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 age 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.

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.

The season 2020/21 will see Isabel debuts with Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia, Joven Orquesta Nacional de Perú at Gran Teatro Nacional de Lima, Orquesta Sinfónica de Alicante ADDA, and returns to Orquesta Filarmónica de Málaga and Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra, among others. She will be performing concertos by Bartók, Berlioz, García-Abril, Bruch, Weber, Bach, Britten.

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 in UK, Konzerthaus in Berlin, Roudaki Hall in Tehran, Société de Musique La-Chaux-de-Fonds, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Royal Court Theatre in Copenhagen, Auditorio Nacional in Madrid, Palau de la Música Catalana, Gran Teatro Nacional de Lima, Auditorio León de Greiff in Bogotá, Estonia Concert Hall, Assembly Hall in Beirut, Rottweil Musikfestival and Wigmore Hall in London.

Her first album Bohèmes with pianist François Dumont 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 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: 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), ‘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). The viola concerto “Cantos de Ordesa” by Antón García-Abril was re-premiered at the opening of the Cádiz music festival (2018). Her discography includes the Concerto for Viola by José Zárate with Orchestra of Extremadura (Sony Classical 2017). 

A passionate chamber musician, she performs 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 Sánchez, and choreographer Antonio Ruz, with whom she created SIGNOS project, a viola solo choreographied concert with music of Bach and Kurtàg in a new dialog between music and dance.

Isabel Villanueva is guest professor at Royal College of Music in London and gives regularly masterclasses including at 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 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.