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 global career performing in more than 25 countries that has expanded through Europe, Russia, China, Latinamerica and Middle East. In 2013 she made history becaming the first foreign violist to perform concerts in Iran.

At age 18 she performed Bartók Viola Concerto with the Radio Television Spanish Symphony Orchestra broadcasted for TVE, she has been since then 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.

In the 22/23 season she made her debuts, among others, with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela and the Cuenca Symphony Orchestra in Ecuador, performing Bartók Viola Concerto. She also makes recital debuts at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica, Konzert amb Bodensee at Lilienberg, presents her new album Ritual at the Early Music Festivals of Seville, Sacra de Segovia, Camino de Santiago, and returns to Monterrey, Budapest, Caracas, Les Musicales de Lúberon, among others.

Her performances in recent seasons include the ADDA Symphony Orchestra (Antón García-Abril), Málaga Philharmonic (Bartók), National Symphony Orchestra of Colombia (Britten/Bruch), National Youth Orchestra of Peru (Bach/Bruch), Symphony Orchestra of Navarra (Berlioz), among others.

Solo performances include venues and festivals such as the Great Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Berlin Konzerthaus, 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.

Her debut album Bohèmes with pianist François Dumont was received with great acclaim by international press and awarded ‘Best Classical Album of the Year 2017’ at the Spanish Independent Music Awards (Premios MIN). In March 2023 will be released her second album, Ritual for viola solo, comprising of more than 1000 years distance, from Hildegard von Bingen to György Kurtág, it has quickly got attention from media and great audience acclaim. The 23/24 season includes the premiere of her new album at the Teatros Canal in Madrid, the Neimënster Center in Luxembourg, Auditorium of the University of Navarra Museum, the Early Music Week in Álava, among others.

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. In 2010 she premiered in the Viola Concerto by José Zárate with Grupo Enigma at the Zaragoza Auditorium, and later she was invited to record this work together with the Extremadura Orchestra (Sony Classical 2017). In 2012 she was invited to the 80th anniversary gala of Sofía Gubaidulina in the Great Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic performing her concerto for two violas “Two Paths” with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. In 2017 she premiered the Viola Concerto “Lost to This World” by Houtaf Khoury with the Lebanese Philharmonic in Beirut. In 2018 she re-premieres the Concerto for viola “Cantos de Ordesa” by Antón García-Abril together with the Córdoba Orchestra at the Cádiz Spanish Music Festival.

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.

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 at 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 at Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu in Barcelona, 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.

Her outstanding career as a soloist and pioneer of the viola, along with her great dedication and passion to promote her instrument have been recognized with the prestigious ‘El Ojo Crítico’ Award by the Spanish National Broadcasting Corporation in 2015 and the Culture Award of the Community of Madrid in 2019; 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) and uses Thomastik-Infeld strings.