Chilean-born violist Roberto Díaz has combined performance with administration as president and CEO of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, a school that has been led by such prominent performers as Josef Hofmann, Efrem Zimbalist, and Rudolf Serkin. Díaz grew up in Atlanta and attended the New England Conservatory of Music as an undergraduate. He also holds a degree in industrial design. Díaz went on for further classes at the Curtis Institute. He has studied with his father, Manuel Díaz, Louis Krasner, and Joseph de Pasquale, among others, and held positions as principal viola of the National Symphony under Mstislav Rostropovich, a member of the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa, and a member of the Minnesota Orchestra under Sir Neville Marriner. In 1996 Díaz succeeded de Pasquale as principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, remaining in that position until 2006. Díaz has played concertos with leading orchestras in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. He has premiered works by Krzysztosf Penderecki, Jennifer Higdon, and Edison Denisov, and has performed chamber music in the Díaz Trio with his brother, cellist Andrés Díaz, and violinist Andrés Cárdenes. Díaz's recording career began in 2002 with a CD of virtuoso viola-and-piano music of Henri Vieuxtemps and included an album of viola arrangements by William Primrose, whose 1600 Amati instrument Díaz acquired. As director of the Curtis Institute, Díaz has developed innovative initiatives. The Curtis on Tour program has taken Díaz on worldwide tours with Curtis students and other faculty. He has overseen building projects that have doubled the size of the school's Philadelphia campus, and he has instituted a new classical guitar department and new conducting and string quartet programs. The Curtis Summerfest has offered public summer courses, and the Curtis Performs program has begun an online programming presence. In the fall of 2013 Curtis began offering online courses via the Coursera website, becoming the first classical music conservatory to do so. Díaz is married to violinist Elissa Lee Koljonen, with whom he has frequently performed. The pair met when both were performing at a music festival on Cape Cod.
© James Manheim /TiVo
© James Manheim /TiVo
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Classical - Released March 10, 2017 | Naxos
Leading American composer Jennifer Higdon has achieved an impressive body of work in the concerto repertoire and in her orchestral music, where she demonstrates a strong preference for long-breathed melodies and nuanced orchestration. The Viola Concerto (2014) and the Oboe Concerto (2005) are highly accessible showpieces that offer studies in contrasts, where extended lyrical lines of reflective character are pitted against energetic sections for the ensemble that burst with invention. Roberto Díaz's intensely focused playing in the three-movement Viola Concerto gives the performance a subdued, even pensive quality. While the viola's projection is notoriously weak in its low register, Higdon's spacious scoring leaves openings for it to be heard clearly, even at its softest dynamics. The Oboe Concerto, cast in one continuous movement, is a star vehicle for James Button, who maintains astonishing breath control in the sustained lines, and displays great precision in the more active, virtuoso passages. The closing suite, All Things Majestic (2011), is a musical depiction of American landscapes, and the elegiac tone of Higdon's stirring music is reminiscent of Aaron Copland's tone painting. The evocations of the massive Grand Tetons, the serene reflections in String Lake, the tumbling rapids of the Snake River, and the awe-inspiring natural Cathedrals of the national parks, give All Things Majestic a profundity that transcends mere technical brilliance and contrapuntal mastery, and Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony succeed in bringing across the music's emotional richness and power. Highly recommended. © TiVo
Tango - Released April 13, 2017 | Blue Moon Tango