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, make Isabel Villanueva one of the most valued and complete violists of today.

Since her debut at 18 performing Bartók Viola Concerto with the Radio Television Spanish Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Villanueva has developed an intense career that has expanded through Europe, Russia, China, Latinamerica and Middle East. In 2013 she became the first foreign violist to perform recitals in Iran. Passionate, energic and creative, she is embarqued in an overflowing activity as a soloist, pedagogue, researcher, premiering contemporary works, chamber music projects with prestigious colleagues and soon, launching her own music festival. 

She has been invited as a soloist with important orchestras including Moscow Soloists, Estonia National Symphony Orchestra, Real Philharmonia de Galicia, Castile and Leon Symphony Orchestra, Lebanon Philharmonic, Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra, New Russia State Symphony Orchestra and Zagreb Soloists, among many others, under the baton of Michel Plasson, Jacek Kaspszyk, Yaron Traub, Paul Daniel, Andres Mustonen, Jorge Mester, Christian  Vásquez and Lior Shambadal.

Important awards endorse her sparkling career and overflowing energy and talent. 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.

Ms. Villanueva has performed in prestigious venues and festivals including the Great Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Xinghai Concert Hall in Guangzhou, Bath Music Festival, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Royal Court Theatre in Copenhagen, Auditorio Nacional de Madrid, Palau de la Música Catalana, Sociedad Filarmónica de Lima, Auditorio León de Greiff in Bogotá, Estonia Concert Hall, Assembly Hall of Beirut, Rottweil Musikfestival, Wigmore Hall in London and Roudaki Hall in Tehran.

Her first álbum Bohèmes released in 2017 was recorded with pianist François Dumont and received numerous awards and reviews from The Strad, Pizzicato Magazine, Scherzo, Melómano, etc. and was awarded Best Classical Album of the Year 2018 at the Spanish Independent Music Awards (Premios MIN).

Since the beginning of her career she has been particularly involved in new music, collaborating with composers and performing and premiering works, many dedicated to her including S.Gubaidulina, A.García-Abril, M.Sotelo, G.Khayam, J.Cervelló, H.Khoury, T. Marco. Among many others, she has performed : world premiere of José Zárate Viola Concerto with Grupo Enigma at Zaragoza Auditorium (2010), Concerto for two violas ‘Two Paths’ by Sofia Gubaidulina with Estonia National Symphony Orchestra at her 80th aniversary gala at the Great Hall of Philharmonia in St. Petersburg (2012), the work ‘Neharot, Neharot’ for viola and orchestra by Betti Olivero with Glasperlenspiel Sinfonietta at Estonia Concert Hall (2014), world premiere of ‘Blanca Luz de Azahar’ for viola and piano by Mauricio Sotelo at Auditorio Nacional de Música de Madrid (2016), the world premiere of ‘Lost to this World’ Concerto No.3 for viola with Lebanon Philharmonic (2017). Her discography includes the Concerto for Viola by José Zárate with Orchestra of Extremadura (Sony Classical 2017). 

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, Rafael Aguirre, Iddo Bar-Shaï and François Dumont, among others.

Her curiosity and creative spirit has led to collaborations with other genre artists, including flamenco singer Rocío Márquez, jazz pianist Moisés P. Sánchez and choreographer Antonio Ruz.

Isabel Villanueva is professor at the Higher School of High Performance Music in Valencia (ESMAR) and guest professor at Royal College of Music in London. She gives regularly  masterclasses in many international institutions : El Sistema de Venezuela, Universidad Panamericana de México, University of the Arts in Tehran, Bogotá Interviolas Festival, Académie Musicale de Morges in Switzerland, Conservatoire Superieure de Musique du Liban, Spanish Youth National Orchestra.

Isabel was born in 1988 in Pamplona (Spain) beginning her musical training in her hometown and later in London, Siena, Geneva with professors I. Sulyga, L. Power, N .Imai and Y.Bashmet. She has been awarded in many viola competitions such as the Mravinsky Competition in St. Petersburg, Yuri Bashmet Competition in Moscow and Beethoven Competition in the Czech Republic.

Involved in human causes, she is the Cultural Ambassador of the Prim’Enfance Foundation in Geneva. In 2015 was named ‘ambassador of the Spanish talent’ by the Marca España institution.

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