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 a 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.
A violist of international reputation, Roberto Díaz is president and CEO of the Curtis Institute of Music, following in the footsteps of renowned soloist/directors such as Josef Hofmann, Efrem Zimbalist, and Rudolf Serkin. As a teacher of viola at Curtis and former principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Mr. Díaz has already had a significant impact on American musical life and continues to do so in his dual roles as performer and educator.
As a soloist, Mr. Díaz collaborates with leading conductors of our time on stages throughout North and South America, Europe, and Asia. He has also worked directly with important 20th- and 21st-century composers, including Krzysztof Penderecki, whose viola concerto he has performed many times with the composer on the podium and whose double concerto he premiered in the United States; and Edison Denisov who invited Mr. Díaz to Moscow to work on his viola concerto. Ricardo Lorenz, Roberto Sierra, and Jennifer Higdon have all written concerti for Mr. Díaz.
As a frequent recitalist, Mr. Díaz enjoys collaborating with young pianists, bringing a fresh approach to the repertoire and providing invaluable opportunities to artists at the beginnings of their careers. In addition to performing with major string quartets and pianists in chamber music series and festivals worldwide, Mr. Díaz has toured Europe, Asia, and the Americas a member of the Díaz Trio with violinist Andrés Cárdenes and cellist Andrés Díaz. The Díaz Trio has recorded for the Artek and Dorian labels.
Mr. Díaz's recordings on the Naxos label with pianist Robert Koenig include the complete works for viola and piano by Henri Vieuxtemps and a Grammy-nominated disc of viola transcriptions by William Primrose. Also on Naxos are Brahms sonatas with Jeremy Denk and Jonathan Leshnoff's Double Concerto with violinist Charles Wetherbee and the Iris Chamber Orchestra led by Michael Stern. On the New World Records label is a live recording of Mr. Díaz's performance of Jacob Druckman's Viola Concerto with Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Philadelphia Orchestra. On the Nimbus label is a recording of the Walton Viola Concerto with the New Haven Symphony and William Boughton. On the Bridge Records label are works for viola and orchestra by Peter Lieberson with the Odense Symphony Orchestra and Scott Yoo.
Since founding Curtis on Tour eight seasons ago, Mr. Díaz has taken the hugely successful program to North and South America, Europe and Asia, performing chamber music side-by-side with Curtis students and other faculty and alumni of the school. His tenure as president of Curtis has also seen the construction of a significant new building which doubled the size of the school's campus; the introduction of a classical guitar department and new conducting and string quartet programs; the launch of Curtis Summerfest, summer courses open to the public; and the debut of an online stage called Curtis Performs. In the fall of 2013 Curtis became the first classical music conservatory to offer free online classes through Coursera.
Also under Mr. Díaz’s leadership, Curtis has developed lasting collaborations with other music and arts institutions in Philadelphia and throughout the world and established a dynamic social entrepreneurship curriculum, supported by a prestigious Advancement Grant from The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Designed to develop the entrepreneurial and advocacy skills of young musicians, this curriculum includes the project-based Community Artist Program (CAP) and post-graduate Curtis ArtistYear Fellowship Program. Curtis was the first higher-education arts institution to join ArtistYear and respond to the challenge issued by the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project: to foster a 21st-century national service system, with a goal of one million service-year positions created by 2023.
Mr. Díaz received an honorary doctorate from Bowdoin College and was awarded an honorary membership by the National Board of the American Viola Society. In 2013 Mr. Díaz became a member of the prestigious American Philosophical Society founded by Benjamin Franklin. As a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he was selected by Music Director Christoph Eschenbach to receive the C. Hartman Kuhn Award, given annually to "the member of the Philadelphia Orchestra who has shown ability and enterprise of such character as to enhance the standards and the reputation of the Philadelphia Orchestra." Mr. Díaz received a bachelor's degree from the New England Conservatory of Music where he studied with Burton Fine, and a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music where his teacher was his predecessor at the Philadelphia Orchestra, Joseph de Pasquale. Mr. Díaz also has a degree in industrial design.
In addition to his decade-long tenure as principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he performed the entire standard viola concerto repertoire and gave a number of Philadelphia Orchestra premieres, Mr. Díaz was principal viola of the National Symphony under Mstislav Rostropovich, a member of the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa, and a member of the Minnesota Orchestra under Sir Neville Marriner. Mr. Díaz plays the ex-Primrose Amati viola.
Kim Kashkashian, internationally recognized as a unique voice on the viola, was born of Armenian parents in Michigan. She studied the viola with Karen Tuttle and legendary violist Walter Trampler at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Since fall 2000 she has taught viola and chamber music at New England Conservatory.
Following Grammy Award nominations for several previous recordings, Ms. Kashkashian received a 2012 Grammy Award in the "Best Classical Instrumental Solo" category for Kurtág and Ligeti: Music for Viola, on the ECM Records label. Ms. Kashkashian's recording, with Robert Levin, of the Brahms Sonatas won the Edison Prize in 1999. Her June 2000 recording of concertos by Bartók, Eötvös and Kurtág won the 2001 Cannes Classical Award for a premiere recording by soloist with orchestra.
In 2016 Ms. Kashkashian was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Ms. Kashkashian has worked tirelessly to broaden the range of technique, advocacy, and repertoire for the viola. A staunch proponent of contemporary music, she has developed creative relationships with György Kurtág, Krzysztof Penderecki, Alfred Schnittke, Giya Kancheli, and Arvo Pärt, and commissioned works from Peter Eötvös, Ken Ueno, Thomas Larcher, Lera Auerbach and Tigran Mansurian.
Marlboro and the Viennese school represented by her mentor, Felix Galimir, were major influences in developing Ms. Kashkashian’s love of chamber music. She is a regular participant at the Verbier, Salzburg, Lockenhaus, Marlboro and Ravinia festivals. She has long-standing duo partnerships with pianist Robert Levin and percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky, and played in a unique string quartet with Gidon Kremer, Daniel Phillips and Yo-Yo Ma.
As a soloist, Ms. Kashkashian has appeared with the great orchestras of Berlin, London, Vienna, Milan, New York and Cleveland, and in recital at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, Kaufmann Hall, New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, as well as in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris, Athens and Tokyo.
Ms. Kashkashian's musicianship has been well represented on recordings through her association with the prestigious ECM label in a fruitful collaboration that has been continuous since 1985.
Ms. Kashkashian has taught in Bloomington, Indiana, and in Freiburg and Berlin, Germany, and now resides with her daughter in Boston. She is a founding member of Music for Food, an initiative by musicians to fight hunger in their home communities.
American violist Matthew Lipman is recognized as one of the world’s leading young instrumentalists. He has been hailed by The New York Times for his "rich tone and elegant phrasing" and by the Chicago Tribune for his "splendid technique and musical sensitivity.”
A 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, Mr. Lipman has appeared as soloist with the Minnesota, Illinois Philharmonic, Grand Rapids Symphony, Wisconsin Chamber, Juilliard, Ars Viva Symphony, and Montgomery Symphony orchestras, and in recital at the WQXR Greene Space in New York City and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Lipman released the world-premiere recording of the newly discovered Impromptu by Dmitri Shostakovich, debuted in recital at Lincoln Center’s Rose Studio with pianist Henry Kramer. He also headlined a tour of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and performed Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante as special guest artist at the Royal Northern College in Manchester, U.K. His debut solo album Ascent—that features a new commission by Brazilian composer Clarice Assad—was released by Cedille Records in February 2019. The Telegraph praised Mr. Lipman as “gifted with poise and a warmth of timbre” on his Avie recording of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with violinist Rachel Barton Pine and the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields with the preeminent Mozart scholar Sir Neville Marriner, which topped the Billboard charts. He was the only violist featured on WFMT Chicago’s list of "30 Under 30" of the world’s top classical musicians and has been profiled by The Strad, Strings and BBC Music magazines.
Mr. Lipman performs internationally as a chamber musician with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and regularly at the prominent Music@Menlo, Marlboro, Ravinia, Bridgehampton, Seattle, Cleveland and White Nights festivals. A top prizewinner of the Primrose, Tertis, Washington, Johansen and Stulberg International Competitions, he received his bachelor's and master's degrees as an inaugural Kovner fellow from The Juilliard School as a student of Heidi Castleman, and was further mentored by Tabea Zimmermann at the Kronberg Academy. A native of Chicago, Mr. Lipman was recently appointed viola faculty at Stony Brook University and performs on a fine 1700 Matteo Goffriller viola loaned through the generous efforts of the RBP Foundation and a Dominique Peccatte viola bow.
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.
Violist Nadia Sirota’s varied career spans solo performances, chamber music, curation and broadcasting. In all branches of her artistic life she aims to open classical music up to a broader audience. Her singular sound and expressive execution have served as muse to dozens of composers, including Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, Missy Mazzoli, Daníel Bjarnason, Judd Greenstein, Marcos Balter and David Lang. Ms. Sirota won a 2015 Peabody Award, broadcasting’s highest honor, for her podcast Meet the Composer, “the world’s best contemporary classical music podcast” (Pitchfork), which deftly profiled some of the most interesting musical thinkers living today.
Since 2018 Ms. Sirota has served as the New York Philharmonic’s Creative Partner, a position created for her. In this role, she helped create and hosts two series: Nightcap and Sound ON, the latter of which she also curates. In addition, she works with the Philharmonic on contemporary music initiatives across the organization.
As a soloist, Ms. Sirota has appeared with acclaimed orchestras around the world, including the Detroit Symphony, Colorado Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Spanish National Orchestra and Orchestre National d’Île-de-France. To date, she has released four solo albums of commissioned music, first things first (2009), Baroque (2013), Keep In Touch (2016) and Tessellatum (2017). She is a member of Bedroom Community, a collective of musically diverse artists who work and collaborate at Reykjavik’s Greenhouse Studios. She has also lent her sound to recording and concert projects by such artists as The National, David Bowie and Björk.
Ms. Sirota is a member of the acclaimed chamber sextet yMusic. Their virtuosic execution and unique configuration have attracted high profile collaborators including Paul Simon, Ben Folds and Anohni, and inspired an expanding repertoire of original works by prominent composers including Andrew Norman, Caroline Shaw and Chris Thile.
Ms. Sirota has received the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for her work in radio, and Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Prize, awarded to pioneering artists and scholars with an emerging international profile. She sits on the board of directors of Chamber Music America, the national service organization for ensemble music professionals. She received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School, where she studied with Heidi Castleman, Misha Amory and Hsin-Yun Huang.
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. He has appeared as soloist with the San Francisco and Saint Louis symphonies and collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma in a performance of R. Strauss’s Don Quixote with the New World Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.
Mr. Vinocour graduated from Princeton University with a degree in chemistry and the New England Conservatory where he studied with Kim Kashkashian. A dedicated teacher, he serves on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as well as the Aspen Music Festival and School. He plays on a 1784 Lorenzo Storioni viola on loan from the San Francisco Symphony.
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.