Events & Tickets
VIOLA VISIONS: THREE CENTURIES AND COUNTING
New World Center
Viola Visions officially commences with this welcome concert featuring viola-centric works spanning more than 300 years of repertoire. MTT leads Cynthia Phelps (New York Philharmonic), Jonathan Vinocour (San Francisco Symphony) and Tabea Zimmermann in J.S. Bach’s final Brandenburg Concerto and the virtuosic variations of “Les folies d’Espagne” arranged by Irish-born violist Garth Knox. Inspired by a racing video game, Andrew Norman’s Gran Turismo has eight violists locked in a highspeed chase.
Knight Foundation and New World Symphony: Reimagining Classical Music in the Digital Age.
WAYS TO WATCH:
Arranged by Garth Knox
Approx. Duration: 10 minutes
Variations on “Les folies d’Espagne”
Johann Sebastian Bach
Approx. Duration: 18 minutes
Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-flat major, BWV 1051
Adagio ma non tanto
Mr. Vinocour and Ms. Phelps
Approx. Duration: 9 minutes
(2004; arranged for viola ensemble)
Michael Tilson Thomas is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy; Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony; and Conductor Laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. In addition to these posts, he maintains an active presence guest conducting with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.
Born in Los Angeles, Mr. Tilson Thomas is the third generation of his family to follow an artistic career. His grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, were founding members of the Yiddish Theater in America. His father, Ted Thomas, was a producer in the Mercury Theater Company in New York before moving to Los Angeles where he worked in films and television. His mother, Roberta Thomas, was the head of research for Columbia Pictures.
Mr. Tilson Thomas began his formal studies at the University of Southern California where he studied piano with John Crown and conducting and composition with Ingolf Dahl. At age 19 he was named Music Director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra. He worked with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen and Copland on premieres of their compositions at Los Angeles’ Monday Evening Concerts. During this same period he was the pianist and conductor for Gregor Piatigorsky and Jascha Heifetz.
In 1969, after winning the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood, he was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. That year he also made his New York debut with the Boston Symphony and gained international recognition after replacing Music Director William Steinberg in mid-concert. He was later appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra where he remained until 1974. He was Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic from 1971 to 1979 and a Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1981 to 1985. His guest conducting includes appearances with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.
His recorded repertoire of more than 120 discs includes works by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Prokofiev and Stravinsky as well as his pioneering work with the music of Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Steve Reich, John Cage, Ingolf Dahl, Morton Feldman, George Gershwin, John McLaughlin and Elvis Costello. He also recorded the complete orchestral works of Gustav Mahler with the San Francisco Symphony.
Mr. Tilson Thomas’ television work includes a series with the London Symphony Orchestra for BBC Television, the television broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts from 1971 to 1977 and numerous productions on PBS’ Great Performances. Mr. Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony produced a multi-tiered media project, Keeping Score, which includes a television series, web sites, radio programs and programs in schools.
In 1990 Mr. Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony were presented in a series of benefit concerts for UNICEF in the United States, featuring Audrey Hepburn as narrator of From the Diary of Anne Frank, composed by Mr. Tilson Thomas and commissioned by UNICEF. This piece has since been translated and performed in many languages worldwide. In August 1995 he led the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra in the premiere of his composition Showa/Shoah, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Thomas Hampson premiered his settings of poetry by Walt Whitman, Renée Fleming premiered his settings of the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the San Francisco Symphony premiered his concerto for contrabassoon entitled Urban Legend. As a Carnegie Hall Perspectives Artist from 2003 to 2005, he had an evening devoted to his own compositions which included Island Music for four marimbas and percussion, Notturno for solo flute and strings and a new setting of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke. Other compositions include Street Song for brass instruments and Agnegram, an overture for orchestra.
Among his many honors and awards, Mr. Tilson Thomas is a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, was Musical America’s Musician of the Year and Conductor of the Year, Gramophone Magazine’s Artist of the Year and has been profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes and ABC’s Nightline. He has won 11 Grammy Awards for his recordings. In 2008 he received the Peabody Award for his radio series for SFS Media, The MTT Files. In 2010 President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States Government.
Cynthia Phelps, viola
Cynthia Phelps has Principal Violist with the New York Philharmonic since 1992. Her solo appearances with the orchestra have included performances on the 2006 Tour of Italy and the 1999 premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Two Paths, which the Philharmonic commissioned for her and the orchestra’s associate principal violist Rebecca Young. Other solo engagements have included the Minnesota Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic and Orquesta Sinfónica de Bilbao. Ms. Phelps performs with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Boston Chamber Music Society and Bargemusic. She has toured internationally with the Zukerman and Friends Ensemble, appeared with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and the Guarneri, American, Brentano and Prague string quartets. She has given recitals in the music capitals of Europe and the U.S. Her honors include the Pro Musicis International Award and first prize in the Lionel Tertis International Viola and Washington International String competitions. Her most recent album, for flute, viola and harp, on Telarc, was nominated for a Grammy Award. She has a solo album on Cala Records. She has performed on PBS’s NPR, Radio France and RAI in Italy. Ms. Phelps studied at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.
Jonathan Vinocour, viola
Jonathan Vinocour joined the San Francisco Symphony as Principal Viola in 2009, having previously served as Principal Viola of the Saint Louis Symphony and Guest Principal Viola of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. A native of Rochester, he graduated from Princeton University with a degree in chemistry. He completed his master’s degree at the New England Conservatory, where he studied with Kim Kashkashian.
With the San Francisco Symphony, Mr. Vinocour has appeared as soloist in Britten’s Double Concerto and Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante (both with Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik), Berlioz’ Harold in Italy and Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel. He has also performed as a soloist with the Saint Louis Symphony. His first solo album, featuring works of Britten and Shostakovich, was recorded with the support of the Holland America Music Society. Mr. Vinocour was also a featured recitalist at the 2012 International Viola Congress, and he performs frequently in recital throughout the Bay Area.
Mr. Vinocour has been a regular participant at the Marlboro Music Festival and has toured extensively with Musicians from Marlboro. He enjoys a busy chamber music schedule during summer seasons, participating in many festivals such as Seattle Chamber Music, Aspen Music Festival, Bay Chamber Concerts, Music in the Vineyards and the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, among others. He has been a guest of the Da Camera Society of Los Angeles, Boston Chamber Music Society, International Sejong Soloists, and is a frequent guest artist with the Saint Lawrence String Quartet. He is a founding member of ECCO (East Coast Chamber Orchestra), based in New York.
A dedicated and increasingly active pedagogue, Mr. Vinocour has presented master classes at conservatories around the country and abroad. He is a regular coach at the New World Symphony, has been on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School, and is currently on faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He plays a 1784 Lorenzo Storioni viola, on loan from the San Francisco Symphony.
Tabea Zimmermann, viola
For many years, Tabea Zimmermann has been regarded as one of the most renowned musicians of our time. Audiences and fellow musicians value her charismatic personality and deep musical understanding. Arguably the finest violist in the world today, she owes her success not only to her exceptional talent, but also to the support of her parents, thorough training by excellent teachers, a tireless enthusiasm to communicate her understanding and love of music to her audience and an uncompromisingly high quality standard.
As a soloist Ms. Zimmermann regularly works with the most distinguished orchestras worldwide such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, London Symphony, Israel Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic. Following residencies in Weimar, Luxembourg, Hamburg and with the Bamberg Symphony, she was artist-in-residence with the Ensemble Resonanz from 2013-15, and continues this close collaboration. In the 2015-16 season, she was artist-in-residence of the Frankfurt Museums-Gesellschaft.
Ms. Zimmermann kicked off the 2018-19 season with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra at the BBC Proms. Further highlights of the current season include her concerts with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra under Susanna Mälkki, the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest under Markus Stenz and at the Philharmonie de Paris with Les Siècles under Francois-Xavier Roth. On a tour of Asia, she will perform Mantovani‘s Double Concerto together with Antoine Tamestit and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, and appear with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra in York Höller’s new Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, which she premiered in 2018 with the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne under François-Xavier Roth.
The Arcanto Quartet, in which Ms. Zimmermann performs with violinists Antje Weithaas and Daniel Sepec and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, has provided a special focus for her chamber music activities. On the label Harmonia Mundi, they have released CDs of works by Bartók, Brahms, Ravel, Dutilleux, Debussy, Schubert and Mozart.
Ms. Zimmermann has inspired numerous composers to write for the viola and has introduced many new works into the standard concert and chamber music repertoire. In 1994 she gave the highly successful world premiere of the Sonata for Solo Viola by György Ligeti, a work composed especially for her. The subsequent premieres of this work in London, New York, Paris, Jerusalem, Amsterdam and Japan attracted great critical and public acclaim. In recent seasons, Ms. Zimmermann has premiered Recicanto for Viola and Orchestra by Heinz Holliger, the viola concerto Über die Linie IV by Wolfgang Rihm, Monh by George Lentz, Notte di pasqua by Frank Michael Beyer, a double concerto by Bruno Mantovani with Antoine Tamestit, and Filz by Enno Poppe with Ensemble Resonanz. She played the premiere of Michael Jarrell’s Viola Concerto at Festival Musica Strasbourg 2017 with the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire under Pascal Rophé; and subsequent performances with the Vienna Symphony under Ingo Metzmacher, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Pascal Rophé and the Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin under Mario Venzago.
To mark Hindemith’s anniversary in 2013, Ms. Zimmermann released a highly acclaimed complete recording of the composer’s works for viola on myrios classics. Following the success of her recording of solo works by Reger and Bach with myrios classics in 2009 – for which she received an Echo Klassik prize as Instrumentalist of the Year – she has released three albums with pianists Kirill Gerstein and Thomas Hoppe. Ms. Zimmerman’s artistry is documented on approximately 50 CDs for labels such as EMI, Teldec and Deutsche Grammophon. A live recording of her performance on Beethoven’s own viola at the Beethovenhaus Bonn, accompanied by Hartmut Höll, was released by Ars Musici.
Ms. Zimmermann has received several national and international awards for her outstanding artistic achievements. These include the Federal Cross of Merit, Frankfurter Musikpreis, Hessischer Kulturpreis, Rheingau Musikpreis, International Prize Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Sienna, the Paul-Hindemith-Prize from the city of Hanau and most recently as Artist of the Year by the ICMA International Classical Music Awards 2017. She is a foundation board member of the Hindemith Foundation in Blonay (Switzerland) as well as ambassador for the German Foundation for Children’s Hospices. In 2013 she was appointed chairwoman of the board of the Beethoven-Haus Bonn. Under her aegis, the Beethoven-Woche Bonn has taken place every year since January 2015.
Ms. Zimmermann began learning the viola at the age of three, and two years later began playing the piano. She studied with Ulrich Koch at the Musikhochschule Freiburg and subsequently with Sandor Vegh at the Mozarteum Salzburg. Following her studies, she received several awards at international competitions, amongst them first prizes at the 1982 Geneva International Competition and the 1984 Budapest International Competition. As a result of winning the 1983 Maurice Vieux Competition in Paris, she received a viola by the contemporary maker Etienne Vatelot, on which she has been performing ever since. From 1987 to 2000, she regularly gave concerts in Düsseldorf, Jerusalem and Luxembourg with the late David Shallon, father of her two sons Yuval and Jonathan. Ms. Zimmermann has held teaching posts at the Musikhochschule Saarbrücken and Hochschule für Musik Frankfurt. Since 2002 she has been a professor at the Hochschule für Musik ‘Hanns Eisler’ in Berlin, where she now lives with her three children.