UW viola professor Melia Watras welcomes internationally renowned artist Atar Arad, her former teacher and fellow violist/composer, for a concert that centers on compositions by the two colleagues. Atar Arad is Professor of Viola at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. Pairs will include works by Arad, Britten, Penderecki and Watras, with special guest violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim, concertmaster of Pacific Northwest Ballet, and faculty pianist Cristina Valdés.
Atar Arad, viola
Atar Arad was born in Tel Aviv, where he began his early musical education and violin studies. In 1968 he was one of a few young artists to be selected to study in the renowned Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth under the patronage of the Queen of Belgium.
In 1971, drawn by the deep, warm sound of the viola and its broad but unfamiliar repertoire, he decided to devote himself to this instrument and its music. The following year, in July 1972, in his first appearance as a violist, he won the City of London Prize as a laureate of the Carl Flesch Competition for violin and viola. Two months later he was awarded the First Prize at the International Viola Competition in Geneva by a unanimous decision of the jury.
Numerous concerts followed -- as soloist with major orchestras, and in recitals at some of Europe's most prestigious festivals. Arad's recordings for Telefunken are widely acclaimed. His Sonata per la Grand' Viola e Orchestra by Paganini was considered by stringed-instrument lovers and critics alike to be an astonishing demonstration of the technical capabilities of the viola. His album in collaboration with pianist Evelyne Brancart, was praised by High Fidelity Magazine as being "...perhaps the best-played viola recital ever recorded".
In 1980 Arad moved from London to the U.S. in order to become a member of the Cleveland Quartet for the next seven years. With this great Quartet he toured throughout the U.S., South America, Western and Eastern Europe, Israel and Japan, collaborating with many leading musicians (such as pianists Istomin, Curzon, Pressler and Ax, violists Schidloff and Laredo, Cellists Ma and Rostropovich, flutist Gallway and clarinetist Stolzmann to name a few), recording for labels such as RCA, CBS and Telarc, and appearing in music festivals including Aspen, Berlin, Edinburgh, Flanders, Israel, New York Mostly Mozart and Carnegie Hall, Paris, Salzburg, and many more. During that time he held the position of a Professor of Viola at the Eastman School of Music.
Arad was an artist/faculty member at the Aspen School and Festival. He also taught at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, TX, and was an artist/lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
He currently serves as Professor of Music (viola) at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, and in the summers he also teaches at the Steans Music Institute (Ravinia Festival) in Chicago, Domaine Forget Academy of the Art, Heifetz Institute and in Keshet Eilon Music Center, Israel.
Arad served as a regular guest artist in a great number of musical venues, such as Houston's Da Camera Society, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, the Upper Galilee Chamber Music Days (Israel), the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music International in Dallas, Sitka Festival, Chautauqua Festival, Ravinia Music Festival, Orford, Domaine Forget, Banff and Chicago’s North Shore Festival. A frequent guest with today’s leading chamber ensembles, Arad has performed, among others, with the Guarneri, Emersson, Tokyo, Mendelssohn, American, Chillingrian, Vermeer, New Zealand, Orion, and more recently with Pacifica and Verona string quartets.
A late-bloomer composer, Arad wrote his first musical composition - a Solo Sonata for Viola in 1992. The Sonata was premiered in 1993 as part of Arad's recital at the Viola Congress in Chicago and was published by the Israel Music Institute (1995). His student, violist Roland Glassl, the winner of 1997 Tertis International Competition gave the London premier of the Sonata in 1998 at the Wigmore Hall.
In 1998 Arad completed his first string quartet, premiered in Bloomington on April 1999 by the Corigliano Quartet. His Quartet No.2 (2016) was premiered by the Verona Quartet. He premiered his own Viola Concerto (2005) in Bloomington, Brussels and Stockholm with conductors Uriel Segal, Ronald Zollman and Michael Bartosz, respectively.
Other Compositions Include Toccatina A La Turk for two violins and “GDG(!)” for string trio (both dedicated to Mimi Zweig and her Violin Virtuosi), Esther for Violin and Viola, Tikvah for Viola Solo, commissioned by the ARD for the 2008 Munich Viola Competition. “Listen (Three Poems by W.S. Merwin)” for Tenor, Clarinet, Viola, Cello and Double Bass was commissioned by the International Musicians Seminar and performed in September 2010 on its concert tour, including London’s Wigmore Hall, with tenor Mark Padmore. Cellist Gary Hoffman premiered Epitaph for Cello and String Orchestra in 2011 Kronberg Cello Festival and Arad gave the viola version of the piece at the 2012 International Viola Congress in Rochester, NY.
In 2013 Arad Completed a set of Twelve Caprices, the first six of which he performed at the 2004 Viola Congress in Minnesota along with the rarely played Tibor Serly’s Viola Concerto. Later, in 2015-16, he toured extensively with the set as a whole in Tel Aviv, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Berlin, Frankfurt, Detmold, Hamburg, Paris, Madrid, Porto, London, Manchester and Birmingham. The Twelve Caprices along with his Tikvah are now published by Hofmeister Musikverlag, Leipzig, and can be heard on iTunes and CD Baby.
Atar Arad plays on a viola by Niccolo Amati (the ‘Arad’) and uses a set of PI strings, made by Thomastik.
Michael Jinsoo Lim, violin
Violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim has been praised for playing with “delicious abandon” by Gramophone, described as “bewitching” and “masterful” by the Seattle Times, and hailed by the Los Angeles Times as a “conspicuously accomplished champion of contemporary music.” He is concertmaster and solo violinist of the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra (“surely the best ballet band in America”—New York Times) and serves as artistic director and violinist of the Seattle-based ensemble Frequency.
Recent highlights include the world premiere of Andrew Waggoner’s Violin Concerto, appearances as soloist for the Stravinsky Violin Concerto at New York’s City Center (as part of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s 2016 NYC tour), and performances of concertos by Prokofiev and Stravinsky with PNB during the 2016-17 season. Lim will travel with the company in the summer of 2018 to perform Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in Paris.
For twenty years, Lim toured and recorded with the Corigliano Quartet, a group he co-founded. With the quartet, he won the Grand Prize at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition and the ASCAP/CMA Award for Adventurous Programming, and performed in the nation’s leading music centers, including Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, and the Kennedy Center. The quartet’s Naxos label CD was honored as one of The New Yorker’s Ten Best Classical Recordings of the Year.
As a theater artist, Lim appeared in director Nick Schwartz-Hall’s Tempo of Recollection, a show about composer Erwin Schulhoff, and served as music consultant for Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of Opus, directed by Braden Abraham. Lim has performed onstage with Pacific Northwest Ballet in George Balanchine’s Duo Concertante and Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain. Lim has also worked as a record producer on three critically acclaimed albums by violist Melia Watras and co-producer on a fourth.
Lim attended Indiana University, where he was a pupil of the legendary Josef Gingold. He later studied chamber music at the Juilliard School and taught there as an assistant to the Juilliard String Quartet. He currently serves on the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts. Lim has recorded for Naxos, DreamWorks, Albany, Bridge, CRI, Bayer Records, RIAX and New Focus, and has been heard on NPR programs such as Performance Today and All Things Considered.
Hailed by Gramophone as “an artist of commanding and poetic personality” and by The Strad as “staggeringly virtuosic,” violist/composer Melia Watras has distinguished herself as one of her instrument’s leading voices. Watras has helped expand the viola repertoire, through composing, commissioning and debuting new works. Compositions written for Watras include Pulitzer Prize- winner Shulamit Ran’s solo viola piece Perfect Storm, duos by Garth Knox and Cuong Vu, and a viola concerto by Richard Karpen, which Watras premiered with conductor Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony. Upcoming highlights include the release of her seventh album, Firefly Songs, a collection of her own compositions, and world premieres of Watras works commissioned by the Avalon String Quartet and violinist Rachel Lee Priday.
Watras’s discography has received considerable attention from the press and the public. Schumann Resonances was described by the American Record Guide as “a rare balance of emotional strength and technical delicacy.” The Strad called 26 “a beautiful celebration of 21st century viola music.” Ispirare made numerous Best of 2015 lists, including the Chicago Reader’s (“Watras knocked the wind out of me with the dramatically dark beauty of this recording”). Short Stories was a Seattle Times Critics’ Pick, with the newspaper marveling at her “velocity that seems beyond the reach of human fingers.” Of her debut solo CD (Viola Solo), Strings praised her “stunning virtuosic talent” and called her second release (Prestidigitation) “astounding and both challenging and addictive to listen to.”
Watras’s compositions have been performed in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Bloomington (IN), Denmark and Spain, by artists such as violist Atar Arad, singer Galia Arad, pianists Winston Choi and Cristina Valdés, violinists Manuel Guillén, Yura Lee and Michael Jinsoo Lim, cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir and percussionist Bonnie Whiting. Her music has been heard on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, and can be found on the albums Firefly Songs, Schumann Resonances and 26. Watras’s adaptation of John Corigliano’s Fancy on a Bach Air for viola is published by G. Schirmer, Inc. and can be heard on her Viola Solo album.
Watras is violist of the Seattle-based ensemble, Frequency, for whom she has composed. For twenty years, Watras concertized worldwide and recorded extensively as violist of the renowned Corigliano Quartet, which she co-founded. The ensemble appears on 13 albums, including their recording on the Naxos label, which was honored as one of the Ten Best Classical Recordings of the Year by The New Yorker.
Melia Watras was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and began her musical studies on the piano at age 5. Soon after, she turned to the viola and made her debut at 16, soloing with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Her formal studies took her to Indiana University, where she studied with Atar Arad, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and the prestigious Performer’s Certificate. While at Indiana, Watras began her teaching career as Professor Arad’s Associate Instructor, and was a member of the faculty as a Visiting Lecturer. She went on to study chamber music at the Juilliard School while serving as a teaching assistant to the Juilliard String Quartet.
Watras serves as Professor of Viola at the University of Washington, where she holds the Adelaide D. Currie Cole Endowed Professorship and was previously awarded the Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellowship and the Royalty Research Fund. Watras has given viola and chamber music classes at schools such as Indiana University, Cleveland Institute of Music, Strasbourg Conservatoire (France), and Chosun University (South Korea). She frequently returns to her alma mater, Indiana, to teach as a guest professor. She plays a viola made by Samuel Zygmuntowicz.
Pianist Cristina Valdés presents innovative concerts of standard and experimental repertoire, and is known to “play a mean piano.” A fierce advocate for new music, she has premiered countless works, including many written for her. She has performed across four continents and in venues such as Lincoln Center, Le Poisson Rouge, Miller Theatre, Jordan Hall, and the Kennedy Center. Ms. Valdés has appeared both as a soloist and chamber musician at festivals worldwide including New Music in Miami, the Foro Internacional de Música Nueva in Mexico City, Brisbane Arts Festival, the Festival of Contemporary Music in El Salvador, Havana Contemporary Music Festival, and the Singapore Arts Festival.
An avid chamber musician and collaborator, Ms. Valdés has toured extensively with the Bang On a Can “All Stars”, and has performed with the Seattle Chamber Players, the Mabou Mines Theater Company, the Parsons Dance Company, and Antares. Her performances on both the Seattle Symphony’s Chamber Series and [UNTITLED] concerts have garnered critical acclaim, including her “knockout” (Seattle Times) performance of Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and her “arrestingly eloquent performance” of Dutilleux’s Trois Preludes (Bernard Jacobson/MusicWeb International).
Ms. Valdés has appeared as concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Philharmonic, the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, Johns Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, the Binghamton Philharmonic, NOCCO, Philharmonia Northwest, the Eastman BroadBand, and the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, amongst others. In 2015 she performed the piano solo part of the Ives 4th Symphony with the Seattle Symphony under the direction of Ludovic Morlot, which was later released on CD to critical acclaim and made Gramophone’s list of Top 10 Ives Recordings. Other recent recordings include Orlando Garcia’s “From Darkness to Luminosity” with the Málaga Philharmonic on the Toccata Classics label, and the world premiere recording of Kotoka Suzuki’s “Shimmer, Tree | In Memoriam Jonathan Harvey”. She can also be heard on the Albany, Newport Classics, Urtext, and Ideologic Organ labels.
In recent seasons she gave performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3, the world-premiere performance of Carlos Sanchez-Guttierez’s “Short Stories” for piano and string orchestra with the Orquesta de Cámara de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and the U.S. Premiere of “Under Construction” for solo piano and tape playback by Heiner Goebbels at Benaroya Hall. Last season she was the featured soloist with the Seattle Symphony on two of their “[untitled]” new music series concerts.
Ms. Valdés received a Bachelor of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music, and a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts from SUNY Stony Brook. She currently lives in Seattle where she founded the SLAM Festival, a new music festival dedicated to the music of Latin-American composers, and performs regularly as a member of the Seattle Modern Orchestra. She is an Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington, and is the Director of the UW Modern Music Ensemble.