1. Faculty

Dimitri Murrath

Co-Chair, String and Piano Chamber; Viola

“Murrath has phenomenal technical ability … astonishing skill. He is a very accomplished musician indeed.”
—The Strad

Courses Taught

  • Private Lessons
  • Chamber Music

Education

  • Artist Diploma, New England Conservatory
  • MM, Guildhall School of Music and Drama
  • BM, Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Ensembles

  • Boston Chamber Music Society

Awards and Distinctions

  • Avery Fisher Career Grant, 2014
  • First Prize, Primrose International Viola Competition, 2008
  • Second Prize, Tokyo International Viola Competition, 2009
  • Special Prize for a Contemporary Work, ARD Munich Competition

What is your hometown?

Brussels, Belgium

Who were your major teachers?

Kim Kashkashian, David Takeno and Natalia Boyarsky. Atar Arad with whom I worked for two Summers was also a major influence.

Defining moment you decide to pursue becoming a professional musician?

In middle school, the moment I realized that no matter what class I was sitting in, I was still singing a Schubert or Beethoven symphony in my head.

What was the turning point in your career?

There were several. First was meeting and playing violin for Yehudi Menuhin, which led to attending his school in England. When I was there, I got to play chamber music on his viola, and fell in love with the instrument. It makes it all the more meaningful to be teaching at SFCM where Menuhin studied!

The turning point for my move from London to the US was going to the Ravinia Festival and meeting Kim Kashkashian. That is what led me to go study in Boston.

One more important moment came at the time I was fortunate to win the Primrose competition. If it had not been for New England Conservatory needing a viola teacher at that time, I would have gone back to Europe. Instead, I started teaching and performing more here in the US.

What are your most important collaborations?

I had the chance to work with some incredible musicians. There are things I try to recapture from each of those experiences. From Richard Goode, I loved his sense of freedom; from Mitsuko Uchida, her expressive intensity and care of each note. Gidon Kremer struck me with his ability to create tension in performances.

Viola-wise, playing alongside Nobuko Imai, Tabea Zimmerman and Kim Kashkashian really opened my eyes and ears to how they approach the instrument from different angles.

What is your favorite recording?

I have so many! I will have to go for my favorite viola recordings then: Hindemith Sonatas with Kim Kashkashian and Robert Levin; Saltarello by Garth Knox (which includes music for the viola d’amore).

What is a special memory you have from a concert you played in?

It was playing a Mendelssohn string quartet with violinist Pamela Frank when she first started performing again. It was one of those magical moments you felt the whole group was breathing as one. There was trust and we all felt so privileged to be able to just play music!

What is a special memory from a performance in which you were a listener?

Leon Fleischer playing Schubert Sonata in B-flat major. Time simply stopped during that performance.

What do you like to do outside of music?

Reading. Classic literature and books on psychology and pedagogy.

What question do you wish students would ask sooner rather than later?

‘How can I practice effectively?’ and ‘What is my goal here?’

What is your teaching philosophy?

I give students the help according to their needs. It is important for violists to approach the instrument in a way that is physically sustainable and this means with little to no excessive tension. When students have the freedom to control their instrument, they naturally become more expressive. For this reason, I make a point to help the students build a strong technical foundation.

From the musical side, I also try to help the student discover the story they want to tell through the music, while staying true to the composer’s intentions.

What are the skills you want your students to leave school with?

The goal is to have each student leave the school with a strong set of skills that allows them to grow for many years after they graduate. I believe students should have strong skills in all these areas: solo, chamber music, orchestra, teaching, historical performance. Getting better in one area helps the others too, and it is best in these changing times to be adaptable. That means having a wide range of skills.

Do you have studio classes? How do they run?

My studio has a weekly performance class. About half of it is devoted to students performing their current repertoire for each other. The other part is used for playing scales and technical exercises for one another. Each month, we go through a special exercise book on one aspect of playing (e.g. shifting, double stops). We keep it constructive, so it is nothing to be afraid of!

What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?

“Practice focusing on one thing at a time!” I wish I knew this sooner as a student! So many hours could have been used more effectively. It is part of the learning process.

What is your daily practice routine?

When I was a student, and now when I am preparing for solo recitals, I would practice three to four hours every day. Regularity is important.

Whether or not I am preparing for something, I like to play every day and divide my time between warm up exercises, shifting exercises, scales, arpeggios, an etude/caprice and some Bach. I try to play Bach every day, it is good for the soul.

If you could play only three composers for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Bach, Beethoven and Schubert.

From a music history perspective, what year and city are most important to you?

1919: an important year for the viola, with Hindemith, Bloch and Clarke writing their major viola sonatas that year.

What recordings can we hear you on?

My first full album ‘Beginnings’ was released in 2017 with sonatas by Vieuxtemps, Clarke and Hindemith. I am also playing on several contemporary music recordings. The easiest way to listen to me is to find me on youtube and Spotify.

What is your unrealized project?

Learning the viola d’amore