Isabel Villanueva © José Veira
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. Solo performances include venues and festivals such as 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, Auditorio Nacional de Madrid, Palau de la Música Catalana, Bilbao Philharmonic Society, Santander Festival, Wigmore Hall in London.
Since her performance at age 18 of Bartók Viola Concerto with the Radio Television Spanish Symphony Orchestra broadcasted for TVE, she is regularly invited as a soloist performing a wide range of repertoire from baroque to contemporary with orchestras including Moscow Soloists (Mozart), Estonia National Symphony Orchestra (Gubaidulina & Olivero), Zagreb Soloists (Paganini & Weber), Lebanon Philharmonic Orchestra (Khoury), Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco (Berlioz), Nuevo León Symphony Orchestra (Paganini & Berlioz), Colombia National Symphony Orchestra (Bruch & Britten), Cuenca Symphony Orchestra in Ecuador (Bartók), Real Philharmonia de Galicia (Walton), Castile and Leon Symphony (Bartók), Navarra Symphony (Walton & Berlioz), Córdoba Symphony (García-Abril), Alicante ADDA Symphony Orchestra (García-Abril), Málaga Philharmonic (Bartók), Oviedo Filarmonia (Walton), RTVE Spanish Symphony (Bartók & Walton), Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra (Bartók), New Russia State Symphony Orchestra (Bartók), Andorra National Orchestra (Hoffmeister & Rolla), St. Petersburg Capella (Bruch), El Sistema Orchestra in Venezuela (Berlioz), among others. She has worked together with conductors including Michel Plasson, Jacek Kaspszyk, Yaron Traub, Paul Daniel, Andres Mustonen, Jorge Mester, Christian Vásquez and Lior Shambadal.
Her debut album Bohèmes with pianist François Dumont was received with great acclaim by international press and awarded ‘Best Classical Album of the Year 2018’ at the Spanish Independent Music Awards (Premios MIN). In March 2023 will be released her second album, Ritual for viola solo.
Isabel has been involved collaborating and premiering more than 20 new works for viola, many of which are dedicated to her, including composers Gubaidulina, Sotelo, García-Abril, Kurtàg, Khayam, Khoury, Cervelló, Marco. 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, François Dumont, Alexander Sitkovetsky, Tedi Papavrami, Olivier Charlier, Victor Julien-Laferrière, Leonard Elschenbroich, Astrig Siranossian, Daniel Schnyder, Rafael Aguirre, Iddo Bar-Shaï.
Isabel’s innovative spirit to bring classical music to new audiences has led her to create transversal projects with other artists such as choreographer Antonio Ruz (SIGNOS for viola solo choreographied, was premiered with great success at Teatro Central in Seville 2021 and touring in venues including Teatros Canal in Madrid or Festival Baila España in Bremen), jazz pianist Moisés Sánchez (RAÍCES 2020) and cantaora Rocío Márquez, among others. She is also the creator in 2018 of the VIOLA POWER project, with the aim of connecting viola lovers from all over the world through different activities. She has been guest with solo performances in prestigious global events such as Art Biennale di Venezia, Gala Prix Lumières in Paris, Royal Palace in Madrid, Festival Flamenco On Fire.
Isabel Villanueva is Viola Professor at the Royal College of Music in London, and regularly gives masterclasses in prestigious institutions worldwide including Conservatoire de Genève, El Sistema de Venezuela, Universidad Panamericana de México, Arts University in Tehran, Bogotá Interviolas Festival, Conservatoire Supérieure de Musique du Liban, Academia Stauffer in Cremona, Spanish Youth National Orchestra.
In 2015 she received the prestigious ‘El Ojo Crítico’ Award by the Spanish National Broadcasting Corporation (RNE) and in 2019 was awarded the Culture Award of the Community of Madrid; the first time that either of these prizes were awarded to a violist.
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.
Isabel Villanueva plays on an Enrico Catenar viola (Turin 1670).