An important figure in twentieth century chamber music, Felix Galimir is remembered as much for his role as teacher and mentor as for his own performances. Particularly after he moved to the United States in 1938, he guided several generations of young musicians through the mysteries and delights of music for small ensembles. His roster of students includes, among many others, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Koh, Ani Kavafian, Leila Josefowicz, Chee-Yun, and the entire Muir String Quartet.
Galimir himself studied with Adolf Bak at the Vienna Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1928, and thereafter with Carl Flesch in Berlin. Fresh from the conservatory, he and his sisters organized the Galimir Quartet in Vienna in 1929. The group quickly established itself as a champion of modernist music, particularly that of the Schoenberg circle, as well as younger composers.
After relocating to the United States (where he was naturalized in 1944), Galimir formed a new quartet, which also made contemporary music a significant part of its repertory. The group's tastes were far-ranging, though; one of its finest recordings is of the Debussy and Ravel quartets, made early in the digital era. Galimir also spent his first two American decades as an orchestral player, serving as concertmaster of the NBC Symphony from 1939 to 1954, and its successor, the Symphony of the Air, from 1954 to 1956.
In the 1950s Galimir began making a name for himself as a fine teacher. In 1954 he started working every summer at the Marlboro Festival and Music School; freed of his symphonic duties, he also taught at the Juilliard School, starting in 1962, and the Curtis Institute of Music in 1972. From 1977 he made the Mannes College of Music in New York his base of operations; that's where his quartet held residency.
Galimir taught and coached well into his eighties, and upon his death he was honored with a surprising number of memorial concerts, with many competitions and educational endeavors being created in his name -- a testament to the unusually high esteem in which he was held.