Michael Tilson Thomas And New World Symphony Present VIOLA VISIONS Festival, October 15-19
The New World Symphony, America's Orchestral Academy (NWS), led by Co-Founder and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), explores the past, present, and potential future of the viola over five days this fall as NWS inaugurates a new annual summit that immerses participants in the world of a different orchestral instrument each year. The upcoming festival, titled Viola Visions, brings today's leading violists together with young artists at the New World Center and online participants around the world for a series of master classes, seminars, and performances. These events take place Tuesday, October 15 to Saturday, October 19, and all are live-streamed in partnership with Medici.TV and The Violin Channel. For further details and announcements, visit nws.edu/viola.
On Tuesday, October 15 at 7:00 p.m., Grammy Award-winning violist Kim Kashkashian opens the festival with a seminar titled "The Karen Tuttle Heritage: Coordination Techniques and Healthy Body Mechanics." Ms. Kashkashian focuses on the legacy of this seminal 20th-century American viola pedagogue, whose principles of viola playing remain widely influential. Online viewers will be able to submit questions live during the seminar.
The following evening-Wednesday, October 16 at 8:00 p.m.-MTT conducts the first festival performance, in which he and NWS are joined by Cynthia Phelps, Principal Viola of the New York Philharmonic; Jonathan Vinocour, Principal Viola of the San Francisco Symphony; and world-renowned violist Tabea Zimmermann, who has performed widely with today's leading orchestras and premiered works written for her by composers including Heinz Holliger, György Ligeti, and Wolfgang Rihm. The concert program, "Three Centuries and Counting," includes Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, featuring Ms. Phelps and Mr. Vinocour; violist Garth Knox's four-viola transcription of Marin Marais's Variations on "Les folies d'Espagne," featuring Ms. Zimmermann and NWS Fellows; and Andrew Norman's Gran Turismo for viola octet, featuring guest artists alongside NWS Fellows.
The second concert program, "Visions and Installations," takes place on Thursday, October 17 at 8:00 p.m. and focuses exclusively on the music of our time, particularly works that spotlight the viola in a chamber setting and with chamber orchestra, while also incorporating immersive multimedia into the concert experience. MTT conducts, and guest artists include violists Matthew Lipman, a 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient; Nadia Sirota, a leading champion of new music for the viola and a member of yMusic, ACME, and Alarm Will Sound; Ms. Kashkashian; Mr. Vinocour; and Ms. Zimmermann; as well as composer Nico Muhly, who guest conducts his work Keep in Touch, written for Ms. Sirota and performed by her with chamber ensemble at this concert. The program also includes George Benjamin's Viola, Viola, featuring Mr. Lipman and Ms. Zimmermann; Luciano Berio's Chemins II for viola and nine instruments, featuring Mr. Vinocour; and Betty Olivero's Neharót Neharót, featuring Ms. Kashkashian, for whom the work was written.
On Friday, October 18, MTT hosts an afternoon master class for the NWS viola section on stage with the full orchestra, and also leads an evening master class whose participants will include up to three pre-professional violists, with one who applied and will be one of three invited to the festival as part of its Young Artist Residency Program. Applications may be submitted by clicking here. At the Viola Orchestral Master Class at 2:00 p.m., MTT and principal violists from world-class orchestras coach the NWS viola section as it performs excerpts from the orchestral repertoire. Guest coaches are Roberto Díaz, President and CEO of the Curtis Institute of Music and former Principal Viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra; Ms. Phelps; and Mr. Vinocour. That evening at 7:30 p.m., MTT leads the more traditional Viola Solos Master Class for individual young artists, who are also coached and mentored at this event by select festival guest artists and NWS viola alumni. The master class repertoire is chosen by the online viola community via crowdsourcing, and suggestions may be submitted by clicking here. The online community will also be able to submit questions to the coaches for this master class before and during the event.
Conducted by MTT, the festival finale takes place on Saturday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. and concludes with the world premiere of an NWS-commissioned elaboration of Berlioz's Harold in Italy by composer Steven Mackey, who will be at the festival as NWS rehearses and performs the work. Reflecting on this unique commission, MTT remarked:
"Since I first performed Harold in Italy with Joseph de Pasquale and the Philadelphia Orchestra some 40 years ago, it has been one of my favorite pieces. Since then, I've harbored the wish that the collaboration between Berlioz and Paganini might have really worked, and that the viola part would have been more virtuosic allowing the soloist to become a true protagonist as well as observer of the shifting scenes. Particularly the last movement suggests many opportunities for the viola to assume a larger role. Steven Mackey seems the perfect person to fulfill this dream. His super imaginative instrumental writing as well as the no-holds-barred exuberance of his music reminds me much of the spirit of Berlioz. I am so excited that he agreed to take this project on. Steven and I have done many projects over some decades. This time, we have worked together as if we were creating a new Broadway show; he being the composer, me being the director. It is our hope that this newly expanded version will bring new excitement to-and win many new friends for-this wonderful piece."
Ms. Zimmermann appears as the soloist in Harold in Italy, and the concert also includes Morton Feldman's The Viola in My Life IV, featuring Ms. Phelps, and additional repertoire TBA, featuring Mr. Díaz.
Ticketing information for the three concerts, as well as information about free live-streaming of all Viola Visions events, will be available at a later date via nws.edu/viola.