Biography

Isabel Villanueva © Juan García Rosell

Hailed by The Strad as ‘an artist who risks’ and described by Pizzicato Magazine as ‘a sensitive artist who knows how to immerse in the depths of music’, her passion for promoting the viola combined with her charismatic and expressive performances and her beauty of sound, connect inmediatly with audiences and make Isabel Villanueva one of the most valued and complete violists of today.

Ms. Villanueva has developed an intense career performing in more than 25 countries that has expanded through Europe, Russia, China, Latinamerica and Middle East. In 2013 she became the first foreign violist to perform concerts in Iran. 

Since her performance at age 18 of Bartók Viola Concerto with the Radio Television Spanish Symphony Orchestra broadcasted for TVE, she is invited as a soloist performing a wide range of repertoire from baroque to contemporary with orchestras including Moscow Soloists, Estonia National Symphony, Zagreb Soloists, Lebanon Philharmonic, Filarmónica de Jalisco, Nuevo León Symphony Orchestra, Colombia National Symphony, Cuenca Symphony in Ecuador, Istanbul State Symphony, New Russia State Symphony; and in Spain orchestras include : RTVE Symphony Orchestra, Real Philharmonia de Galicia, Castile and Leon Symphony, Navarra Symphony, Córdoba Symphony, Alicante ADDA Symphony, Málaga Philharmonic, Oviedo Filarmonia, under the baton of Michel Plasson, Jacek Kaspszyk, Yaron Traub, Paul Daniel, Andres Mustonen, Jorge Mester, Christian Vásquez and Lior Shambadal, among others.

Ms. Villanueva has performed as a soloist and recitalist in prestigious venues and festivals including the Great Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Konzerthaus in Berlin, Estonia Concert Hall, Société de Musique La Chaux-de-Fonds, Rottweil Musikfestival, Bath Music Festival, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Royal Court Theatre in Copenhagen, Xinghai Concert Hall in Guangzhou, Roudaki Hall in Tehran, Gran Teatro Nacional de Lima, Assembly Hall of Beirut, Wigmore Hall in London, and spanish main venues including Auditorio Nacional de Madrid, Palau de la Música Catalana, Bilbao Philharmonic Society or Santander Festival. 

Her first album Bohèmes together with pianist François Dumont was received with great acclaim by The Strad, Pizzicato Magazine, Scherzo, Melómano, and was awarded Best Classical Album of the Year 2018 at the Spanish Independent Music Awards (Premios MIN).

Since the beginnings of her career she has promoted new music for viola, collaborating and premiering more than 20 works many dedicated to her by Gubaidulina, García-Abril, Sotelo, Khayam, Cervelló, Khoury, Olivero, Marco, among others. Her discography includes the Concerto for Viola by José Zárate with Orchestra of Extremadura for Sony Classical.

A passionate chamber musician, she has performed with well-known artists such as Prazak Quartet, Alexander Sitkovetsky, Tedi Papavrami, Olivier Charlier, Victor Julien-Laferrière, Leonard Elschenbroich, Astrig Siranossian, Daniel Schnyder, Rafael Aguirre, Iddo Bar-Shaï and François Dumont, among others. Her creative spirit has led to new collaborations, including flamenco singer Rocío Márquez, jazz pianist Moisés Sánchez and choreographer Antonio Ruz, with whom she created SIGNOS, an innovative choreographied viola solo concerto that explores music performance and dance at the same time. It was premiered with great success in 2021 at Teatro Central in Seville and has been touring in venues including Teatros Canal in Madrid or Festival Baila España in Bremen.

From September 2022 Isabel Villanueva has been appointed Viola Professor at the Royal College of Music in London. She gives worldwide masterclasses in institutions including Conservatoire de Genève, El Sistema de Venezuela, Universidad Panamericana de México, University of the Arts in Tehran, Bogotá Interviolas Festival, Académie Musicale de Morges, Conservatoire Superieure de Musique du Liban, Spanish Youth National Orchestra.

Isabel was born in Pamplona (Spain) beginning her musical training in her hometown and in London, Siena, Geneva with professors Igor Sulyga, Lawrence Power, Nobuko Imai and Yuri Bashmet.

In 2015 she received the prestigious Prize ‘El Ojo Crítico’ by the Spanish National Broadcasting Corporation (RNE) and in 2019 was awarded the Culture Award of the Community of Madrid; both awards are the first time awarded to a violist.

Isabel Villanueva plays on a Enrico Catenar viola (Turin 1670) and uses Thomastik Infeld strings.