Yolanda Kondonassis, harpist
"Kondonassis's colorful harp playing is smooth, resourceful, ever-musical." - Los Angeles Times
"Yolanda Kondonassis is a harpist who handles the repertory of her instrument with considerable poise and musicianly energy . . . powerful playing." - The New York Times
"A dazzling technique unfailingly governed by impeccable musical judgment" - The Detroit News
"Kondonassis has poise and sensitivity–if your hair doesn't stand on end, you're shaving too close." - The New York Daily News
Yolanda Kondonassis is celebrated as one of the world’s premier solo harpists and is widely regarded as today’s most recorded classical harpist. Hailed as “viscerally exciting” (The Chicago Tribune) and a “brilliant and expressive player” (The Dallas Morning News), she has performed around the globe as a concerto soloist and in recital, bringing her unique brand of musicianship and warm artistry to an ever-increasing audience. Also a published author, speaker, professor of harp, and environmental activist, she weaves her many passions into a vibrant and multi-faceted career.
Praised by Gramophone for her “keen sense of dramatic timing and a range of colour that’s breathtaking,” Kondonassis has sold hundreds of thousands of albums and downloads worldwide and her extensive discography, released on the Telarc, Azica, Oberlin Music, New World, and Channel Classics labels, includes over twenty titles. She was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for her latest recording, featuring the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Harp Concerto with The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the album American Rapture (Azica, 2019).
Her 2008 album of music by Takemitsu and Debussy, Air (Telarc), was also nominated for a Grammy Award. Other lauded releases include Alberto Ginastera’s Harp Concerto on Ginastera: One Hundred; American Harp; Solo Harp: The Best of Yolanda Kondonassis; Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces; Music of Bright Sheng (including the world premiere recording of Sheng’s Concerto for Harp and Orchestra, written for Kondonassis); Salzedo’s Harp; Debussy’s Harp; The Romantic Harp; Music of Hovhaness; the first-ever harp recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons; Quietude; A New Baroque; Pictures of the Floating World; Sky Music; and Scintillation. Her many albums have earned universal critical praise as she continues to be a pioneering force in the harp world, striving to make her instrument more accessible to audiences and pushing the boundaries of what listeners expect of the harp.
Since making her debut at age 18 with the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta, Kondonassis has appeared as soloist with numerous major orchestras in the United States and abroad such as The Cleveland Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, Dallas Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Houston Symphony, NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic (Poland), Orquesta Sinfonica de Puerto Rico, Phoenix Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Odessa Philharmonic (Ukraine), New World Symphony, and Florida Orchestra, to name a few. Other appearances include engagements at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, the 92nd Street Y, and Taiwan’s National Concert Hall.
Kondonassis’ performances have been a feature at renowned festivals throughout the United States, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Marlboro Music Festival, Minnesota Beethoven Festival, Spoleto Festival, Strings Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Festival, Bravo! Vail, Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Mainly Mozart Festival, and others. She has been featured on CNN and PBS, as well as Sirius XM Radio’s Symphony Hall, NPR’s All Things Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts, St. Paul Sunday Morning, and Performance Today.
The 2021-2022 Season will mark the debut of FIVE MINUTES for Earth®, a project created by Kondonassis that both celebrates our planet and illuminates the challenge to preserve it. The featured composers, including Jocelyn Chambers, Chen Yi, Michael Daugherty, Daniel Dorff, Reena Esmail, Keith Fitch, Patrick Harlin, Stephen Hartke, Nathaniel Heyder, Takuma Itoh, Aaron Kernis, Hannah Lash, Philip Maneval, Máximo Diego Pujol, Arturo Sandoval, Gary Schocker, and Zhou Long, were tasked with creating works of five minutes or less that express a powerful experience inspired by Earth in one of its many conditions or atmospheres. Each composer generously donated their work to the project, and in partnership with Kondonassis' nonprofit organization Earth at Heart®, every verified performance of any of the works, anywhere in the world, after the live and recorded premieres by Kondonassis, will result in a monetary contribution to a recognized earth conservation organization. The New York and Los Angeles premieres, as well as the recording release, will take place in the spring of 2022.
As a chamber musician, Kondonassis has collaborated with artists such as the Shanghai, Jupiter, Rossetti, JACK, Biava, and Vermeer string quartets, pianist Jeremy Denk, guitarist Jason Vieaux, violist Cynthia Phelps, and flutists Marina Piccinini, Joshua Smith, and Eugenia Zukerman. The Kondonassis/Vieaux duo released their debut album, Together, in January of 2015 on Azica Records; Gramophone praised their “almost rapturous sense of cohesion.”
Committed to the advancement of contemporary music for the harp, Kondonassis has promoted countless new works through her numerous recordings and premieres. She presented and recorded the world premiere of Bright Sheng’s Never Far Away: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra with the San Diego Symphony; she was the dedicatee and soloist in the world premiere series of Jennifer Higdon’s Harp Concerto after close collaboration with the composer; and she will release the recorded world premiere of a new work by Aaron Jay Kernis, Elegy...for those we lost, in Fall, 2021. Kondonassis' extensive discography includes works by Rorem, Rochberg, Erb, Liebermann, Paulus, Fitch, Lash, Montsalvatge, Takemitsu, Cage, and Carter, among others.
As an author, composer, and arranger, Kondonassis has published four books to date: The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp; On Playing the Harp, a comprehensive guide to harp technique and methodology; The Yolanda Kondonassis Collection, a compilation of her many original transcriptions, arrangements and compositions for the harp; and The Yolanda Kondonassis Christmas Collection, featuring Kondonassis’ most popular arrangements from her acclaimed disc, Dream Season: The Christmas Harp. Carl Fischer Music publishes all of her works.
Kondonassis carries her passionate artistic commitment to the protection of natural resources, air quality and climate change. Royalties from several of her projects are donated to earth causes and she is the founder and director of Earth at Heart, a non-profit organization devoted to earth literacy and inspiration through the arts. Her first children’s book, entitled Our House is Round: A Kid’s Book About Why Protecting Our Earth Matters, was published in 2012 by Skyhorse Publishing and praised as “the perfect children’s introduction to environmental issues” by The Environmental Defense Fund. The book was licensed as a featured title by Scholastic Books.
Born in Norman, Oklahoma, Kondonassis attended high school at Interlochen Arts Academy. She continued her education at The Cleveland Institute of Music, where she received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees as a student of Alice Chalifoux. Kondonassis’ long list of national and international honors includes top prizes in the Affiliate Artists National Auditions in New York, the Maria Korchinska International Harp Competition in Great Britain, two Solo Recitalists Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a 2011 Cleveland Arts Prize. In addition to her active performing and recording schedule, she heads the harp departments at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Institute of Music and has presented master classes around the world. Yolanda Kondonassis plays a Lyon & Healy Salzedo Model concert harp.
For more information on Yolanda Kondonassis, visit www.YolandaHarp.com.
Photo by Laura Watilo Blake