Teng Li appointed principal viola of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Teng Li has been appointed as principal viola of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, effective September 15, 2024. Li will hold the Paul Hindemith Principal Viola Chair, which is endowed by an anonymous benefactor. The chair is named for the renowned 20th-century composer Paul Hindemith, who was also a distinguished violist and appeared as conductor and soloist with the CSO.

Li succeeds Charles Pikler who served as principal viola from 1986 until 2017. Li-Kuo Chang, who held the assistant principal viola chair from 1988 until 2023, also served as acting principal viola from 2017 until his retirement in 2023. The chair was named the Paul Hindemith Principal Viola Chair in 2015.

After winning the international audition for principal viola in May 2023, Li performed with the CSO as guest principal viola on several occasions and was offered the position in September 2023 by Riccardo Muti, the CSO’s Music Director Emeritus for Life. Li also joined Muti and the CSO for concerts in Chicago that month, as well as the concerts that opened Carnegie Hall’s season in October and again for the critically hailed January 2024 European Tour. Additional CSO appearances for Li as guest principal viola include April 2024 concerts with Zell Music Director Designate Klaus Mäkelä and this week’s subscription concerts (June 20-23) with guest conductor Lahav Shani.

Li is currently principal viola of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a position she has held since 2018. Prior to that, she was principal viola for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 14 seasons. She has also appeared with other premier ensembles throughout the world, including the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, National Chamber Orchestra, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Shanghai Opera Symphony Orchestra and Esprit Orchestra. She is also an ardent chamber musician, and a founding member of the Rosamunde Quartet, together with violinists Noah Bendix-Balgley and Shanshan Yao and cellist Nathan Vickery, with whom she has given performances and masterclasses throughout the United States and Canada.

Li’s discography includes her critically heralded solo recording 1939, for Azica Records, with violinist Benjamin Bowman and pianist Meng-Chieh Liu. She can also be heard on recordings with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Toronto Symphony Orchestra, most notably on the latter’s Juno Award–winning Vaughan Williams album for Chandos, which features Li in a performance of Flos Campi.

Originally from Nanjing, China, Li is graduate of the Central Conservatory in Beijing and the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Michael Tree, Joseph de Pasquale and Karen Tuttle. Also a committed educator, Li has taught at the Colburn School, University of Toronto, Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and Montreal’s Conservatoire de Musique, and will join the faculty of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts in the 2024/25 academic year.