A student of the legendary William Primrose, Israeli-born violist Yizhak Schotten is today better-known as a teacher and organizer than as a performer in his own right, but in his prime he had an excellent performing career, and he has made a fine body of recordings over the years that bear witness to his abilities. Schotten was discovered by Primrose while still a young man living in Israel; the elder violist brought his new protégé to the United States, where he studied at the University of Southern California, Indiana University (with Primrose), and later at the Manhattan School of Music (with Lillian Fuchs). Still in his twenties, he embarked on a successful orchestral career, playing in the Boston Symphony Orchestra and then serving as principal violist of the Houston and Cincinnati symphony orchestras. It was at this time that the first professional recordings of his playing were released, but these vintage performances have not been re-released on compact disc and original LP prints are not easy to come by.
Schotten has played all around the world, from Carnegie Hall to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam to the Library of Congress. He has taught at Rice University; the University of Washington; and, from the mid-'80s on, at the University of Michigan, where he has organized the SpringFest in Ann Arbor concert series and where, from 1996 on, he has been helmsman of the Chamber Music Ann Arbor concert series. His summers have been full with teaching and playing at Interlochen, the Aspen Music Festival, and Banff, and in more recent years serving as music director for the Strings in the Mountains Festival in Colorado and Maui Chamber Music Festival in balmy Hawaii. He is held in high regard by the international community of violists, as evidenced by his selection as judge for the 1997 Tertis Viola Competition in England and as director of the 14th International Viola Congress.
Schotten has made several compact discs for the Crystal Records label, including an all-Brahms volume, a disc featuring Benjamin Britten's Lacrymosa for viola and string orchestra, and a volume of Baroque chamber music for viola and harpsichord, the latter with keyboardist Carole Terry. The world premiere recording of Paul Hindemith's Sonata for viola No. 4, Op. 25, was made by him for CRI. Obscure and underappreciated works, such as the Arnold Bax Fantasy Sonata for viola and harp, have gotten special attention from Schotten. He also recorded a CD of orchestral excerpts featuring the viola, complete with commentary to aid other violists in performance of the works. He continues to appear in concert around North America -- January 2002 found him on-stage with the Toronto String Quartet -- often in collaboration with his wife, pianist Katherine Collier. He performs and records on a famous, uniquely shaped sixteenth-century instrument built by a Brescian maker of the Gasparo da Salo school.