander String Quartet and pianist Joyce Yang.