Ashan Pillai (born 1969 in Colombo, Sri Lanka) is a British violist. He was educated as a music and academic scholar at Merchant Taylors School, London and then at the Royal Academy of Music, London, the University of Southern California, Los Angeles and the Juilliard School, New York City. His principal teachers were John White, Donald McInnes and Karen Tuttle.
Between 1994 and 1998 he won several prizes at international and national competitions including the Tertis and Rome International Competitions, the Royal Overseas League and Park Lane Group Competitions in London and Artists International in New York. These successes led to acclaimed debuts in London's Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room (1997–1999), New York's Carnegie Hall and festivals throughout the world including Salzburg, Tanglewood, Banff, Ravinia, Aspen, Casals (Puerto Rico, France and Barcelona), and Schleswig-Holstein. He has premiered works ( many dedicated for him) by noted Spanish composers, Anton Garcia Abril, Leonardo Balada, Francisco Fleta Polo etc.. and on an international stage, works by Krystof Penderecki, Wolfgang Rihm and Gavin Bryars.
Pillai has performed as soloist under the batons of Christian Zacharias, Eiji Oue, Andrew Parrott, Christopher Hogwood, Robert King, Lawrence Foster, with the English, Gulbenkian, Czech, Andorran and Scottish Chamber Orchestras, as well as I Musici, London and New York, several Spanish orchestras and collaborated with the likes of Lynn Harrell, Zacarias, the Kreutzer and Brodsky Quartets, and the Ensemble Modern, Frankfurt.
He was assistant principal violist in the English Chamber Orchestra (1995–2000), co-founding member of the Mobius Ensemble (London 1997–2006) violist in the Zukerman Chamber Players ( New York 2004-2010 ), the string quintet led by Pinchas Zukerman and is currently Principal Viola with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra ( 2000- ). Pillai is Professor of Viola at ESMUC (Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya) (from 2001), the Conservatori Superior del Liceu in Barcelona (from 2008) and visiting professor at the University Alfonso X in Madrid ( from 2012 ). In 2014 he was appointed professor in Musica en Compostela, the prestigious summer festival which specializes in Spanish music.
As a recording artist, Pillai has recorded widely for EMI, Naxos, ASV, Altara, Verso, Meridian, Bel, Columna and Oehms Classics including sonatas by Brahms, Bax, Debussy, Lluís Benejam, and Schubert, Gerhard, and concerti by Hoffmeister, Mozart, Leonardo Balada and Josep Soler.
Pillai edited the 12 Estudios o caprichos de mediana dificultad (12 Studies or Capriccios of Medium Difficulty) for viola solo (1881) by José María Beltrán Fernández (1827–1907), published by Clivis Publications.In 2016 he edited the first edition of the 11 sonatas from the Royal Palace in Madrid ( 1770 - 1819) for Boileau Publications and released the first recording of this monumental collection of works for viola.Viola
The Virtuoso Viola in Spain (1880–1910); Ashan Pillai (viola); Juan Carlos Cornelles (piano); Nîbius NIBI 127 (2017)
Schumann: Música of Cámara para clarinete, viola y piano (Schumann: Chamber Music for Clarinet, Viola and Piano); Trio Cervelló; Josep Fuster (clarinet); Ashan Pillai (viola); Enrique Bagaria (piano); Columna Música 1CM0357 (2016)
The Royal Palace in Madrid: Eleven Viola Sonatas (1778–1818); Ashan Pillai (viola); Juan Carlos Cornelles (piano); Nîbius NIBI 122 (2016)
Leonardo Balada – Concerto for Viola and Wind Ensemble (2009–2010); Ashan Pillai (viola); Carnegie Mellon Wind Ensemble; Naxos 8.573064 (2015)
Brahms: The Viola Sonatas / Herzogenberg: Three Legends; Ashan Pillai (viola); Juan Carlos Cornelles (piano); Verso VRS 2157 (2015)
Sonatas Españolas para Viola y Piano (Spanish Sonatas for Viola and Piano); Ashan Pillai (viola); Juan Carlos Cornelles (piano); Verso VRS 2149 (2013)
Josep Soler i Sardà – Poema de Vilafranca for viola, oboe, English horn, organ and chamber orchestra (1995); Ashan Pillai (viola), Eiji Oue (conductor), Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra; Edicions Albert Moraleda 0220 (2010)
20th Century Catalan Composers, Volume 6: Viola Works; Ashan Pillai (viola); Columna Música 1CM0207 (2010)
Només les flors: Catalan Works for Viola and Piano; Ashan Pillai (viola), Albert Giménez (piano); Columna Música 1CM0238 (2009)
Kalliwoda and Schubert; Ashan Pillai (viola), Michael Endres (piano); Oehms Classics, OC591 (2007)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Duo for Violin and Viola (1946); Ashan Pillai (viola), Philippe Honoré (violin); Naxos (2006)
Franz Anton Hoffmeister – Complete Works for Viola; Ashan Pillai (viola), Gulbenkian Orchestra, Christopher Hogwood (conductor); Oehms Classics, OC334 (2004)
Lluís Benejam – Sonata "Moments musicals" for viola and piano (1952); Ashan Pillai (viola), Albert Attenelle (piano); ASV Living Era (2004)
Claude Debussy – Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp; Ashan Pillai (viola), Lorna McGhee (flute), Alison Nicholls (harp); EMI 73162 (2003)
Morceaux intimes; Ashan Pillai (viola), Alison Nicholls (harp), Lorna McGhee (flute); Meridian (2002)
Arnold Bax – Fantasy Sonata for viola and harp (1927); Ashan Pillai (viola), Alison Nicholls (harp); Naxos 8554507 (2000)
Zukerman Chamber Players, Mozart and Dvořák Quintets; Altara ALT1025 (2007)
Zukerman Chamber Players, Mozart and Brahms Quintets; Altara ALT1011 (2005)
Herbert Howells: Chamber Music; Mobius; Naxos 8557188 (2005)
Jean Françaix – Three Quintets; Mobius; ASV Digital CD DCA 1090 (2000)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Chamber Music; Mobius; Naxos 8557765 (2006)