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Kim Kashkashian

Language available : english
Violist Kim Kashkashian is a major practitioner of her instrument and a stalwart champion of contemporary music. A long list of European composers have written new works for her, including Arvo Pärt and György Kurtág. Kashkashian was born in Detroit, Michigan, on August 31, 1952, into an Armenian immigrant family. Kashkashian's father was an amateur baritone singer who enjoyed singing Armenian folk songs. Kim started playing the violin at age eight but switched to the viola while attending Michigan's Interlochen Music Academy as a preteen. She attended the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, studying with Walter Trampler and Karen Tuttle, and going on to the New School of Music in Philadelphia for a master's degree. Kashkashian joined the faculty of that school in 1981 and also taught later in the '80s at the Mannes College of Music in New York and the Indiana University School of Music. Kashkashian's critically acclaimed recording career began in 1984 when she was heard on a recording of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K. 364, with violinist Gidon Kremer and the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The following year, Kashkashian began a long association with the ECM label in Germany, and she and pianist Robert Levin released the album Elegies in 1986. Kashkashian moved to Germany in 1989, teaching at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg and later, because she wanted her daughter to be able to attend an American school, at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin. She returned to the U.S. in 2000 and since then has taught at the New England Conservatory of Music. Kashkashian has appeared at major venues in the U.S., including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, but she has said she finds more opportunities to perform in Europe -- where the viola is fully accepted as a solo instrument -- than in the U.S. She is a frequent guest at festivals, including Ravinia outside Chicago, Marlboro in Vermont, and Verbier in Switzerland, and she often appears in concert with Levin. Both Kashkashian's concerts and recordings frequently feature contemporary music, and the list of composers who have written works for her includes Arvo Pärt, Peter Eötvös, and Krzysztof Penderecki, among many others. She is perhaps best known for her recordings on ECM, one of which, the 2013 recording Kurtág and Ligeti: Works for Viola, won a Grammy Award. Kashkashian has issued more than 40 recordings in all, many on ECM's New Series imprint; they include an album of works by Kurtág, one of her favorite composers, on which she joined the Parker Quartet in 2021.
© James Manheim /TiVo
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