Yura Lee Named Principal Violist of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

May 19, 2022, 9:38 PM · The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) has appointed Yura Lee its new Principal Violist, announced Music Director Jaime Martín and Executive Director Ben Cadwallader on Thursday.

Yura Lee
Violinist/Violist Yura Lee. Photo by Giorgia Bertazzi.

“The depth, breadth, versatility and sensitivity of Yura Lee’s artistry, the purity of her tone, her collaborative spirit, and exceptional leadership will contribute greatly to the Orchestra’s distinctive sound and character,” said Martín. “LACO’s artists are celebrated for their musical virtuosity and individuality, qualities Yura notably embodies as well.”

Lee, who divides her time between Los Angeles and Portland, begins her new post in the 2022-23 season. The Principal Viola chair at LACO has been vacant since December 2021. The musician who previously served as LACO's principal viola was Erik Rynearson.

Known for her artistry on both violin and viola, Lee has won top prizes at competitions on three continents and received one of Lincoln Center's prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grants. Today, she frequently appears as a soloist and chamber musician with major organizations across the USA and beyond, and is currently a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Boston Chamber Music Society. A renowned pedagogue as well, she teaches at USC's Thornton School of Music. At age 12, she was the youngest artist ever to receive the Debut Artist of the Year prize at NPR's "Performance Today" awards.

As a soloist, Yura Lee has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Monte Carlo Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and Tokyo Philharmonic, among many others.

Lee studied at the Juilliard School, New England Conservatory, Salzburg Mozarteum, and Germany’s Kronberg Academy. Her primary teachers were Namyun Kim, Dorothy DeLay, Hyo Kang, Miriam Fried, Paul Biss, Thomas Riebl, Ana Chumachenko, and Nobuko Imai. Lee plays a viola made in 2002 by Douglas Cox, who resides in Vermont.

Incidentally, Yura also has been a member of Violinist.com since 2006, and I'd say we've all been rooting for her ever since. Congratulations, Yura! I'll leave you with some beautiful and inspiring words that Yura wrote for the American Viola Society that recently were posted on Facebook. She writes about "sculpting sound.":

"When we think about how our instrumental sound differs from our actual voice, one of the things that comes to my mind is the way we connect the notes when we sing — but somehow that becomes less natural to us when we use a bow. We often think of now as a 'down to up' or 'left to right' object, but what if we gave ourselves the freedom to think of our bow in more three-dimensional way? Which includes density, depth, and resistance — not just directional? Another thing that I find interesting is our natural variation of sound WITHIN a note when we sing. I’m not talking about crescendo or decrescendo that’s obvious to our ears. I’m talking more about the 'human' aspect of sound, the tiny ebb and flow of our breath and our motions — how can we translate this to our bow better? I think it takes a micro and macro approach both. In a micro way, it’s about feeling how the bow’s different weights of different parts react in your hand/arm, and how that helps or hinders the music you’re playing. In a macro way, it’s about deciding the range of emotions and timbres for the piece, and seeing where the notes you’re playing lie in that scheme. One of the first pieces I really thought about these aspects of music making was Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata."

And here is her performance of that work from 2011:

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