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Historical Piano Concerts Series
About the Musicians

Vita and Ishmael Wallace, the Orfeo Duo

The Orfeo Duo’s mission is to bring inspiration and encouragement to people of all ages and backgrounds through music-making that expresses the breath of life. Siblings, Vita and Ishmael Wallace, the Orfeo Duo, are known for their close rapport with each other and with their audiences and for their power of communication. They perform from memory, and their interpretations are colored by exploration of historical performance practices and kindled by a spirit of improvisation. They’ve performed as the Orfeo Duo since 1984, giving concerts and leading workshops throughout the Americas and in Europe.

The duo has CDs on the VAI Audio, Marquis Classics, Unacorda, and Vienna Modern Masters labels and also appears on Tzadik. They are currently recording all ten Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano on the Fredericks’ c.1805-1810 Katholnig Piano heard in today’s concert.

Vita and Ishmael direct What a Neighborhood!, which celebrates their own neighborhood of West Harlem primarily through the music of living local composers, with the aim to encourage and inspire composers, foster appreciation of new American music, and nurture a sense of community that includes all the diversity of the area. The neighborhood concerts and workshops have received strong support from the community.

The Orfeo Duo were awarded six straight years of Chamber Music America residency grants for projects including improvisation and composition workshops for people of all ages in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and West Harlem, including homeless people. They have led numerous other workshops on improvisation, composition, and Baroque style, notably at Caramoor and Camphill Village in Copake, NY.

Vita Wallace plays Baroque violin in Anima, ARTEK, Dryden Ensemble, and Foundling, and is a frequent guest artist with other early music ensembles and festivals. She won the Felix Salzer Award at the Mannes College of Music, where she studied with Felix Galimir.

Ishmael Wallace, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and Mannes College, studied with Richard Goode. He won First Prize in the MTNA Yamaha Piano Competition. Ishmael is also a composer whose works have won many national competitions. His cantata The West Harlem Christ, celebrating West Harlem’s poor in their own words, was commissioned by Continental Harmony and premiered in 2006.