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Marcus Thompson - Viola and Viola d'Amore

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Thompson’s “sound” is full, rich and extremely complex; he has a rhythmic backbone, an edge, even when his tone is most gorgeous and velvety (he wasn’t a student of the great Walter Trampler for nothing). His phrasing “speaks.” And he never allows himself to descend into sentimentality or melodrama.

Lloyd Schwarz,
Boston Phoenix

Marcus Thompson is a distinguished performer both on viola and viola d'amore. A multi-faceted artist, he is equally esteemed as recitalist, orchestral soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and educator.

Born in New York's South Bronx, he began violin studies at the age of six in a private studio, and at fourteen attended The Juilliard School Pre-College where he studied with Louise Behrend. After completing seven years of viola and viola d'amore studies with Walter Trampler, he received his Bachelors and Master's degrees, and Juilliard's first doctorate in viola performance.


Marcus Thompson and Victor Steinhardt
Marcus Thompson, viola; Victor Steinhardt, piano
Photo: Fritz Gearhart, University of Oregon

Since his New York debut at Carnegie Hall in the Young Concert Artists Series, Marcus Thompson has been widely hailed as a master of his instruments. He has since presented recitals at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston, Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and at numerous colleges and universities. To mark the Hindemith Centenary Mr. Thompson performed a recital of the complete sonatas with piano for viola and viola d'amore in Boston's Jordan Hall with pianist Judith Gordon.



Orchestral Soloist

Marcus Thompson with the Boston Pops
Boston Pops, Bruce Hangen, conductor
Photo: Justin Knight

Highlights of his solo career include a performance of the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a performance of Hindemith's viola d'amore concerto, Kammermusik 6 with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Charles Dutoit. He has also appeared as soloist with the National Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas, The Cleveland Orchestra under Jah Jah Ling, with the Atlanta Symphony under Yoel Levi in a performance of Keith Jarrett's Bridge of Light, in the west coast premiere of Harbison Viola Concerto with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under John Harbison, with the Saint Louis Symphony and the Boston Pops. He has appeared in concert and recordings with conductor Paul Freeman and three of his orchestras: the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Slovenian Radio Orchestra and the Czech National Symphony.

Chamber Musician

Marcus Thompson, Peter Sykes, Laura Jeppesen
Marcus Thompson, viola; Peter Sykes, harpsichord; Laura Jeppesen, gamba
Photo: Lee Eiseman, Harvard Musical Association

A much sought-after chamber musician, Mr. Thompson has appeared as the guest of the Audubon, Borromeo, Cleveland, Emerson, Miami, Muir, Orion, Shanghai, and Vermeer Quartets. And has also collaborated with the Fine Arts, Endellion, St. Petersburg, Biava, Jupiter, Vogler, and Oregon Quartets. He has participated in chamber music festivals in Rockport (MA and ME), Chestnut Hill (CT), Sitka (AK), Anchorage, Seattle, Northwest (OR), Los Angeles, Okinawa, Santa Fe, Vail, Dubrovnik, Spoleto, Montreal, and Rio de Janeiro. Among his career highlights are performances with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in a 'Live from Lincoln Center' broadcast and at a Presidential Inaugural Concert at the Kennedy Center. He has also appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Amsterdam in Holland, and with the Boston Chamber Music Society of which he is an Artist Member.


Project Step
Project STEP Master Class
Photos: Louis H. Hamel, Jr.

In addition to his busy performing career, Mr. Thompson serves as a member of the Viola Faculty at New England Conservatory of Music, and as the Robert R. Taylor Professor of Music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he founded performance programs in private studies and chamber music. He has been recognized for extraordinary teaching at MIT with an appointment as a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow.

He has previously taught at The Juilliard School Pre-College Division, Oakwood College (AL), Mt. Holyoke College (MA), and Wesleyan University (CT).

A frequent guest presenter of viola and chamber music master classes, he has recently presented these at the University of Oregon School of Music, Williams College Music Department, Boston Conservatory (String Seminar), and for Project STEP at Symphony Hall, Boston. Mr. Thompson serves on the Board of Project STEP, is a member of Chamber Music America and the American String Teachers Association. He is also a member of the Viola d'Amore Society and of the American Viola Society. Mr. Thompson served as host director for the 1985 American Viola Society Congress XIII held at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

Recording Artist

His recorded works include the standard and the unusual; concertos by Bartok and Bloch, Hindemith, and that of organist Anthony Newman, commissioned by Mr. Thompson for the International Viola Congress. He has also recorded a fascinating work by Barry Vercoe Synapse for Viola and Computer included in a disc entitled "Computer Generations," and the premiere recording of Frank Martin's Sonata da Chiesa for Viola d'Amore and Strings. A recording, released last season, with Paul Freeman and the Czech National Symphony, contains rarely heard works by Jongen, Francaix and Serly. His recordings with the Boston Chamber Music Society include Octets by Enesco and Mendelssohn, Trios with clarinet and piano by Mozart and Schumann, Sextets by Tchaikovsky and Schoenberg, and works by Brahms.