Isabel Villanueva is valued for her expression and sensitivity as well as for her passion and commitment to promoting the viola as an instrument with its own voice. She is one of the best international violinists of her generation. The Strad Magazine wrote, “Isabel Villanueva, an artist who takes risks”. In 2015, she received the Spanish National Radio (RNE) Classical Music Prize and, in 2018, Best Classical Album of the Year for her debut album “Bohèmes” at the Spanish Independent Music Awards in 2018 – the first violinist to be distinguished with both.
She has been invited to perform as a soloist with the Spanish Radio Television (RTVE) Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Soloists, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, New Russia State Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León, Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra, Orquestra Nacional d’Andorra, and the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, among others, under the batons of maestros including Jacek Kaspszyk, Michel Plasson, Lior Shambadal, Salvador Brotons i Soler, and Andres Mustonen. She performs a wide repertoire ranging from the Baroque period to several symphonic world premieres such as viola concertos by José Zárate and Houtaf Khoury, dedicated to her.
In November 2018, she performed a revival of the Cantos de Ordesa concerto for viola by Antón García Abril in Spain at the Festival de Música Española de Cádiz, opening together with Orquesta de Córdoba to great public and critical acclaim. During the 2018-19 season, she will also play for the first time with Real Filharmonía de Galicia and Oviedo Filarmonía (The Viola Concerto by Walton), and Orquesta Sinfónica de Murcia (Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola), together with maestros including Yaron Traub and Paul Daniel.
Villanueva regularly appears as a soloist and accompanied recitalist in prestigious venues and festivals in Europe, Asia, Russia and the Middle East, including the Grand Hall of the Saint-Petersburg Philharmonia, Xinghai Concert Hall in Guangzhou, Bath Music Festival, Estonia Concert Hall, Rottweil Musikfestival, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Royal Court Theatre in Copenhagen, Lavaux Classic, Schubertiade RTS, AUB Assembly Hall in Beirut, and Wigmore Hall in London, among others, and at main concert halls and festivals in Spain including the Auditorio Nacional in Madrid (Centro Nacional de Difusión Musical Liceo de Cámara), Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, Teatro Jovellanos de Gijón, Palau de la Música in Valencia, Musika-Música Festival in Bilbao, Formentor Sunset Classics de Mallorca, and Schubertiade Vilabertrán, among others. In 2013, she performed at Roudaki Hall in Tehran, becoming the first foreign violist to perform solo recitals in Iran.
Isabel Villanueva is passionate about promoting and broadening the horizons of current viola music. Her world premieres and collaborative efforts encompass pieces for viola by Gubaidulina, García Abril, Marco, Zárate, Olivero, Sotelo, Khoury and Khayam. As a chamber musician, Isabel has shared the stage with the Vlach Quartet Prague, Prazak Quartet, Trío Arbós, Martti Rousi and Daniel Schnyder, among others. Her concerts have been broadcast by Radio Televisión Española (RTVE), Catalunya Música, RTV Slovenia, TV Szombathely, Estonia Klassika Raadio, RTV Lebanon, TV Russia Kultura and RTV Suiza.
In October 2017, she released her first recorded album, “Bohèmes” album ‘Bohèmes’ in recital for viola and piano with François Dumont for the record label IMMStage. In August 2017, a Sony Classical recording was released, which included a performance by Isabel Villanueva of Concierto para viola by José Zárate accompanying the Orquesta de Extremadura.
She has been the prizewinner of many international viola competitions including the Mravinsky Competition (St. Petersburg, Russia), Beethoven Viola Competition (Czech Republic) and the Yuri Bashmet Viola Competition (Moscow, Russia). In 2014, she received the Prix Albert Lullin in Geneva as the most outstanding instrumentalist of the year. In 2015, she was recognized institutionally by Marca España and named “Global Ambassador of Spanish Talent” by Clear Channel. She is engaged in humanitarian causes and is Cultural Ambassador for Fondation Prim’enfance in Switzerland.
Villanueva is regularly invited to give master viola classes at the Royal College of Music in London, Bath Music University, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music, Tehran University of Arts and Music, Joven Orquesta Nacional de España, Orquesta Joven de Andalucía, International Pacific Youth Orchestra in Guangzhou and numerous Spanish conservatories.
Born in Pamplona (Spain) in 1988, Isabel studied with I. Sulyga, Y. Bashmet, L. Power and N. Imai at Royal College of Music in London, Academia Musicale Chigiana in Siena and the Haute École de Musique in Geneva. Villanueva plays an Enrico Catenar viola (Turin, 1670) and uses Peter Infeld strings by Thomastik-Infeld (Vienna).