Instrumentalist - Viola, Instrumentalist - Violin

Gramophone proclaimed violist and composer Nokuthula Ngwenyama’s playing as providing “solidly shaped music of bold, mesmerising character,” and the critic of the Washington Post described her as playing “with dazzling technique in the virtuoso fast movements and deep expressiveness in the slow movements.” Among her 2019-20 engagements are performances of chamber music by Schubert and Dohnányi with the Linton Chamber Music Series, and Brahms sextets and the world premiere of her string sextet Sexagesimal with Phoenix Chamber Music Society.

Ms. Ngwenyama launched her 2018-19 season with the much-anticipated release of her recital album Sonoran Storm (EDI) with pianist Eckart Sellheim, and recording an orchestral album with Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra featuring her compositions (PMP), to be released in 2020. Other 2018-19 engagements included a performance as soloist of Ms. Ngwenyama’s title composition for the album, Sonoran Storm for Viola and Orchestra, with Crossroads EMMI Orchestra, soloist in Harold in Italy with Santa Rosa Symphony, and chamber music by Beethoven, Mozart and Dvořák with the Linton Chamber Music series. Recent performances include world premieres of two of her compositions: Rising for Solo Multitrack Violin and Pedals, and Primal Message for Viola Quintet, performed with the Dover Quartet and jointly commissioned by the Phoenix Chamber Music Society and Chamber Music Northwest.

Ms. Ngwenyama has appeared in concert with the symphonies of Los Angeles, Atlanta, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Austin, Jackson, Memphis, Nuremberg, and the National Symphony Orchestra. She played the world premiere of Andrew Norman’s Sabina in Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, and has been heard in recital at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, the Louvre, the Ford Center in Toronto, the Maison de Radio France, the Cosmos Club and the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C., Symphony Space in New York, and with the chamber music societies of Lincoln Center and Philadelphia. Summer festival appearances include Green Music, Vail, San Diego’s Mainly Mozart, Chamber Music Northwest, Marlboro Music Festival, and Spoleto Festival USA.

Ms. Ngwenyama’s performance at the White House, commemorating the 10th anniversary of NPR’s Performance Today, also featured artists Wynton Marsalis, James Galway, and Murray Perahia. A vivid portrait of Ms. Ngwenyama was televised nationally on CBS Sunday Morning with cultural correspondent Eugenia Zukerman. She was featured on the Emmy Award-nominated PBS program Sound of Strings in the “Musical Encounter” series, hosted by cellist Lynn Harrell. She has recorded for EDI with pianist Mihae Lee on Grieg and Debussy, with guitarist Michael Long on Bach Partitas and Che! A Musical Biography, and with pianist Jennifer Lim on the Rubinstein viola and violin sonatas.

Ms. Ngwenyama is a recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, and is the director of the Primrose International Viola Competition and president of the American Viola Society. Born in California of Zimbabwean-Japanese parentage, she graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music, where her teachers included Edward Aldwell, David Loeb and Jennifer Higdon. She has composed since childhood, studying theory and counterpoint under Herbert Zipper, Mary Ann Cummins, and Warren Spaeth. She is the first composer in residence of the Phoenix Chamber Music Society. As a Fulbright Scholar, she attended the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, and received a master of theological studies degree from Harvard University. Ms. Ngwenyama plays an Antonius and Hieronymus Amati viola from 1597, on permanent loan from the Biggs Collection.


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