Raised among the rich musical traditions of Appalachia, cellist Juliana Soltis performs across the globe as both soloist and chamber musician. She has appeared as soloist with the Oberlin Baroque Orchestra and the Harvard Baroque Orchestra—with the latter ensemble receiving the Erwin A. Bodky Award for Early Music—and her European debut in Venice, Italy was met with critical acclaim. An active recitalist with performances in Boston, San Diego, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., in the 2015-2016 season Ms. Soltis will be a featured performer on the Gotham Early Music Society’s Midtown Concerts series in Manhattan, and will tour Japan performing the Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach.
As a chamber musician, Juliana has performed at the historic Brick Church in New York and the Early Music America Young Performers Festival at the Boston Early Music Festival, and has concertized with the members of the Venice Baroque Orchestra. With her ensemble Die Liebhaberin (“The Enthusiasts”), she has appeared on the Millennium Stage Concert Series at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, receiving praise for her “thought-provoking” and “beautifully articulated” interpretation. Ms. Soltis has participated in masterclasses with Jaap ter Linden, Bart Kuijken, Giuseppe Barutti, and Yo-Yo Ma, and holds degrees from the New England Conservatory, Ball State University, the Longy School of Music, and Oberlin Conservatory. A dedicated and passionate performer-scholar, she has pursued studies in modern cello with Yeesun Kim and Richard Aaron, and historical cellos and viola da gamba with Phoebe Carrai and Catharina Meints Caldwell.
Currently residing in Seattle, WA, Juliana can be heard performing with some of the Pacific Northwest’s premiere Early Music ensembles, including Pacific MusicWorks and Early Music Vancouver, as well as on the Gallery Concerts Series and the Seattle Early Music Guild’s Northwest Showcase.
She is privileged to play on an antique instrument, dated Salzburg 1677 by Andreas Ferdinand Mayr and restored by Warren Ellison of Jericho, VT and Curtis Bryant of Watertown, MA.
I am a cellist specializing in historically-informed performance: the attempt to reconstruct how a piece of music might have been played at the time of its composition. Particularly devoted to the music of the Baroque and Classical periods, I perform on both the Baroque and Classical cellos, as well as the violoncello piccolo and viola da gamba.
Born in West Virginia and raised amidst the rich musical traditions of Appalachia, I currently reside in Seattle, Washington and divide my time between performing with some of the finest Early Music ensembles in the Pacific Northwest and traveling the globe—from Venice, to Tokyo, to New York—concertizing as both soloist and chamber musician.
- Karlheinz Stockhausen
Early-on in my career, I was known as a performer of contemporary music: a disciple of the avant garde and master of extended technique. So how did I end up specializing in historically- informed performance? Because my interest in experimental music has never been confined to the present day.
Every age has its avant garde: there was a time when Mozart was incredibly modern; when the string quartet was an experimental configuration; and when the cello as a solo instrument was unthinkable.
Textbooks and program notes neatly parse the history of music into periods clearly defined by common stylistic traits and start/stop dates. In reality, though, the boundaries were never so distinct. Between Bach and Mozart or Haydn and Brahms there are nebulous grey areas: so- called “transitional” periods characterized by intense musical experimentation.
History largely glosses-over these interstitial periods—the works are sometimes strange, non- conforming to any codified style—but I love these self-same works for their sense of freedom and wanton exploration.
There is more to the history of music than we have been told—and these are the stories that I want to tell.
Baroque Cello, Andreas Ferdinand Mayr, Salzburg, 1677; restored 2008
My primary instrument is an antique cello, made by Andreas Ferdinand Mayr in Salzburg, Austria in 1677. Nicknamed “Grace,” I purchased this instrument when I was still playing exclusively modern cello, and then had a complete restoration done when I made the switch to historical performance.
The primary restoration work, including the distinctive inlay on the fingerboard and tailpiece, was done by luthier Warren Ellison of Jericho, VT. Additional work, such as the hand-carved bridge, has been courtesy of Curtis Bryant of Watertown, MA.
Classical Cello, Harold Hayslett, South Charleston, WV, 1995; Classical conversion in 2015
My Classical cello began its life as a modern instrument: I played this particular cello all the way through my undergraduate education at the New England Conservatory. I always liked this cello, so when it became apparent that I needed a separate instrument for Classical repertoire, I decided to have it converted to an historical set-up.
The inlaid Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and tailpiece, as well as the hand-turned pegs, where again all done by Warren Ellison.
Violoncello Piccolo, Unknown Tyrollean
This is my latest acquisition and addition to my collection: a five-string violoncello piccolo. This instrument came to me in fairly rough shape and is currently undergoing restoration. I can’t wait to reintroduce this cello to the world—stay tuned for reports on its progress!
Viola da Gamba, Wang Zhi Ming after Barak Norman, 1692; Beijing, 2006
I don’t get to play viol nearly as often as I would like, so I am always happy to spend some time with this sweet little 6-string. In about a year’s time, it will have a sibling!—a division viol that I commissioned from Jane Julier of Devon, United Kingdom.
A dedicated performer-scholar, I am passionate about knocking the dust off of venerated works —rediscovering the humor, joy, and palpating immediacy of the compositions of Handel and Vivaldi—as well as championing the brilliance and innovation of more obscure pieces by Berteau, Graun, and Zyka.
Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.
Concert-goers and fellow performers alike love to ask me: are my interpretations “authentic”?
No—because the concept of “authenticity” in music performance, of a certain interpretive infallibility, is a buzzword myth.
Historical study of any kind is informed guesswork: we take what information is available and interpret it to the best of our abilities. Historically-informed performance is equal parts hard research and imaginative capability—itself an exercise in experimentation!
“ ‘Controversial,’ as we all know, is often a euphemism for ‘interesting and intelligent’.”
- Kevin Smith
Historically-informed performance is a field that inspires near-continual debate at both the macro- and microscopic levels; after all, these are performances that challenge interpretations of beloved works that have stood as unassailably definitive for generations.
For some, my interpretive choices might be controversial—and while I never purposely court controversy for its own sake, I welcome it when it comes. Whether they love the performance or vehemently disagree with my interpretation, I would prefer audiences deeply engage with the music like that—extolling or condemning my musical choices—rather than ever have someone attend one of my concerts and feel nothing.