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Nokuthula Ngwenyama, violist/composer
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
Sacramento, California

June 15, 2020 - 1:48 am
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 1246
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Nokuthula Ngwenyama was one of my favorite viola soloists when I started playing the viola. Some time around 2010 she seemed to disappear from concert stages, which seemed odd because she was only in her early 30s, and not too long ago I was just wondering what happened to her when one of her pieces ("Primal Message" below) was posted on YouTube. It turns out she cut back her performing schedule to focus more on composing, and seems to have reinvented herself as a rare modern-day virtuoso composer-performer.

Here she performs her own "Sonoran Storm" (composed 2016) for unaccompanied viola. This piece is inspired by her home state of Arizona and the impression I get of it is Bach-meets-American-West.

(Just a side note for those who are learning viola: this video is great for showing how viola bowing technique differs from violin! She plays the fast staccato lower on the bow than violinists would, which allows a firmer grip on the strings; and you also see a more pronated wrist to dig into the string.)


And here is her "Primal Message" for viola quintet (composed 2018), performed by the Dover String Quartet plus Ngwenyama.


June 15, 2020 - 8:40 pm
Member Since: June 10, 2020
Forum Posts: 2588
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Hi AndrewH!

I love this! 

I'm curious - is Nokuthula tuning down her strings for Sonoran Storm? 

I have a 5-string violin and I'm having a hard time believing what I'm hearing is just because she plays a viola.

- Emily

Sacramento, California

June 15, 2020 - 9:19 pm
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 1246
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I don't think so. I hear nothing below the normal viola range and nothing that sounds different from what I would expect a good viola to sound like. There is a big difference in sound between a 5-string violin and a viola -- about the same as the difference between a half-size and full-size violin.

Fort Lauderdale
June 16, 2020 - 11:14 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 15618

Nice to see her back in action. :)
Thanks for the share Andrew.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

June 16, 2020 - 1:44 pm
Member Since: December 26, 2018
Forum Posts: 3289
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I viewed and listened to this post last night and got so into listening to that marvelous violist that I forgot to reply. 

That was fantastic. What a violist! Thank you, Andrew.

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