Violist Nicholas Cords is strongly committed to the advocacy and performance of music from a broad historic and geographical spectrum. His busy touring schedule has led him in recent years to Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, the Cologne Philharmonie, and the Library of Congress. As a soloist, he has appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the New York String Seminar Orchestra. Recent highlights include performances at the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, in works ranging from Feldman to Wuorinen, and the Vail International Dance Festival, where he performed Stravinsky’s Élegie for solo viola in a late Balanchine choreography (dormant for the past thirty years) with the great Brazilian ballerina Carla Körbes. His debut solo album, Recursions (2013 In a Circle Records), features works ranging from Biber to Hindemith to Cords’ recently composed Five Migrations.
Mr. Cords is a regular member of YoYo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, a musical collective that uses the historic Silk Road trading route as a metaphor for musical exchange and creativity in the present. The group has not only traveled to many of the major musical centers of the United States and Europe, but also to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Syria and a number of the Central Asian Republics. In addition to performing with the ensemble, he has taken a role in the organization and development of new creative projects, programming for concerts and museum residencies (currently the chair of programming for the ensemble), and as an active part of two long term residencies with the group; one at the Rhode Island School of Design and one at Harvard University. Mr. Cords appears on all four of the ensemble’s albums; Silk Road Journeys, Beyond the Horizon, New Impossibilites and Off the Map. A recent studio recording A Playlist a Without Borders (Sony Music) and live concert DVD from Tanglewood were released earlier last year to help celebrate the group’s fifteenth anniversary season.
Mr. Cords is also a founding member of Brooklyn Rider (www.brooklynrider.com); an intrepid string quartet which NPR credits with “recreating the 300yearold form of string quartet as a vital and creative 21st century ensemble.” The group has collaborated with composers all over the globe, as well as with Irish fiddler Martin Hayes, Persian kemancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor, soprano Dawn Upshaw, mezzo soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, and banjo phenomenon Béla Fleck, to name a few. Equally at home in concert halls and clubs, Brooklyn Rider was the only classical group invited to play in the 2010 South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. This season sees the group touring in North America and Europe, along with premieres of works by Tyondai Braxton, Gabriel Kahane, and John Luther Adams and notable appearances at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival and A Prairie Home Companion (broadcast live on April 25). Their recordings, Silent City, Passport, Dominant Curve, Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass, Seven Steps, and A Walking Fire have received wide critical acclaim from sources ranging from Gramophone Magazine to Pitchfork. Their most recent album and commissioning project, The Brooklyn Rider Almanac, is currently available on the Mercury Classics label (Universal Music).
Nicholas has appeared frequently on television and radio including a Chinese National Television broadcast from the Great Wall, the David Letterman Show, numerous National Public Radio broadcasts, Good Morning America, NHK Japan, and a four year run as resident commentator and performer on WQXR New York’s Radio weekly On AIR. In addition, he has worked with many ensembles, including the Knights, the Caramoor Virtuousi, An Die Musik, the Smithsonian Chamber Players, and the Metropolitan Museum Artists in Concert.
Mr. Cords began his musical education at the Juilliard School where he won top honors in the viola competition and subsequently gave the New York premiere of John Harbison’s Viola Concerto at Avery Fisher Hall. He completed his studies at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. His teachers and mentors have included Karen Tuttle, Harvey Shapiro, Joseph Fuchs, and Felix Galamir. A committed teacher, Mr. Cords currently teaches at Stony Brook University in New York. He spends part of his summer schedule teaching at the Bennington Chamber Music and Composers Conference and served for eight years as viola instructor at Princeton University. He has twice participated as a mentor along with other members of the Silk Road Ensemble in the Weill Institute Professional Training Workshops at Carnegie Hall and has also delivered a series of teacher workshops for the New York City Department of Education on music and the role of it can play in crosscultural understanding. He recently presented a talk at the American Association of Museums National Conference on the role of music in museum settings. He is a regular contributor to NPR’s classical music blog Deceptive Cadence. Mr. Cords plays on an instrument made for him in 2014 by famed Brooklyn maker Samuel Zygmuntowicz, modeled on the William Primrose Guarneri. (www.nicholascords.com)