ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Several hundred acclaimed violists from around the world — a who’s who of current and former orchestra principals, prominent soloists and chamber musicians, educators and “rising star” students — descend on the Eastman School of Music May 30 to June 3 for the 40th International Viola Congress. Over five days, they’ll perform some 20 group and solo recitals, featuring 10 world premieres, and present or participate in more than 40 discussions, lectures, and master classes.
Associate Professor Carol Rodland, one of the event organizers, describes the Congress as “an international music festival centered around the viola” that presents audiences with a rare opportunity to hear sought-after musicians from Asia, Europe, South Africa, Mexico, the United States, and Canada all in one place.
Concert programs, which are all open to the public, range from an opening recital by Annette Isserlis, a Baroque specialist from England, to a late-night session with Martha Mooke, an American genre-crossing pioneer in electric five-string viola. Singers, pianists, double bassists, cellists, percussionists, and other instrumentalists join the violists on numerous performances.
Collaborations with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra feature an additional world premiere, with Marcus Thompson giving the first performance of Olly Wilson’s Viola Concerto, and the performance of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Two Paths by the New York Philharmonic’s Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps and Associate Principal Violist Rebecca Young.
An evening concerto concert on May 30, which will be broadcast live by Rochester classical music radio station WXXI 91.5 FM, presents former Berlin Philharmonic principal violist Wolfram Christ performing and conducting a 25-piece chamber orchestra. Joining Christ as soloists on the program are world-renowned soloist Kim Kashkashian, a professor at the New England Conservatory and a former artist with the Marlboro Music Festival who’s been a guest with the Tokyo, Guarneri, and Galimir Quartets; Paul Neubauer, who at age 21 became the youngest principal string player in the history of the New York Philharmonic; Israeli-born Atar Arad, professor at Indiana University and a former Cleveland Quartet violist who’s performed worldwide with major orchestras and as a recitalist; and Nokuthula Ngwenyama, winner and now director of the Primrose International Viola Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions at age 17.
Nurturing Talent, Scholarship
The Congress will also spotlight up-and-coming violists through its Young Artist Competition. Twelve students ages 16 through 22 from the United States, China, Chile, and Hong Kong will perform in the competition semifinals on Saturday morning, June 2; four competitors will be selected to proceed to the final round that same afternoon.
Congress attendees also will be able to attend an array of master classes, lecture-recitals, panels, demonstrations, and orchestral repertoire classes, which will be led by Isserlis, Young, Phelps, San Francisco Principal Viola Jonathan Vinocour, Chicago Symphony Principal Viola Charles Pikler, Guarneri Quartet violist Michael Tree, Tessera Quartet violist Edward Klorman, and others.
Among those giving individual recitals are Vinocour, a Rochester native; Kashkashian; former Cleveland Quartet violist James Dunham; and German violist Hartmut Rohde, founding member of the Kandinsky-Streichtrio and Mozart Piano Quartets. John Graham, Professor Emeritus at Eastman, will play two world premieres in his recital, while other concerts feature standard viola repertoire as well as classical warhorses transcribed and arranged for viola and performances by Eastman School alumni and delegates to the Congress.
Activities from Morning to Night
While early-risers attending the Congress can either take wellness sessions or participate in a “Viola Play-In,” late-nighters can stay up for three “Viola After Dark” sessions. Besides Mooke, the series features Kenji Bunch, a multi-faceted artist acclaimed for the performance of his own groundbreaking works for viola, and Paul Coletti, professor at The Colburn School, who played with the award-winning Menuhin Festival Piano Quartet for 10 years and has performed with major orchestras around the world
Tickets to the May 30 Chamber Concerto Concert and the May 31 and June 2 Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) concerts in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre are available in advance or on the night of the concerts at the Eastman Theatre Box office in the Eastman East Wing, 433 East Main St., 585-454-2100. Tickets to concerts in Kilbourn Hall will only be available one hour prior to the performance at the Eastman School’s Main Hall Ticket Window, 26 Gibbs St. Tickets to other Congress events will be available at the Congress Registration Table in the Main Hall. Tickets to all Congress concerts and events are $15 (discounts with University of Rochester and student ID). For RPO concert ticket pricing, go to http://www.rpo.org/ .
The very first International Viola Congress was held in 1973 in Germany. Subsequent congresses have been held in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The 2012 Congress marks the second time the event has been held at Eastman. The School also hosted the 1977 Congress, which featured a talk by renowned violist William Primrose and a recital by Jacob Glick, a champion of new music also admired for his performance on the Baroque viola d’amore.
# # #