Praised as “a consummate musician whose flowing solos and musical gestures are a joy to watch,” and whose performances have been described as “ravishingly beautiful” and “stellar” and lauded for ” long, amber-tinted lines and pertly articulated phrases,” baroque violinist (and occasional violist and viola d’amorist) Tekla Cunningham enjoys a multi-faceted career as a chamber musician, concertmaster, soloist and educator devoted to music of the baroque, classical and romantic eras. She is concertmaster and orchestra director of Pacific MusicWorks, and Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington. She founded and directs the Whidbey Island Music Festival, now in its fifteenth season, which produces vibrant period-instrument performances of music from the 17th-19th centuries and she plays regularly as concertmaster and principal player with the American Bach Soloists in California.
A passionate chamber musician, she founded the Novello Quartet which for over ten years explored the music of Josef Haydn and his contemporaries with Cynthia Freivogel, Anthony Martin and Elisabeth Reed. With La Monica Ensemble, she explored instrumental and vocal chamber music of the 17th century, with performances praised as “sizzling” and for their “pitch-perfect timing.” In a performance of Mozart’s g-minor string quintet at the 2018 Valley of the Moon festival ” Ms. Cunningham’s violin playing was unutterably sweet and rich…Ms. Cunningham’s playing took the lead, and the quartet in turn followed. The depth of sorrow in this interpretation was heartrending. The concluding movement, adagio-allegro, began with a lovely singing and deftly phrased lament by Ms. Cunningham…it was an inspired and inspiring performance.”
She has appeared as concertmaster/leader or soloist with the American Bach Soloists, Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Musica Angelica, and Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Pacific MusicWorks, TENET and has played with Apollo’s Fire, Los Angeles Opera, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and at the Berkeley, Carmel Bach, San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, Indianapolis, Oregon Bach, Vancouver Bach, Savannah, Bloomington and Valley of the Moon Festivals as well as on leading Early Music series across the United States and Canada including Music Before 1800, Boston Early Music Festival, Houston Early Music, San Francisco Early Music Society, Pittsburgh Renaissance and Baroque Society, Stanford’s Bing Hall, San Diego Early Music Society and Early Music Vancouver.
Tekla’s first solo album of Stylus Phantasticus repertoire from Italy and Austria will be released in the Spring of 2021 on Reference Records, with violin sonatas from Farina, Fontana, Uccellini to Biber, Schmelzer and Albertini accompanied by an extravagant continuo group of Stephen Stubbs (baroque guitar and chittarone), Maxine Eilander (baroque harp), Williams Skeen (bass violin), Henry Lebedinsky (harpsichord and organ). She can be heard on live and studio recordings with American Bach Soloists, Disney’s Casanova soundtrack, Apollo’s Fire, Pacific Music Works, The Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Pacific MusicWorks, Philharmonia Baroque, La Monica, The Novello Quartet, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Seattle Baroque Soloists and many more.
A dedicated teacher, Tekla directs the Baroque Ensemble at the University of Washington School of Music and recently taught the UW modern violin class as sabbatical replacement for Ronald Patterson.
Tekla received her undergraduate degree in History and German Literature at Johns Hopkins University while attending Peabody Conservatory where she first studied baroque violin with Web Wiggins. She studied at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna Austria with Josef Sivo and Ortwin Ottmaier, and earned a Master’s Degree in violin performance at the San Francisco Conservatory with Ian Swenson and chamber music studies with Paul Hersh, Mark Sokol and Bonnie Hampton. Tekla is a graduate of the Seattle Public Schools and an alumna of the Seattle Youth Symphony and serves on the Board of Directors of Early Music America and the Whidbey Island Arts Council.
Tekla plays on a violin made by Sanctus Seraphin in Venice, Italy in 1746, with bows made by David Hawthorne, Stephen Marvin and Ralph Ashmead.