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WVU violist releases first solo album

Andrea HoudeWest Virginia University Assistant Professor Andrea Houde has released her first solo album for viola, featuring rare and never before recorded compositions.

“The American Viola” is a collection of music from the late nineteenth century to today that encapsulates flowing lyricism to express the viola’s rich vocal character.

“As a performer and teacher, I am always interested in music that is beautiful and expressive, historically interesting, and that might benefit my students,” Houde said. “When the opportunity came to record a solo album, I collaborated with one of the most well-known viola repertoire researchers in the world, Rice University librarian David Bynog, and we found music that fit these criteria.” 

While working with Bynog, Houde discovered Eine Liebes-Novelle: 5 Bagatellen für Viola und Pianoforte, op. 20, an unrecorded piece by composer Benjamin Cutter, believed to be the very first American work ever written for viola. 

The album begins with Barcarolle, the first viola composition written by an American woman, Blanche Blood, and ends with one of the newest American compositions for viola, Monongahela, written by WVU alumnus Christopher Jones. 

“My favorite part of making this album has been presenting this wonderful repertoire to the viola world,” Houde said. “Audiences have reacted with as much excitement and passion for the music as I feel for it myself.”

According to Houde, recording her first solo album was one of the biggest, but most rewarding, challenges she’s faced in her career.

“Recording as a soloist was a bit scary at first, but what I learned from the preparation, during the recording sessions, and even in the editing room afterwards, was invaluable,” Houde said. “Hearing one's playing so closely teaches you the most honest lessons about your performing and about yourself. I am definitely not the same violist I was before this project. I have learned so much for my students and for myself.” 

“I also had a great feeling of duty towards these wonderful pieces. I wanted to ‘do them justice.’ It was not easy, but I learned to hear my playing in a new way, through others' ears, and I am proud to say that I am pleased with how everything has turned out.”

The American Viola

Houde collaborated on the album with WVU staff accompanist Sun Jung Lee, and producing and engineering for “The American Viola” was handled by WVU Recording Technology lecturer Mark Benincosa. Albany Records released the album.

“The American Viola” can be purchased through Albany Records, Amazon, iTunes, and can be found on Spotify and other streaming platforms.