Nadia Sirota & Liam Byrne

Viola and Viol

November 20, 2016, 4 pm

Music Room

Violist Nadia Sirota’s energetic advocacy of new music has led to a reputation as “a one-woman contemporary-classical commissioning machine.” A graduate of the Juilliard School, she has collaborated on new works with composers such as Nico Muhly, Judd Greenstein, and Missy Mazzoli. Liam Byrne is a celebrated viol player and was a member of the Fretwork Consort of Viols. While much of his work is in music from the 17th century, he has been involved in several projects with 21st-century musicians, including Damon Albarn. The program will include the Washington premiere of Donnacha Dennehy’s Tessellatum, an innovative piece using viola, viols, and electronics, conceived on a large scale.


VALGEIR SIGURðSSON (b.1970) & NICO MUHLY (b. 1981)
A Selection of Renaissance works, and more


Tessellatum - Washington Premiere

“A one-woman contemporary-classical commissioning machine” (Pitchfork), violist Nadia Sirota is best known for her singular sound and expressive execution, coaxing works and collaborations from the likes of Nico Muhly, Daníel Bjarnason, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Judd Greenstein, Marcos Balter, and Missy Mazzoli. Her debut album First Things First (New Amsterdam Records) was named a record of the year by The New York Times, and her follow-up Baroque (Bedroom Community and New Amsterdam) has been called “beautiful music of a higher order than anything else you will hear this year” by SPINMedia website PopMatters.

This season, Nadia premieres both a new concerto written for her by longtime collaborator Nico Muhly and a new podcast, Meet the Composer on Q2 Music, exploring the work of living composers through her interviews and musical selections. She was awarded the 2010 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in Radio and Internet Broadcasting for her previous show on Q2 Music.

Nadia is a member of yMusic, Alarm Will Sound, and ACME (the American Contemporary Music Ensemble), and and has lent her sound to recording and concert projects by such artists and songwriters as Grizzly Bear, Jónsi and Arcade Fire. In 2013 she won Southern Methodist University’s 2013 Meadows Prize, awarded to pioneering artists and scholars with an emerging international profile. She received her undergraduate and Master’s degrees from the Juilliard School, where she performed as co-founder of the AXIOM ensemble, initiated the Castleman/Amory/Huang studio’s New Music Project, and created the Juilliard Plays Juilliard program for student composers and performers. After winning the top prize in Juilliard’s 2005 concerto competition, Nadia performed Hindemith’s Der Schwanendreher with conductor Marin Alsop and the Juilliard Orchestra in Alice Tully Hall. As a chamber musician, Nadia has collaborated with such artists as Joseph Kalichstein, Itzhak Perlman, and the Silk Road Ensemble, as well as with members of Kronos Quaret, the Chiara Quartet, and the Peabody Trio.

Liam Byrne divides his time between playing very old and very new music on the viol. He has been praised in The Times for his “nuanced and expressive, stylish virtuosity” and by The Guardian for his “glittering performance”. With the firm belief that baroque music can be vibrant and expressive on its own terms, Liam’s solo work regularly explores lesser known corners of 16th and 17th century repertoire. This same interpretative curiosity has led him to work increasingly with living composers, and he has recently had new works written for him by Donnacha Dennehy, David Lang, Edmund Finnis, Nico Muhly, Valgeir Sigurðsson and others.

As a chamber musician, Liam has performed and recorded with many leading Early Music ensembles. For several years he was a member of the renowned viol consort Fretwork, with whom he toured internationally and played an active role in commissioning new works. Other chamber music activities include performances and recordings with the Dunedin Consort, Huelgas Ensemble, The Sixteen, Le Concert d’Astrée, i Fagiolini, Concerto Caledonia, and the viol consorts Phantasm and Concordia, among many others.

Beyond the realm of early music, Liam has worked with a wide variety of artists including Damon Albarn, Nils Frahm, Matthew Herbert, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Bryce Dessner (The National), Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Martin Parker, and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). He has played a significant musical role in the creation of several large-scale operatic works: Damon Albarn’s Dr Dee (2011-12), Shara Worden’s You Us We All (2013), and Valgeir Sigurðsson’s Wide Slumber (2014).

In April 2015, Liam became the first musician to be awarded a 6-month Artist Residency at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, in connection with the opening of their new Europe 1600-1815 galleries. Highlights included the weeklong one-on-one performance piece Inside Voices, and a new sound installation with Valgeir Sigurðsson for London Design Festival called Dissonances. Summer 2015 also saw Liam play a major role in creating sound installations at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art with Opera Erratica and London’s National Gallery with Nico Muhly.

Liam took his BMus and Performer’s Diploma in viola da gamba with Wendy Gillespie at Indiana University and holds an MPhil in Musicology and Performance from Magdalen College Oxford, where he studied viol with Laurence Dreyfus and counterpoint and early notation with Margaret Bent. Liam is professor of viola da gamba at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he also teaches Medieval and Renaissance Performance Practice and leads a viol consort.

Liam plays a 7-string bass viol by John Pringle, a 6-string bass by Marc Soubeyran, and a treble viol by Dietrich Kessler, which is graciously on loan from Marc Soubeyran.