Kazuhide Isomura

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Kazuhide Isomura is best known as the violist in the Tokyo String Quartet. He is a founding member of the famed ensemble and the only remaining original player. Isomura has also had a successful career…
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Kazuhide Isomura is best known as the violist in the Tokyo String Quartet. He is a founding member of the famed ensemble and the only remaining original player. Isomura has also had a successful career away from the quartet, appearing in recitals of solo viola works, as well as in chamber music concerts. Isomura has made numerous recordings, both as a member of the TSQ and as a soloist. Isomura's repertory in the quartet genre has been broad, taking in works from Baroque to contemporary, from Boccherini to Joan Tower, but with a special fondness for the quartets of Beethoven: the TSQ has twice recorded the 16 Beethoven quartets and played them all on its 25th anniversary tour in 1994. As a soloist and chamber player away from the TSQ, Isomura has performed just as broad a range, from J.S. Bach and Mozart to Britten. He and the TSQ have recorded for such major labels as DG, EMI, Naxos, and Sony. Kazuhide Isomura was born in Tokyo in 1945. He studied music at the Toho (Gakuen) Academy of Music in Tokyo, where his most important teachers were school founder Hideo Saito, Jeanne Isnard, and Kenji Kobayashi.

Isomura came to the U.S. in the late '60s and accepted a post with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra as assistant concertmaster. In 1969 he enrolled at Juilliard, where he studied viola with Walter Trampler, violin with Ivan Galamian, and chamber music with Robert Mann. That same year he and three other Tokyo-born Juilliard students, violinists Koichiro Harada and Yoshiko Nakura and cellist Sadao Harada, formed the Tokyo String Quartet in New York. In 1970 the quartet won the Coleman Competition, an event for which the Amadeus Quartet served as the jury. Further prestigious competition victories followed, and the ensemble quickly became an international presence.

For most of his early career, Isomura's musical life was tied to the activities of the TSQ. But he eventually branched out, making his first solo recording for BMG in 1992, a disc of works by J.S. Bach and Britten.

In the new century Isomura devoted the bulk of his musical activities to the TSQ. He has served on the Yale School of Music faculty with the other TSQ members as quartet-in-residence since 1976. Among Isomura's later efforts is the 2010 Harmonia Mundi recording of the Brahms quintet for clarinet and strings, with clarinetist Joan Enric Lluna and other members of the TSQ.