Ruşen Güneş 1940–2020

We were saddened this week to hear of the death of Ruşen Güneş, Principal Viola of the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 1979–87. He died in London on 29 May 2020, aged 80.

Born in Beypazarı, Turkey, Ruşen Güneş graduated from the Ankara State Conservatoire and joined the Turkish Presidential Symphony Orchestra in 1961, before securing a British Council scholarship to study at London’s Royal College of Music from 1963–65. There he was a student of Frederick Riddle, himself a former LPO Principal Viola.

Ruşen joined the LPO in 1979 and held the position of Principal Viola for eight years, before becoming Principal at the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1988, when he was succeeded at the LPO by Norbert Blume. He retired in 2000.

Ruşen was also an avid chamber musician and a founding member of the Özsoy and London string quartets, and was solely responsible for the creation of a viola repertoire by contemporary Turkish composers. He also had an immense interest in poetry and literature, writing hundreds of poems and short stories.

LPO viola Robert Duncan writes: ‘It was very sad to hear that Ruşen had passed away; I was a member of the viola section throughout his tenure as Principal Viola. He was a strong and firm principal with a generous spirit, and played with tremendous character and individual style, with a compelling and special sound. In later years he returned to the Orchestra as a Guest Principal and I have happy memories of sharing a desk with him.’

Robert’s colleague Kate Leek recalls: ‘Ruşen was the reason why I wanted to join the LPO, after going to see them play at the RFH as a teenager and after studying with him at the Royal Northern College of Music. An extraordinary musician and viola player, he built up a fantastic viola section in the LPO. So many of us owe our first professional experience to Ruşen’s generosity and I was no exception, being fortunate to play in his section during the period of Klaus Tennstedt’s tenure as Principal Conductor. Ruşen had such strength of personality which, combined with his sense of humour, influenced and reached out to all of us.’