Baroque violinist Tekla Cunningham delights in bringing music of the baroque, classical and romantic eras to life with vivid and expressive historically informed performances. Her new recording Stylus Phantasticus with Pacific MusicWorks is earning critical praise for its “tender expressivity”, “dramatic flair and dark wit”, “songlike expressivity” and “Terpsichorean flair”. In an album lauded for “vocal plushness and “vibrant lyricism”, Tekla is described as “a marvel on her Italian instrument, an endlessly songful bird”. Early Music America describes the recording as “played with verve, the music presented here reaffirms the old notion that instrumental music can have the flair of any theatrical spectacle. … a stellar vessel for the boldest showmanship.” Her concert performances have been described as “ravishingly beautiful” and “stellar”. “Enough can’t be said for Tekla Cunningham, who conducts with head, eyes, and even eyebrows as she plays. She is a consummate musician whose flowing solos and musical gestures are a joy to watch.”
During the quarantine, Tekla tended to her sourdough starter, spent a lot of time on zoom, taught baking classes online to raise funds for musical organizations across America, played concerts for video cameras and graduated from a yoga teacher training course at Seattle Yoga Arts. She now offers yoga classes for musicians on zoom. For well over a year, Tekla has been playing the Brahms violin sonatas weekly with pianist Sheila Weidendorf, and their project “Between Heaven and Earth: A Year with Brahms” is now emerging as a concert program with a focus on 19th century performance practices.
She is the founder and director of the Whidbey Island Music Festival, which recently wrapped up its 16th season, co-artistic director of Pacific MusicWorks (with Stephen Stubbs and Henry Lebedinsky) and artist in-residence at UW Seattle where her students are a source of inspiration and joy. Her greatest musical love is music of the baroque and chamber music of all stripes, though she can’t seem to quit Johannes Brahms.
Tekla studied music at Peabody Conservatory, history and German literature at Johns Hopkins University, and then continued her musical studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, Austria with Josef Sivo and Ortwin Ottmaier and earned a MM at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she studied with Ian Swenson. In addition to performances on the violin, Tekla enjoys playing viola and viola d’amore on occasion. Tekla plays on a Sanctus Seraphin violin made in Venice in 1746.
Tekla serves on the boards of directors of Early Music America and the Whidbey Island Arts Council.