Tomà Iliev
ABS violinist Tomà Iliev was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He came to ABS through the 2016 Academy and has since participated in many concerts, a recent “Into the Woods” ABS Exclusive, and our two most recent recordings: Bach’s Orchestral Suites and “Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen sings Gluck, Handel, & Vivaldi.” Audiences will remember his recent rousing performance at the 2019 ABS Festival of Telemann’s “Frog” Violin Concerto.

Tomà was the winner of the Leipzig International Bach Competition’s 2014 Christa Bach-Marschall Foundation Prize. And in addition to his performances with ABS, he is the holder of the Ruth and Charles Poindexter chair with the Portland Baroque Orchestra. Having discovered his passion for music at an early age, he performs not only on Baroque and Classical violin, but also on Baroque and Classical viola, viola d'amore, tenor viol, bass viol, and—as you will hear below—on harpsichord!

Tomà is one of our most exciting young artists. His talents are many and wide, and he brings a calm but intense focus to his virtuosity. Read about his recent interests and experiences.

Get started by clicking on the video:
Q: How have you coped with sheltering-in-place?

A: It is hard to believe it has been over three months of isolation! Sheltering in place found me and my partner at home, in Portland, Oregon, and we have been here ever since. It has been the longest time I have spent at home with no travel in many years, so that has been a true lifestyle change for me. Aside from that, Portland is a great place to be, walks and runs were never discouraged provided you observe social distancing rules (which we do!). I have been taking full advantage of that, taking daily hikes and walks through different parks and neighborhoods and discovering new flora and wildlife each day really helps me stay sane and healthy. The structure from good daily exercise and a practice routine has been essential too.
Q: These days, lots of people are sharing lists of the favorite books, movies, etc. that might be enjoyed by others. Do you have any recommendations?

A: Yes! The past few months have not only been great for catching up on books, movies, and TV shows but also for reading on and finding out more about the ones I enjoyed. So, I am going to share some of my greatest hits from quarantine. 

Starting with books: one of my favorite reads at the beginning of quarantine was The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. Written with so much imagination and exemplifying a deep understanding of human nature, this series will take you to a whole new universe. Having a large choice of TV shows available means you always miss something that you know you should have watched a long time ago. That was the case with Twin Peaks: The Return for me. I had seen the first two seasons a while ago and The Return somehow did not make it into my list until now, so I am glad it finally did last month. It was a rollercoaster of mystery, surrealism, sudden twists, forming one of David Lynch’s best works in my opinion. The movie that most recently grabbed my attention and my heart was If Beale Street Could Talk .

Q: So many musical performances have been canceled recently, but have you been able to take on any new musical projects? Have you delved into repertory that you hadn’t had time to work on before? 

A: While it was hard to start practicing at the beginning, it did not take too long to realize that this is the perfect time for the kind of side projects that always end up on the back burner. One of these for me has been learning Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. Stretching the limit on my gut violin strings and taking me through operatic aria-like themes and dark, pensive passage work, it has been a real treat to come back to this piece. Aside from the fact that it will always be a work in progress (!), basking in the warmth of D major is a great way to start your day.

Another project that I have been able to realize to a larger extent over the past few months is not at all related to playing the violin, but the harpsichord instead. I am lucky to be housing a great instrument, built by Owen Daly. Having grown up playing the piano, harpsichord music started to intrigue me as soon as I first picked up the Baroque violin almost ten years ago. Having this instrument at home with more time than usual on my hands meant I was granted entrance to a treasure trove of amazing harpsichord music by François Couperin, Girolamo Frescobaldi, and Jean-Philippe Rameau amongst others. Luckily, I have had the opportunity to take lessons here and there with some of the best harpsichord players I know, including our own Corey Jamason (Thank you, Corey!). You can see me play a short harpsichord piece in the video below.
Q: Our audiences love you and your performances. And we’re so happy that you love to be with us at ABS. Are there any standout reasons why you look forward to your future projects with ABS?

A: Every time I come down to the Bay Area to join ABS my trip is accompanied with a great deal of excitement. I always look forward to wonderful music-making as well as being among great friends and inspiring musicians. Each program we perform is carefully prepared with great attention to detail and taste. By showtime, the music feels very dear to all our hearts, a true product of great musicality and collegiality. Another reason to look forward to future ABS projects is rejoining all my friends in the ABS community. From colleagues to audience members, I have met so many wonderful people whom I miss dearly and cannot wait to see and play with again.
Tomà Iliev, harpsichord  
Sarabande from Suite in A Minor
by Jean Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
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from all of us at ABS
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