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Christian Woehr

Christian Woehr

Viola

Christian Woehr was born in Dallas into a large family of musicians. He began viola studies at age eight, and composition at nine while growing up in Pittsburgh, where his parents had moved to join the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Primarily self-taught as a composer, Woehr began writing music for his family string ensemble. He attended the Eastman School of Music, where his teachers included Francis Tursi and Heidi Castleman in viola and Warren Benson in composition. He was Principal Viola of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra for a number of years, performing as such on recordings and tours, including Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center in Strauss’ Don Quixote under David Zinman. He joined the St. Louis Symphony in 1986 as Assistant Principal Viola, a position in which he served through the August of 2014.

His original compositions and string transcriptions have appeared on programs with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Academy of St. Martins in the Fields, the World Viola Congress, the Congress of Strings, and at various universities and summer festivals. Awards include Meet the Composer grants, and a Special Distinction mention from the ACSAP Nissim Competition for his string symphony Spare Change (premiered by the STL Symphony in June 1999.) His solo electric viola/narrator work The Emperor’s Electric Clothes and his solo viola/percussion piece Djembach have been making the summer festival rounds, with a recording by Jacque Israelievitch (former STL Symphony concertmaster) of Djembach available on his album Hammer and Bow.

Woehr specializes in music for string ensemble, often with narrator or singer, and often for young people. His own ensemble, the Strings of Arda, performs his works extensively. Because of his considerable experience with string writing and playing, colleagues continue to commission Woehr for new works. Because of his numerous pieces for various combinations of violas, Woehr has the odd distinction of being perhaps the world’s most prolific composer for massed violas. His latest project is a series of recordings of his solo and duo viola works, featuring STL Symphony musicians. He is also active as an improvisor, studying with David Darling (formerly of the Paul Winter Consort) through the Music for People organization.

Woehr owns and frequently uses a Stratos Electric Viola made by Zeta. His performing instrument with the STL Symphony is an 1862 Brescian model viola by Milanese maker Luigi Bajoni. He is married to former STL Symphony piano technician Liz Baker, and often spends summers at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, where his wife is chief piano technician. They have a 16-year-old son Robin. Hobbies include backpacking, commuter cycling, model railroading, astronomy, and Legos.

 

Rev 5/28/13