In late February we lost a member of our orchestral family. Rami Solomonow served as Principal Violist with the Lyric Opera Orchestra from 1974 to 1995. Born in Tel Aviv less than a year after Israel's founding, Rami played in the state's youth orchestra, including a tour with famed actor/comedian of the 40's and 50's, Danny Kaye. He served for two years in the Israeli Defense Forces as a medic before studying with Odeoen Partos at the Samuel Rubin Israel Academy of Music - an institution whose founders were all central-European immigrants who had fled to the land that would become Israel just prior to the outbreak of World War II. He was a member of the Israel Chamber Orchestra until 1972 and received prizes in viola and chamber music from the American-Israel Foundation. In 1973 Mr. Solomonow moved to the U.S. where he studied with Shmuel Ashkenasi at Northern Illinois University. He left Lyric in 1995 to become a founding member of the Chicago String Quartet, which was the Quartet in residence at DePaul University and Taos School of Music until 2004. Rami had a gift for teaching and mentored young musicians at DePaul for over three decades. As a member of the Chicago Chamber Musicians he was nominated for a Grammy Award for his recording of Mozart chamber works for strings and winds.
Lyric Opera violinist Alexander Belavsky writes this tribute.
Rami Solomonow was the very first person that I met in Chicago. In 1978, I was coming out of the building where I had just played an audition for the Lyric Opera orchestra, and he was standing outside. They say, good things come in small packages. But great things must come in big ones because it was impossible to miss Rami - so tall and so fiercely handsome. On that day we became friends and so we remained for forty years, until the day he died.
Rami was principal of the viola section at Lyric, and I was always looking forward to his solos. His sound was sweet and thick like honey, and warm like a Mediterranean sunset on a warm spring evening. We played together many times, and I will never forget playing Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante” with Rami. During the second movement all I was thinking was: I never want this to end, so beautiful was the playing, with his sound enveloping and hugging all in the audience. Later, when he co-founded Chicago String Quartet, it was always a treat to hear him perform chamber music, with his rich sound soaring.
Outside of the concert hall, Rami was a master raconteur with a wonderful sense of humor, he could turn the most mundane episode into a stand-up routine. His sense of loyalty and of integrity was absolute: he never asked for help but was always the first to offer it. And if Rami said that he would do something, it was as good as done, and done right. His largesse was also legendary. If you went out with Rami, he was always the first to offer to pay for the entire meal, and sometimes we had to actually fight for the check in front of the waitstaff. He was just as generous with his time, sharing his talent, expertise and experience with his many colleagues and with his students at DePaul University and at the many music festivals.
After years of being one of Chicago’s most eligible bachelors, Rami met the love of his life, his wife Ronit. Just as he was the witness at my wedding, I was the witness at his. And I witnessed their family life where love ruled. Rami was an adoring husband and soon became a doting and proud father of Yoni and Ben. His pride in his boys was enormous, his devotion to his family all-encompassing. Rami truly took care of Ronit in sickness and in health: when she became gravely ill, he was nursing her until her very last breath; she died at home in his arms.
Yet, even people closest to him never heard him complain. He was not a man of many words, but his actions spoke louder than any words ever could, and his courage and strength inspired awe and admiration.
When he himself became ill, nobody ever heard him complain. He was always shielding his sons and people close to him from pain. His silence fooled us, and his death was unexpected. His passing leaves a gaping void in Chicago’s musical life and in the lives of all those who had the honor of knowing him personally. For me, it is a deep personal loss, as Rami was an integral part of my life. I want to extend my deepest condolences to the loved ones he left behind: to his wonderful boys and to his loving brother Moshe and his family. We will miss Rami and will remember him always.