Gilles Vonsattel



Competition Winner

Born: 1981 (Switzerland)

Swiss- American Gilles Vonsattel is an artist of extraordinary versatility and originality, celebrated as a "wanderer between two worlds" by the Lucerne Festival and a "powerful pianist" by The New York Times.

In addition to capturing first prize in the 2002 Walter W. Naumburg International Piano competition, Vonsattel was an Avery Fisher Career Grant winner, as well as winner at the Geneva competition and given the 2016 Andrew Wolf Chamber Award. His performances include appearances with the Boston Symphony, Tanglewood, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Gotheburg Symhony, San Francisco Symphony and Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Recital appearances include with Chamber Music of Lincoln Center, Ravinia, Tokyo's Musashino Hall, Bravo! Vail, Music@Menlo, Munich Gasteig and the Gilmore and Lucerne festivals.

In chamber music, among Vonsattel's partnerships include: Frank Huang, David Shifrin, David Finckel, Gary Hoffman, Carter Brey, David Requiro, Paul Neubauer, Paul Watkins, Philip Setzer, David Jolley and Ida Kavafian. He has also performed with the Emerson, Pacifica, Orionm St. Lawrence, Escher Quartets, and others. Vonsattel is principal pianist of Camerata Pacifica, a member of the Swiss Chamber Soloists, and plays alongside Ida Kavafian and David Jolley in Trio Valtorna.

Deeply committed to contemporary music, he has premiered numerous works and worked closely with composers such as Heinz Hooliger, George Benjamin and Jörg Widmann.

His recording for the Honens/Naxos label of music by Debussy, Honegger, Holliger, and Ravel was named one of Time Out New York’s 2011 classical albums of the year, while a 2014 release on GENUIN/Artist Consort received a 5/5 from FonoForum and international critical praise. His release (2015) for Honens of Scarlatti, Webern, Messiaen, Debussy, and George Benjamin’s Shadowlines also received rave reviews. Other recordings include Richard Strauss' Panathenäenzug and Kurt Leimer's Concerto for Left Hand with the Bern Symphony Orchestra and Mario Venzago, for the Schweizer Fonogramm label.

Recent projects include Berg’s Kammerkonzert with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, a tour with Jörg Widmann and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Mozart concerti with the Vancouver Symphony and Florida Orchestra, performances at Seoul’s LG Arts Centre and at the Beijing Modern Music Festival, collaborations with Kent Nagano with L’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the Munich Philharmonic (Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety) as well as numerous appearances internationally and throughout the United States with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Vonsattel received his bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Columbia University and his master’s degree from The Juilliard School, where he studied with Jerome Lowenthal. He is Associate Professor of Piano at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and on the faculty of Bard Conservatory. Gilles Vonsattel is a Steinway Artist.

As part of his Naumburg prize, Mr. Vonsattel was given a commission by Ned Rorem, Sound Points.

Excerpt from The New York Times review, November 23, 2004 (Gilles Vonsattel's Naumburg concert)

Music Review; Finding Links in Different Centuries

"Gilles Vonsattel, the Swiss pianist who won the Naumburg Competition in 2002, presented a quirkily compelling program of Romantic and modern works at Alice Tully Hall on Thursday evening. Beginning with Dallapiccola, he backtracked to Schubert, then played the premiere of a Ned Rorem work before doubling back to Liszt and Bartok.

Mr. Vonsattel used his razor-sharp technique to make the older works sound as adventurous as the more recent ones. He played Schubert's Sonata in C minor (D. 958) with the same incisiveness and textural clarity he brought to Bartok's "Out of Doors" and Mr. Rorem's "Sound Points." Lines were drawn from Schubert's lyricism to Mr. Rorem's and from the evocative tone painting in Liszt's "Jeux d'Eaux à la Villa d'Este" to the colorful, atmospheric writing in parts of the Bartok suite.

Striking, too, was the balance of the novel and the familiar. Dallapiccola's "Sonatina Canonica" (1943) was a find. Based at least in spirit on Paganini's "Caprices," it couches attractive themes in sweetly innocent textures and stylistically ambiguous harmonies. The first of its four movements has a neo-Baroque lightness and transparency, but its harmonies soon give the piece a more modern hue.

Mr. Rorem's "Sound Points" (2003) evolves similarly but with grander strides and in the more compressed confines of a single eight-minute movement. Its opening is graceful and songlike, in the best Rorem tradition. But its almost vocal shapeliness gives way to more sharply angled themes, with increasingly dense harmonies following suit.

In the familiar works Mr. Vonsattel often found fresh approaches to phrasing. And if his search led him astray at times, as in a mannered reading of the minuet from the Schubert sonata, his reconsiderations of balance and coloration proved fruitful and attractive." - Allan Kozinn


2002 Piano Competition

First Prize

Commissioned Works

Ned Rorem: Sound Points

Naumburg Performances

No items found.

Recording Awards

No items found.

Social Media