August 6, 2019

NWS announces five-day Viola Visions festival

Viola Visions Festival

The New World Symphony and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) will explore 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—including Roberto Díaz, Kim Kashkashian, Matthew Lipman, Cynthia Phelps, Nadia Sirota, Jonathan Vinocour and Tabea Zimmermann—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 The Violin Channel.

How to Participate

  • Use this form to register for Viola Visions emails and to submit repertoire for the Oct. 18 master class with MTT. Deadline for submissions is Aug. 31!
  • Know a young violist who should join us for Viola Visions? Tell them to apply here!
  • Visit for more information about the festival 



Kim Kashkashian and Karen Tuttle
Kim Kashkashian (Steve Riskind) and Karen Tuttle (E. Reiter-Bootiman)

Tuesday, October 15 at 7:00 PM
SEMINAR: The Karen Tuttle Heritage: Coordination Techniques and Healthy Body Mechanics

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.


Cynthia Phelps and Jonathan Vinocour
Cynthia Phelps (Richard Bowditch) and Jonathan Vinocour

Wednesday, October 16 at 8:00 PM
CONCERT: Three Centuries and Counting
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor and violists Cynthia Phelps, Jonathan Vinocour and Tabea Zimmermann

The following evening—Wednesday, October 16—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’ 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.


Matthew Lipman, Nadia Sirota and Nico Muhly
Matthew Lipman, Nadia Sirota (Shervin Lainez) and Nico Muhly

Thursday, October 17 at 8:00 PM
CONCERT: Visions and Installations
Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor/composer Nico Muhly and violists Kim Kashkashian, Matthew Lipman, Nadia Sirota, Jonathan Vinocour and Tabea Zimmermann

The second concert program, “Visions and Installations,” takes place on Thursday, October 17 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.


Orchestral Master Class
NWS with MTT, and Roberto Díaz

Friday, October 18 at 2:30 PM
Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and violists Roberto Díaz, Cynthia Phelps and Jonathan Vinocour

MTT Master Class
Michael Tilson Thomas (Gregory Reed)

Friday, October 18 at 7:30 PM
Coaches: Michael Tilson Thomas, select guest artists and NWS viola alumni
Participants: Young artists to be announced

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. Young Artist Residency Program. Click here for the program’s eligibility, residency and application requirements.  

At the afternoon Viola Orchestral Master Class, 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, 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.


Tabea Zimmermann and Steven Mackey
Tabea Zimmermann, Michael Tilson Thomas (Spencer Lowell) and Steven Mackey

Saturday, October 19 at 7:30 PM
CONCERT: New Classic Viola
Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and violists Roberto Díaz, Cynthia Phelps and Tabea Zimmermann

Conducted by MTT, the festival finale takes place on Saturday, October 19 and concludes with the world premiere of an NWS-commissioned elaboration of Berlioz’ Harold in Italy by composer Steven Mackey. Mr. Mackey, who will be at the festival as NWS rehearses and performs the work, said: “It is a crazy idea to fiddle with Harold in Italy. One doesn’t repair or improve such a wonderful and beloved piece. I just want to interact with it, have tea with it, wrestle with it … engage with it in my favorite activity—composing.” 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 a piece TBD performed by Roberto 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 Join the festival discussion on social media, using #NWSViolaVisions.


Viola Visions is sponsored in part by Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne; NWS Fund for New Ventures and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Knight Foundation and New World Symphony: Reimagining Classical Music in the Digital Age. 

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Posted in: Alumni, Events, Fellows, Knight, MTT, Viola Visions

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