Sri Lanka-born British violist Ashan Pillai is a highly sought-after chamber musician, soloist, teacher and orchestral principal on a truly international platform.
He studied at the Royal Academy of Music in the Junior Department, and later as an undergraduate with John White, graduating with first-class honours in viola performance.
He was awarded all the viola prizes during his time at the Academy and received several grants and scholarships to continue his studies in the USA. He went on to study at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and then at The Juilliard School, New York, and the Banff Center for the Arts, Canada, under the two highly esteemed American pedagogues Donald Mclnnes and Karen Tuttle. He won prizes at Tertis International Competition (1994) Rome International Competition (1995) and the Royal Over-Seas League Competition (1995), and made his London recital debut as a winner of the Park Lane Group Series in 1997. He made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall, Weill Hall, as a winner of the Artists International Series in the same year. These critically acclaimed successes launched him on an international stage.
He was invited to several international festivals as chamber musician and recitalist (including the Salzburg, Schleswig Holstein, Pau Casals, Ravinia, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff and Tivoli festivals) and made his Wigmore Hall debut in 1999. In 1994 he was appointed assistant principal viola in the English Chamber Orchestra and in the same year co-founded the chamber ensemble, Mobius. As a member of the English Chamber Orchestra and violist in its chamber ensemble he has performed in all the major venues worldwide. In 2000 he was appointed Principal Viola with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and in 2001 Professor of viola in the Conservatoire Superior in Barcelona. In 2005 he was invited to join the Zukerman Chamber Players, the string quintet led by Pinchas Zukerman.
As a chamber musician and soloist he has recorded prolifically. His recordings of chamber (including sonatas) and solo works by Debussy, Bax, Ravel, Françaix, Howells, Fauré, Villa Lobos, Saint-Saëns, Mozart, Benejam, Hoffmeister (the complete works for viola) have received high critical acclaim. He has principally recorded for EMI, ASV, Naxos, Meridian, Xadis and Oehms Classics, Altara and SGAE. He has performed solo and chamber debuts of works by some of the most representative contemporary composers such as Krystof Penderecki, Wolfgang Rihm and Gavin Bryars. As soloist he has performed under the direction of Christian Zacarías, Christopher Hogwood (including the European debut of Mozart's Clarinet Concertó in Barenreiter's recent edition and the two concertos of Franz Antón Hoffineister) Ricardo Muti, Robert King, Lawrence Foster, Andrew Parrott amongst others.
He has maintained strong ties with his country of birth, returning frequently to perform as soloist and chamber musician as well as in the field of music education. He performed as soloist in 1998 with the English Chamber Orchestra in the presence of HRH Prince Charles to mark the country's fifty years of independence. Now based in Barcelona Ashan, Pillai enjoys a thriving career as chamber musician, teacher and soloist on an international platform. He plays a Gregg Alf viola (after Gaspar de Salo) made in 1992 in Michigan.