Ashan Pillai

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Ashan Pillai
BornDecember 1st 1969
Colombo, Sri Lanka
ResidenceBarcelona, Spain
EducationRoyal Academy of Music,London; University of Southern California, Los Angeles ;Banff Center for the Arts, Canada; Juilliard School, New York
OccupationViolist and Professor
Home townLondon,United Kingdom
ChildrenAmalia Pillai and Priyanka Pillai ( born 2009)

Ashan Pillai (born 1969 in Colombo, Sri Lanka) is a British violist. He was educated as a music and academic scholar at Merchant Taylors School, London and then at the Royal Academy of Music, London, the University of Southern California, Los Angeles and the Juilliard School, New York City.[1] His principal teachers were John White, Donald McInnes and Karen Tuttle.

Between 1994 and 1998 he won several prizes at international and national competitions including the Tertis and Rome International Competitions, the Royal Overseas League and Park Lane Group Competitions in London and Artists International in New York. These successes led to acclaimed debuts in London's Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room (1997–1999), New York's Carnegie Hall and festivals throughout the world including Salzburg, Tanglewood, Banff, Ravinia, Aspen, Casals (Puerto Rico, France and Barcelona), and Schleswig-Holstein. He has premiered works ( many dedicated for him) by noted Spanish composers, Anton Garcia Abril, Leonardo Balada, Francisco Fleta Polo etc.. and on an international stage, works by Krystof Penderecki, Wolfgang Rihm and Gavin Bryars.

Pillai has performed as soloist under the batons of Christian Zacharias, Eiji Oue, Andrew Parrott, Christopher Hogwood, Robert King, Lawrence Foster, with the English, Gulbenkian, Czech, Andorran and Scottish Chamber Orchestras, as well as I Musici, London and New York, several Spanish orchestras and collaborated with the likes of Lynn Harrell, Zacarias, the Kreutzer and Brodsky Quartets, and the Ensemble Modern, Frankfurt.

He was assistant principal violist in the English Chamber Orchestra (1995–2000), co-founding member of the Mobius Ensemble (London 1997–2006) violist in the Zukerman Chamber Players ( New York 2004-2010 ), the string quintet led by Pinchas Zukerman and is currently Principal Viola with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra ( 2000- ). Pillai is Professor of Viola at ESMUC (Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya) (from 2001),[2] the Conservatori Superior del Liceu in Barcelona (from 2008) and visiting professor at the University Alfonso X in Madrid ( from 2012 ). In 2014 he was appointed professor in Musica en Compostela, the prestigious summer festival which specializes in Spanish music.[3]

As a recording artist, Pillai has recorded widely for EMI, Naxos, ASV, Altara, Verso, Meridian, Bel, Columna and Oehms Classics including sonatas by Brahms, Bax, Debussy, Lluís Benejam, and Schubert, Gerhard, and concerti by Hoffmeister, Mozart, Leonardo Balada and Josep Soler.

Pillai edited the 12 Estudios o caprichos de mediana dificultad (12 Studies or Capriccios of Medium Difficulty) for viola solo (1881) by José María Beltrán Fernández (1827–1907), published by Clivis Publications.[4]In 2016 he edited the first edition of the 11 sonatas from the Royal Palace in Madrid ( 1770 - 1819) for Boileau Publications and released the first recording of this monumental collection of works for viola.


  • The Virtuoso Viola in Spain (1880–1910); Ashan Pillai (viola); Juan Carlos Cornelles (piano); Nîbius NIBI 127 (2017)
Tomás Lestán (1827–1908) – Sonata for viola and piano (1884)
Manuel Sancho (1870?–1931) – Solo en Re (Solo in D) for viola and piano (1908)
Conrado del CampoPequeña pieza for viola and piano, Op. 6 (1906)
José María Beltrán (1827–1907) – 12 Caprichos for viola solo (1881)
  • Schumann: Música of Cámara para clarinete, viola y piano (Schumann: Chamber Music for Clarinet, Viola and Piano); Trio Cervelló; Josep Fuster (clarinet); Ashan Pillai (viola); Enrique Bagaria (piano); Columna Música 1CM0357 (2016)
Adagio and Allegro for viola and piano, Op. 70 (1849)
Märchenbilder for viola and piano, Op. 113 (1851)
Märchenerzählungen for clarinet, viola and piano, Op. 132 (1853)
  • The Royal Palace in Madrid: Eleven Viola Sonatas (1778–1818); Ashan Pillai (viola); Juan Carlos Cornelles (piano); Nîbius NIBI 122 (2016)
Juan Balado (?–1832) – Sonata in A major (1818)
Gaetano Brunetti – Sonata in D major (1789)
Felipe de los Ríos (1745–1801) – 3 Sonatas (1778–1781)
José Lidón – Sonata in D minor (1806)
Juan Oliver y Astorga – 5 Sonatas (1803–1807)
  • Leonardo BaladaConcerto for Viola and Wind Ensemble (2009–2010); Ashan Pillai (viola); Carnegie Mellon Wind Ensemble; Naxos 8.573064 (2015)
  • Brahms: The Viola Sonatas / Herzogenberg: Three Legends; Ashan Pillai (viola); Juan Carlos Cornelles (piano); Verso VRS 2157 (2015)
Johannes BrahmsSonata No. 1 in F minor for viola and piano, Op. 120 No. 1 (1894)
Johannes Brahms – Sonata No. 2 in E major for viola and piano, Op. 120 No. 2 (1894)
Heinrich von Herzogenberg – 3 Legenden (3 Legends) for viola and piano, Op. 62 (1889)
  • Sonatas Españolas para Viola y Piano (Spanish Sonatas for Viola and Piano); Ashan Pillai (viola); Juan Carlos Cornelles (piano); Verso VRS 2149 (2013)
Conrado del CampoRomanza in F major for viola and piano, Op. 5 (1901)
Francisco Fleta Polo – Sonata "Cantares del mío Cid" for viola and piano, Op. 62 (1962)
Roberto Gerhard – Sonata for viola and piano (1948)
Jordi CervellóTertis Sonata for viola and piano (2012)
Joaquim Homs2 Monòlegs (2 Monologues) for viola solo (1979–1980); Seqüència for viola solo (1982)
Francisco Fleta Polo – Sonata for viola solo (1990)
Francesc Taverna-BechCicle for viola solo, Op. 39 (1978)
Jordi CervellóLlegenda for viola solo (2000); Souvenir for viola solo (2000)
Benet CasablancasPeça... De música d'un ballet for viola solo (1980)
  • Només les flors: Catalan Works for Viola and Piano; Ashan Pillai (viola), Albert Giménez (piano); Columna Música 1CM0238 (2009)
Ricard Lamote de GrignonScherzino for viola and piano (1943)
Salvador Brotons – Sonata for viola and piano, Op. 28 (1982)
Xavier MontsalvatgePregària a Santiago for viola and piano (1999)
Narcís BonetSonatina d'estiu (Summer Sonatina) for viola and piano (1952)
Federico MompouDamunt de tu, només les flors; Pastoral; Llueve sobre el río; Aureana do sil; Rosa del camí; Cortina de fullatge; Incertitud; Neu
El cant dels ocells (Song of the Birds, Catalan traditional melody)
  • Kalliwoda and Schubert; Ashan Pillai (viola), Michael Endres (piano); Oehms Classics, OC591 (2007)
Franz Schubert"Arpeggione" Sonata in A minor for viola and piano, D.821
Johann Wenzel KalliwodaSix Nocturnes for viola and piano, Op.186
Franz Schubert5 Songs from "Schwanengesang", D.957 (arranged for viola and piano)
Concerto in B major for viola and orchestra
Concerto in D major for viola and orchestra
12 Studies for solo viola
Camille Saint-SaënsLe cygne (The Swan), from The Carnival of the Animals (transcription for viola and piano)
Claude DebussyBeau soir (transcription for viola and piano)
Maurice RavelPavane pour une infante défunte (transcription for viola and piano)
Maurice RavelPièce en forme de habanera
Gabriel FauréAprès un rêve, Op.7 (transcription for viola and piano)
  • Arnold BaxFantasy Sonata for viola and harp (1927); Ashan Pillai (viola), Alison Nicholls (harp); Naxos 8554507 (2000)
Chamber music
  • Zukerman Chamber Players, Mozart and Dvořák Quintets; Altara ALT1025 (2007)
  • Zukerman Chamber Players, Mozart and Brahms Quintets; Altara ALT1011 (2005)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – String Quintet in C major, K.515
Johannes Brahms – String Quintet No.2 in G major, Op.111
Rhapsodic Quintet for clarinet and string quartet, Op.31 (1919)
Quintet for clarinet and string quartet (1977)
Quintet No.1 for flute, violin, viola, cello and harp (1934)
Quintet No.2 for flute, violin, viola, cello and harp (1989)
Quintet for flute, violin, viola, cello and harp, W 538 (1957)
Duo for violin and viola, W 463 (1946)


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