Cynthia Phelps, viola
“Not only does Cynthia Phelps produce one of the richest, deepest viola timbres in the world, she is a superb musician” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). Principal Violist of the New York Philharmonic, Ms. Phelps has distinguished herself both here and abroad as one of the leading instrumentalists of our time. The recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the 1988 Pro Musicis International Award and first prize at both the Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition and the Washington International String Competition, she has captivated audiences with her compelling solo and chamber music performances. She is “a performer of top rank…the sounds she drew were not only completely unproblematical –technically faultless, generously nuanced– but sensuously breathtaking” (The Boston Globe).
Ms. Phelps performs throughout the world as soloist with orchestras, including the Minnesota Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, Orquesta Sinfonica de Bilbao, and Hong Kong Philharmonic. She has appeared in recital in Paris, Rome, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington, and at New York’s Alice Tully Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, and St. David’s Hall in Cardiff, Wales. She has also been heard on National Public Radio’s St. Paul Sunday Morning, Radio France, and RAI in Italy, and has been featured on The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, and CBS Sunday Morning.
Ms. Phelps has performed internationally as a collaborator with such artists as Isaac Stern, Itzak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Yo-Yo Ma, Lynn Harrell, and Yefim Bronfman, among many others. A much sought-after chamber musician, she performs regularly with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York’s Bargemusic, the Boston Chamber Music Society, and Music From Copland House. Ms. Phelps has performed with the Guarneri, American, Brentano, and Prague String Quartets, the Kalichstein-Robinson-Laredo Trio, and at the Mostly Mozart, Marlboro, Seattle, Bridgehampton, Ravinia, La Jolla, Santa Fe, Bravo!Colorado, Naples, Cremona, Schleswig-Holstein, and Chamber Music Northwest Festivals.
Ms. Phelps regularly receives enthusiastic reviews for her performances as soloist with the New York Philharmonic; works she has performed include Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, the Bartok Viola Concerto and Strauss’s Don Quixote, the Benjamin Lees Concerto for String Quartet, and the recent premiere of a concerto written for her by Sofia Gubaidulina. Recent performances have included a New York Philharmonic International tour featuring the Gubaidulina, a new work written for her by composer Steven Paulus (commissioned by the Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival), and return solo engagements with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the San Diego Symphony and numerous other orchestras.
This season, Ms. Phelps appears in virtually every major concert hall in New York City, including performances with the American String Quartet, the Kalichstein-Robinson-Laredo trio, and mezzo-soprano Suzanne Mentzer. She also performs in recital in La Jolla, as well as on tour with violinist Ida Kavafian and cellist Ronald Thomas. She looks forward to a new viola concerto written for her by Richard Danielpour. Her solo debut recording is on Cala Records, and can also be heard on the Marlboro Recording Society, Polyvideo, Nuova Era, Virgin Classics, and Covenant labels. Ms. Phelps and her husband, cellist Ronald Thomas, reside in New Jersey and have three children, Lili, Christinia, and Caitlin.