Natalie Zhu, piano
The recipient of both 2003 Avery Fisher Career Grant and the Andrew Wolf Chamber Music Award, pianist Natalie Zhu is a winner of Astral Artistic Services' 1998 National Auditions. The Philadelphia Inquirer heralded Astral's recent presentation of Ms. Zhu in recital as a display of "emotional and pianistic pyrotechnics." The recital was later broadcast on National Public Radio's "Performance Today."
Ms. Zhu has performed throughout North America, Europe, and China as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. She has performed in the United States with the Pacific Symphony, the Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Astral Chamber Orchestra, the Bergen Philharmonic, and with the Colorado Philharmonic National Repertory Orchestra. Ms. Zhu made her European debut in 1994 at the Festival de Sully et d'Orleans in France, and has toured in Austria, Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, France and Turkey.
She collaborated with renowned violinist Hilary Hahn, stepping in for pianist Garrick Ohlsson in several performances of Ms. Hahn's October 2000 U.S. tour. Subsequently, Ms. Zhu and Ms. Hahn have maintained a partnership to this day with tours of the U.S., Europe, and Japan, including a hugely successful Carnegie Hall recital debut. The duo recorded the Mozart Sonatas for the Deutsche Grammophon label.
Natalie Zhu has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the grand prize in the both the 1988 and 1989 Young Keyboard Artists Association Competition. She was the first prize winner in the Johanna Hodges Piano Concerto Competition in 1988 and 1991, having also received its 1991 Concert Series Award. In 1994, she was the top prize winner in the first China International Piano Competition. An active chamber musician, she is a frequent soloist at the Amelia Island Festival and has appeared at both the Great Lake Music and Marlboro Music festivals. In the year 2000 she was a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Festival.
Ms. Zhu began her piano studies with Xiao-Cheng Liu at the age of 6 in her native China and made her first public appearance at age nine in Beijing. At age 11 she immigrated with her family to Los Angeles, and by 15 was enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music where she received the prestigious Rachmaninoff Award and studied with Gary Graffman. In 2001 she joined the Curtis faculty as staff pianist. She received a Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music where she studied with Claude Frank.
For further information, go to www.nataliezhu.com.
Che-Hung Chen, viola
Violist Che-Hung Chen has been a member of The Philadelphia Orchestra since the spring of 2001, when he was hired by then music director Wolfgang Sawallisch, becoming the first Taiwanese citizen ever to join the Orchestra. He has also served as Acting Associate Principal Viola under former music director Christoph Eschenbach.
Mr. Chen was the first-prize winner at the Seventh Banff International String Quartet Competition as the founding member of the Daedalus Quartet; the quartet was also awarded the Pièce de concert prize for the best performance of a commissioned work and the Székely Prize for the best performance of a Beethoven quartet. A three-time, top-prize winner at the Taiwan National Instrumental Competition, Mr. Chen is a graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with the legendary Joseph dePasquale. His other teachers have included Ben Lin and Toby Appel. Mr. Chen has served as principal violist of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, and recently appeared as guest principal violist with Japan's Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Mr. Chen's recording of Chiayu's "Twelve Signs" for solo viola on the Naxos Label was praised in the Gramophone's Awards 2015 issue for its "mesmerizing intensity."
As a chamber musician, Mr. Chen has been a frequent participant with Marlboro Music, performing in its 50th anniversary concerts in Boston and New York's Carnegie Hall, and in several "Musicians from Marlboro" national tours. Mr. Chen performs annually at the Kingston Chamber Music Festival in Rhode Island with his wife, pianist and Artistic Director Natalie Zhu, and has also participated in such festivals as Ravinia, Caramoor, Saratoga, Bridgehampton and Music from Angel Fire. With Ms. Zhu, Philadelphia Orchestra colleague and First Associate Concertmaster Juliette Kang, and cellist Thomas Kraines, he is a founding member of the Clarosa Piano Quartet, dedicated to exploring and enriching the piano quartet repertoire. Their debut performance earned praise from the Philadelphia Inquirer as "a combination of easy cohesion and unfettered, expressive freedom." The quartet made a highly anticipated debut for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in May 2016.
Mr. Chen currently serves on the faculty of Temple University's Esther Boyer College of Music and its Preparatory Division. He performs on a viola made by Carlo Antonio Testore in Milan, Italy, c. 1756. He and Natalie resides in Narberth, PA, with their daughter Clara.
Noah Geller, violin
Violinist Noah Geller, winner of numerous competitions and prizes, has performed throughout the United States and abroad. At the invitation in 2012 of Michael Stern, music director of the Kansas City Symphony, Geller became concertmaster in Kansas City, where he holds the Miller Nichols Chair. He has appeared as a soloist with the Symphony numerous times, including on its most recently released recording featuring music of Saint-Saens.
In addition to his concertmaster duties, Geller is also an enthusiastic teacher and educator. Upon his arrival in Kansas City, he was appointed adjunct associate professor of violin at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.
Before joining the Kansas City Symphony, Geller was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra beginning in 2008, where he served as acting assistant concertmaster for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. While with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Geller performed throughout the United States, Europe and Asia, and he regularly collaborated with the world's finest conductors. Geller is actively involved in chamber music. He has performed at the Marlboro, Kingston, Saratoga, Heartland and Taos festivals, and he has appeared on the Lyon and Healy, Dolce Suono, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Lyric Chamber Music Society series, among others. In addition, he is an original member of Shir Ami, an ensemble dedicated to the music of composers whose lives were adversely affected by the Holocaust.
Geller is a laureate of the 2007 Michael Hill International Violin Competition in New Zealand, where he performed recitals in Queenstown and chamber music in Auckland's Town Hall. He also received top prizes at the Corpus Christi International Competition, Wisconsin Public Radio's Neale-Silva Young Artists' Competition and the Music Academy of the West concerto competition. Following performances at the Tanglewood Music Festival, Geller was awarded the Jules C. Reiner violin prize. A previous student of Jennifer Cappelli, Geller received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Hyo Kang, Donald Weilerstein and Cho-Liang Lin.
He performs on a violin made by Andreas Postacchini, c. 1840.
Juliette Kang, violin
Canadian violinist Juliette Kang serves as First Associate Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Ms. Kang also performed for two seasons with the Boston Symphony as assistant concertmaster, and as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
Ms. Kang’s solo engagements have included the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, l’Orchestre National de France conducted by Sir Yehudi Menuhin, the Baltimore Symphony, the Boston Pops, and every major orchestra in Canada. Overseas she has also performed with the Czech Philharmonic, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, the Singapore Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and the KBS Symphony in Seoul.
She has given recitals in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet, in Tokyo at Suntory Hall, in Boston at the Gardner Museum, and in New York at the 92nd Street Y and the Frick Museum. As gold medalist of the 1994 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, she was presented at Carnegie Hall in a recital that was recorded live and released on the Samsung/Nices label.
Ms. Kang was a featured soloist in the 2012 Carnegie Hall performance with her hometown orchestra, the Edmonton Symphony, and she made her Philadelphia Orchestra solo subscription debut performing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with conductor Gianandrea Noseda.
Ms. Kang has been actively involved with chamber music since studying quartets at the Curtis Institute of Music with Felix Galimir. Festivals she has participated in include Bravo! Vail Valley, Bridgehampton, Kingston, Marlboro, Moab (Utah), Skaneateles (New York), and Spoleto. In New York she has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, at the Mostly Mozart Festival with her husband, cellist Thomas Kraines, and at the Bard Music Festival.
After receiving a Bachelor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music as a student of Jascha Brodsky, where she entered the school at age nine, she earned a Master of Music degree at the Juilliard School under the tutelage of Dorothy Delay and Robert Mann. She was a winner of the 1989 Young Concert Artists Auditions, and she subsequently received first prize at the Menuhin Violin Competition of Paris in 1992.
Clancy Newman, cello
Cellist Clancy Newman, first prize winner of the prestigious Walter W. Naumburg International Competition and recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant, has had the unusual career of a performer/composer. He received his first significant public recognition at the age of 12, when he won a Gold Medal at the Dandenong Youth Festival in Australia, competing against people twice his age. Since then, he has performed as soloist throughout the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia. He can often be heard on NPR’s “Performance Today” and has been featured on A&E’s “Breakfast With the Arts.”
A sought after chamber musician, Mr. Newman has been a member of Chamber Music Society Two of Lincoln Center and Musicians from Marlboro, and is a current member of the Chicago Chamber Musicians and the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman trio.
As a composer, Mr. Newman has been featured on the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s “Double Exposure” series and the Chicago Chamber Musicians’ “Freshly Scored” series. He has received commissions from Astral Artists, the Barnett Foundation, the Carpe Diem String Quartet, and the Silo Collective, among others. His piano trio, Juxt-Opposition, is available on Bridge Records, recorded by the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman trio. Mr. Newman is a graduate of the five-year exchange program between Juilliard and Columbia University, receiving a master degree in music from the Juilliard School and a bachelor’s in English from Columbia.
Wilhelmina Smith, cello
Cellist Wilhelmina Smith has been awarded a 2015-2016 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians administered by the MacPhail Center for Music. She made her solo debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra while a student at the Curtis Institute of Music and in 1997 was a prizewinner in the Leonard Rose International Cello Competition. She has gone on to solo with orchestras, including the Orquesta Millenium of Guatemala and the Ural Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia and has performed recitals across the U.S. and Japan. A strong supporter of new music, she has worked frequently with composers such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, with whom she collaborated to performed his cello concerto, Mania, and gave the American premiere of his solo cello work, Knock, Breathe, Shine.
As a chamber musician, Ms. Smith has performed with Paul Tortelier, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank, Dawn Upshaw, Benita Valente and members of the Guarneri, Juilliard, Brentano, Miami, Borromeo and Galimir String Quartets in venues across the U.S. and Europe. She has been a guest artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Boston Chamber Music Society, and is a founding member of Music from Copland House. In 2005, she formed the Variation String Trio with violinist Jennifer Koh and violist Hsin-Yun Huang, a group that has performed across the U.S. and Europe. She is founder and Artistic Director of Salt Bay Chamberfest on the coast of Maine.
Ms. Smith's solo CD of sonatas by Britten and Schnittke with pianist Thomas Sauer was released on the Arabesque label in 2006. Her recordings of chamber music include the complete chamber works of Aaron Copland, works by Sebastian Currier, John Musto and Aaron Jay Kernis. She has performed frequently with pop musician Sting and can be heard on recent recordings for both Sting and Bruce Springsteen. She currently lives in Saint Paul, Minn., with her husband Mark Mandarano and children August and Giovanna.
Mari Yoshinaga, percussion
An up and coming percussionist hailing from Japan, Mari Yoshinaga brings a unique sense of artistry and expression to percussion, both in solo recitals, in collaboration with other artists and in her percussion group, arx duo. With a wide-ranging repertoire and an insatiable curiosity for different musical settings, Ms. Yoshinaga's sensitive musicality and powerful sound inform her performances, whether she is playing Bach on marimba, timpani in Carnegie Hall or premiering new works by today's composers.
One of Ms. Yoshinaga's primary passions is her percussion group, arx duo. Formed while students at Yale University, arx duo’s engagements include performances at the Lake George Music Festival, the Omaha Chamber Music Society, and master classes at the Peabody Conservatory and University of Missouri, Kansas City. arx duo is on the faculty of Curtis Summerfest and is a residency ensemble at Michigan State University. They have released a number of hit Youtube videos which can be viewed at their website, arxduo.com.
Ms. Yoshinaga is committed to expanding the percussion repertoire by performing new works and commissioning composers to write for her. She has had the privilege of working with a number of composers including George Crumb, Martin Bresnick, Joan Tower, Paul Lansky, and James Wood. She will be traveling to London, England this summer to present a workshop and perform premiers for young composers.
She has appeared as soloist at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, performing Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra with the Curtis Symphony. She also recently travelled to Japan to present recitals in Tokyo and Kagoshima. Recent collaborations include a world premier/CD recording of Partita: Suite for Guitar and Percussion by Paul Lansky with guitarist David Starobin.
Ms. Yoshinaga has enjoyed a varied performing schedule since coming to the States to study timpani and percussion with Don Liuzzi, principal timpanist of Philadelphia Orchestra in 2007. As an orchestral percussionist, she has performed throughout the U.S. and Asia. She has worked with conductors such as Simon Rattle, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Raphael Fruhbeck de Burgos, and Alan Gilbert; and has performed with the Kansas City Symphony, Symphony in C, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, New Haven Chamber Orchestra, Delphi Chamber Orchestra, and Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. She was also a member of Curtis Symphony Orchestra for opening the Dresden Music Festival in Germany in May 2012.
Ms. Yoshinaga was born in Kagoshima, Japan. Immersed in music from an early age, she began studying piano at age three, marimba at age five, euphonium at ten, cello at 11, and percussion at 12. She holds a Diploma in Comparison Culture from the Minami Academy iBS Language School in Kagoshima, after which she received a Bachelor of Music from Curtis Institute of Music and a Master of Music degree from Yale School of Music.
She represents Adams instruments, Pearl drums, and Vic Firth sticks. And, she currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband, violinist Noah Geller, and their lovely dog “Monkey.”