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Peter Kenote



Peter Kenote was born in Seattle, Washington. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington, and his master’s and doctorate degrees in music performance from The Juilliard School. Since 1983 he has been a member of the New York Philharmonic viola section. In February 2008 he performed Berio’s Sequenza VI for solo viola at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater as part of the New York Philharmonic’s Day of Berio. In the 2009–10 season he played the premieres of a new viola concerto with the South Dakota Symphony written for him by composer Neal Harnly, and Moto Perpetuo, a new work for viola and percussion ensemble by Braxton Blake. He especially enjoys performing in concert with his daughters, soprano Rebekah and mezzo-soprano Ruth.

"I love collaborations with composers. Recently, I premiered a viola concerto."

Interview with Peter Kenote

THE FACTS: Born in Seattle, Washington. Attended University of Washington; master’s degree and doctorate in music performance from The Juilliard School. At the Philharmonic: Joined in 1983.

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: Listening to recordings of The Cleveland Orchestra and hearing my grandmother play the organ in church. I began playing the violin at nine and started the viola in college. I intended to be a science / math major and tried the viola as a lark. I love it — the sound, the mellowness, and the larger size.

MOST INSPIRING COMPOSER: Bach. As Mahler said, “In Bach, all the seeds of music are found, as the world is contained in God.”

WHO WERE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MUSICAL INFLUENCES? My teachers Emanuel Zetlin for violin, Donald McInnes at the University of Washington, and Lillian Fuchs at Juilliard. I also studied with Oscar Shumsky and William Primrose.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE YO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN? I intended to pursue a teaching career but joining the Philharmonic turned my head around 180 degrees.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS WITH THE ORCHESTRA: Playing Mahler with Bernstein, and working with Kubelík, Tennstedt, Milstein, and now with Music Director Jaap van Zweden. Also working with New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers. I love seeing these young people grow up and take music with them into adulthood.

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR MUSIC-MAKING FRESH? When you subordinate yourself to the wishes of the composer and find a way to personalize the music, it never goes stale. As Flaubert said: “The artist must be in his work like God in his Creation, invisible and all-powerful, so that he is felt everywhere but not seen.”

WHAT KINDS OF MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO? Lots of Bach, opera, and jazz

ARE THERE OTHER MUSICIANS IN YOUR FAMILY? All three of my daughters sing, and two of them are aspiring musicians. My favorite projects are performing with my daughters and my wife, cellist Sara Male. I got to collaborate with my daughter Rebekah in J.S. Bach’s Cantata, BWV 51, on a New York Philharmonic Ensembles concert in 2011.

ARE YOU WORKING ON ANY PROJECTS OUTSIDE THE PHILHARMONIC? I love collaborations with composers. Recently, I premiered a viola concerto by Neal Harnly, commissioned by the South Dakota Symphony, and Braxton Blake’s Moto Perpetuo, for viola and percussion quartet, at the University of Michigan.

As of December 2019

Upcoming 2023-2024 Performances

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