Faculty Recital: Melia Watras: The almond tree duos

Tuesday, February 15, 2022 - 7:30pm
$20 General; $15 UW Affiliate (UW faculty, staff, UW retiree, UWAA member); $10 students/seniors
Violist/Composer Melia Watras (Photo: Michelle Smith-Lewis)
Violist/Composer Melia Watras (Photo: Michelle Smith-Lewis)

Violist/composer Melia Watras, violinists Tekla Cunningham, Rachel Lee Priday and Michael Jinsoo Lim, photographer Michelle Smith-Lewis and narrator Tigran Arakelyan present the world premiere of Watras’s new work, The almond tree duos. The title references the symbol of hope and new beginnings in Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost. Written largely during the recent quarantine, each of the 18 duos for violin and viola is paired with a photograph by Smith-Lewis and a poem by Lim.

Masks are required in all indoor spaces on the UW campus, and patrons must show proof of vaccination or recent (within 72 hours of the performance) negative COVID-19 test for entry to live events at Meany Hall. Enhanced sanitation measures and touchless ticketing are among other safety measures in effect for 2021-22. Details of these policies and procedures are athttps://artsevents.washington.edu/covid-protocols 


Artist Bios

Michael Jinsoo Lim

Violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim has been praised for playing with “delicious abandon” by Gramophone and described as “bewitching” and “masterful” by the Seattle Times. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as a “conspicuously accomplished champion of contemporary music,” Lim has worked with composers such as Milton Babbitt, John Corigliano, George Crumb, Shulamit Ran and Joan Tower. Known for his versatility with a wide range of styles, he enjoys a dynamic career as a soloist, chamber musician, concertmaster and recording artist. Lim is concertmaster and solo violinist of the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra (“surely the best ballet band in America”—New York Times), serves as artistic director and violinist of the Seattle-based ensemble Frequency (“a dream string trio”—King FM-Seattle’s Second Inversion) and is director and co-founder of Planet M Records. His discography can be found on Naxos, Planet M, Sono Luminus, DreamWorks, Albany, Bridge, CRI, Bayer Records, RIAX and New Focus.

Solo appearances with Pacific Northwest Ballet include multiple performances of the Stravinsky Violin Concerto (in New York City and Seattle), Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 (Paris and Seattle), and Richard Einhorn’s rock and roll inspired piece for electric violin, Maxwell’s Demon (Paris and Seattle). Lim has recorded numerous world premieres, including Andrew Waggoner’s Violin Concerto (written for Lim) for Bridge Records, and solo violin works by Melia Watras for Sono Luminus and Planet M Records.

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, Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain and Alexander Eckman’s Cacti.

Offstage endeavors include producing three critically acclaimed albums by violist/composer Melia Watras (as well as being co-producer on a fourth), his work as lyricist for a number of compositions by Watras, and an appearance alongside Jinkx Monsoon in a promotional video for the city of Seattle. Lim is the inspiration for a character in Erica Miner’s operatic mystery novel, Death by Opera.  

Lim was among the final pupils of legendary violinist and pedagogue Josef Gingold at Indiana University. He later studied chamber music at the Juilliard School, where he also taught as an assistant to the Juilliard String Quartet. He currently serves on the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts. Lim has given violin and chamber music classes throughout the US and in France, Korea and Mexico. He has served on the faculty of Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and taught at Indiana University as a guest professor.

Melia Watras has been hailed by Gramophone as “an artist of commanding and poetic personality” and by The Strad as “staggeringly virtuosic.” As a violist, composer and collaborative artist, she has sustained a distinguished career as a creator and facilitator of new music and art. Among the highlights of the 2021-22 season are the release of her eighth album, String Masks, a collection of her own compositions including the titular work which utilizes Harry Partch instruments; world premiere performances of works that she recently commissioned from Alessandra Barrett, Joël-François Durand and Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti; and a number of world premieres as a composer, including her settings of poetry by Herbert Woodward Martin.

Watras’s discography has received considerable attention from the press and the public. Her compositional debut album, Firefly Songs, was hailed for “distilling rich life experiences into strikingly original musical form” by Textura. 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. She has been commissioned by the Avalon String Quartet, violinists Rachel Lee Priday and Michael Jinsoo Lim, cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, pianist Cristina Valdés, violist Rose Wollman, and has had works performed by artists such as violist Atar Arad, singer Galia Arad, pianist Winston Choi, Harry Partch Instrumentarium Director Charles Corey, violinists Manuel Guillén and Yura Lee, percussionist Bonnie Whiting and the ensemble Frequency. Her music has been heard on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, and can be found on the albums String Masks, 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 Frequency, and for twenty years, she concertized worldwide and recorded extensively as violist of the renowned Corigliano Quartet, which she co-founded. The quartet 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.

A versatile performer, Watras has enjoyed collaborations with dance and theater. She appeared as violist/dancer in the premiere of Kathryn Sullivan's At Home, at the Merce Cunningham Studio in New York City. Music from her album Viola Solo was featured in director Sheila Daniels’s production of Crime and Punishment at Intiman Theatre, and she worked as music consultant for Braden Abraham’s production of Opus at Seattle Repertory Theatre.

Melia Watras studied with Atar Arad at Indiana University, 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.

—September 2021

Tekla Cunningham, baroque violin, viola and viola d'amore, enjoys a varied and active musical life. At home in Seattle, she is concertmaster of Stephen Stubbs' Pacific MusicWorks, principal second violin with Seattle Baroque Orchestra & Soloists, and plays regularly as concertmaster and principal player with the American Bach Soloists in California. She directs the Whidbey Island Music Festival, a summer concert series presenting vibrant period-instrument performances of repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to Beethoven.

She has appeared as concertmaster/leader or soloist with the American Bach Soloists, Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and Musica Angelica (Los Angeles). She has also played with Apollo’s Fire, Los Angeles Opera, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and at the Carmel Bach Festival, San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, Indianapolis Early Music Festival, Savannah Music Festival and the Bloomington Early Music Festival. She has worked with many leading directors including Rinaldo Alessandrini, Giovanni Antonini, Harry Bicket, Paul Goodwin, Martin Haselböck, Monica Huggett, Nic McGegan, Rachel Podger, Jordi Savall, Stephen Stubbs, Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Wallfisch and Bruno Weil.

An avid chamber musician, Tekla enjoys exploring the string quartet repertoire of the 18th and early 19th century with the period-instrument Novello Quartet, whose abiding interest is the music of Haydn. She is also a member of La Monica, an ensemble dedicated to music of the 17th century, whose concerts have been reviewed as “sizzling”, and praised for their “irrepressible energy and pitch-perfect timing”. With Jillon Dupree, harpsichord, and Vicki Boeckman, recorders, she plays in Ensemble Electra, known for its inventive programs and energetic performances.

She can be heard on recordings with the American Bach Soloists, Apollo’s Fire, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Tafelmusik, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, San Francisco Bach Choir, various movie soundtracks including Disney’s Casanova, La Monica’s recent release The Amorous Lyre, a recording of repertoire of Merula and his contemporaries and the Novello Quartet’s recording of Haydn’s Op. 50 string quartets. This summer she recorded Mozart’s Flute Quartets with Janet See, Laurie Wells and Tanya Tomkins.

Tekla received her musical training at Johns Hopkins University and Peabody Conservatory (where she studied History and German Literature in addition to violin), Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, in Vienna, Austria, and at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she completed a Master’s degree with Ian Swenson. She teaches Suzuki violin in both German and English and is on the early music faculty of Cornish College for the Arts.

 
 
Rachel Lee Priday, violin


Violinist RACHEL LEE PRIDAY (PRY-day) is a passionate and inquisitive explorer in all her musical ventures, in search of contemporary relevance when performing the standard violin repertoire, and in discovering and commissioning new works. Her wide-ranging repertoire and eclectic programming reflect a deep fascination with literary and cultural narratives.

Rachel Lee Priday has appeared as soloist with major international orchestras, including the Chicago, Saint Louis, Houston, Seattle, and National Symphony Orchestras, the Boston Pops, and the Berlin Staatskapelle. Recital appearances have brought her to eminent venues including the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, Musée du Louvre, Verbier Festival, Ravinia Festival and Dame Myra Hess Memorial Series in Chicago, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival in Germany, and tours of South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Committed to new music, and making enriching community and global connections, Rachel takes a multidisciplinary approach to performing that lends itself to new commissions organically merging poetry, dance, drama, stimulating visuals and music. Recent seasons have seen a new Violin Sonata commissioned from Pulitzer Prize Finalist Christopher Cerrone and the premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s “The Orphic Moment” in an innovative staging that mixed poetry, drama, visuals, and music. Rachel has collaborated several times with Ballet San Jose, and was lead performer in “Tchaikovsky: None But The Lonely Heart” during a week-long theatrical concert with Ensemble for the Romantic Century at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Her work as soloist with the Asia America New Music Institute promoted new music relationships and cultural exchange between Asia and the Americas, combining new music premieres and educational outreach in the US, China, Korea and Vietnam. 

Rachel began her violin studies at the age of four in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, she moved to New York to study with iconic pedagogue Dorothy DeLay, and continued her studies at the Juilliard School Pre-College Division with Itzhak Perlman. Rachel holds a B.A. degree in English from Harvard University and an M.M. from the New England Conservatory, where she studied with Miriam Fried. Since Fall 2019, she serves as Assistant Professor of Violin at the University of Washington School of Music.

Recent and upcoming concerto engagements include the Pacific Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Johannesburg Philharmonic, Kwazulu-Natal Philharmonic, Stamford Symphony, and Bangor Symphony. Since making her orchestral debut at the Aspen Music Festival in 1997, she has performed with numerous orchestras across the country, such as the symphony orchestras of Colorado, Alabama, Knoxville, Rockford, and New York Youth Symphony. In Europe and in Asia, she has appeared at the Moritzburg Festival in Germany and with orchestras in Graz, Austria, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea, where she performed with the KBS Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic and Russian State Symphony Orchestra on tour.

Rachel has been profiled in The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, Family Circle, and The Strad. Her concerts have been broadcast on major media outlets in the U.S., Germany, Korea, South Africa, and Brazil, including a televised concert in Rio de Janeiro, numerous radio appearances on 98.7 WFMT Chicago radio, and American Public Media’s Performance Today. She been featured on the Disney Channel, “Fiddling for the Future” and “American Masters” on PBS, and the Grammy Awards.

Praised by the Chicago Tribune for her “irresistible panache,” Rachel Lee Priday enthralls audiences with her riveting stage presence and “rich, mellifluous sound.” The Baltimore Sun wrote, “It’s not just her technique, although clearly there’s nothing she can’t do on the fingerboard or with her bow. What’s most impressive is that she is an artist who can make the music sing… And though her tone is voluptuous and sexy where it counts, she concluded the ‘Intermezzo’ with such charm that her listeners responded with a collective chuckle of approval as she finished.”

She performs on a Nicolo Gagliano violin (Naples, 1760), double-purfled with fleurs-de-lis, named Alejandro.

Armenian-American conductor Tigran Arakelyan is the Music Director of Bainbridge Island Youth Orchestras and Federal Way Youth Symphony Orchestra. Arakelyan held various associate and assistant conducting positions with California Philharmonic, Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, Rainier Symphony, Northridge Youth Philharmonic, University of Washington Symphony, and CSU Northridge Symphony. Seattle Weekly described his interpretation of Beethoven's Symphony Nr. 1 as "confident, convincing, lyrically phrased, and excellent tempo". The Armenian Mirror-Spectator called him a "rising star".

Previously, he was the Music Director of Whidbey Island Orchestra (WA), University of Washington Campus Philharmonia, Lark Musical Society Youth Orchestra (CA), University of Washington Summer Orchestra and the Founder Conductor and Artistic Director of Cadence Chamber Orchestra (WA). Arakelyan has been instrumental in initiating collaborations with soloists, visual artists, dancers, and choirs. He helped in creating youth scholarship programs, young composer competitions, and led orchestral performances at unconventional venues. In 2014, he took the Federal Way Youth Orchestra on a two-week tour of South Korea performing six concerts in Seoul and Busan. Arakelyan conducted the Yakima Chamber Orchestra (WA), University of California Los Angeles Philharmonia, the Redmond Academy of Theatre Arts, Korean Music Association Choir, Inverted Space Modern Ensemble, Everett Youth Symphony, Venicians One Theatre (Los Angeles), Discovery Players, and the Nimbus Ensemble (Los Angeles).

A strong advocate of new music, he has performed regional and world premieres by Iosif Andriasov, Stepan Rostomyan, Jeff Bowen, Jon Brenner, Arshak Andriasov, Felipe Rossi, and Eleanor Aversa among others. Arakelyan conducted the Pacific Northwest premiere of Paul Hindemith Kammermuzik Nr. 1. He is a recipient of numerous awards including: Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Performing Arts Fellowship (2013, 2014, 2015), Nellie Cornish, Welland Jordan, Edward Hosharian Award, Cornish College of the Arts Performance Grant, and the Armenian Allied Arts Competition (1st place).

He participated in many music festivals and workshops including: the Conductors Guild Workshop, Pierre Monteux School for Conductors, Idyllwild Music Festival, Dilijan Chamber Music Series, Seasons Festival Academy, and Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Arakelyan participated in masterclasses with notable conductors David Loebel, Frank Battisti, Donald Thulean, David Effron, Neal Stulberg, Michael Jinbo, and Lawrence Golan.
 
In 2008, he played alongside Sir James Galway during his induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He received a Doctorate in Musical Arts in conducting from the University of Washington. His primary conducting studies are with Ludovic Morlot, David Alexander Rahbee, John Roscigno, Adam Stern and flute studies with Paul Taub, John Barcellona, Laura Osborn, Stephen Preston, and Shigenori Kudo.​