Kim Kashkashian's quest for new directions and forms, which she obtains through intense and continuous work with composers, is an active part of her musical life. As a result of these relationships with Gubaidulina, Penderecki, Kancheli, Kurtág, Mansurian, Pärt and Eötvös, and most recently with Eitan Steinberg, Betty Olivero, Ken Ueno and Thomas Larcher, she has extensively enlarged the repertoire for solo viola. Her commitment to chamber music, which began during years of participation at the Marlboro Music Festival where she was strongly influenced by her work with Felix Galimir, continues through appearances at the Salzburg, Marlboro and Lockenhaus Festivals. Current ongoing partnerships include duos with pianist Robert Levin, percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky, and harpsichordist Robert Hill.
Kashkashian has made guest appearances with the Tokyo, Guarneri, and Galimir Quartets and toured with a unique quartet which included violinists Gidon Kremer and Daniel Phillips and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Recordings by Kim Kashkashian give an index of the range of her activities. After earlier recordings of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante and Divertimento KV 563 with DGG and Sony, her extensive discography with ECM comprises many works including the complete Viola Sonatas of Hindemith, the Shostakovich Sonata Op. 147 (Robert Levin, piano), the solo concerti from Britten, Penderecki, Kancheli and Schnittke as well as works by Linda Bouchard and Paul Chihara for viola and percussion (Robyn Schulkowsky), the Bach Sonatas for viola da gamba and cembalo (Keith Jarrett), music from Eleni Karaindrou for the film Ulysses' Gaze by Theo Angelopoulos, and a chamber music CD with works of Kurtág and Schumann together with Eduard Brunner, clarinet and Robert Levin, piano. Kashkashian's recording, with Robert Levin, of the Brahms Sonatas won the Edison Prize in 1999. Her June 2000 recording of concertos by Bartók, Eötvös and Kurtág won the 2001 Cannes Classical Award for a premiere recording by soloist with orchestra. In January 2002, ECM New Series released Voci, her recording of two large works by Luciano Berio. The album comprises the title work for viola and orchestra as well as Naturale, a related work for viola and percussion (Robyn Schulkowsky), and archival field recordings of Sicilian folk music. Hayren and Monodia, released in 2003 and 2004, respectively, focus on Kashkashian's work with the Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian.
Kashkashian's extensive teaching activities have included professorships at the University of Indiana in Bloomington and at Conservatories in Freiburg and Berlin, Germany. In September 2000, she began teaching viola and chamber music at the New England Conservatory in Boston.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, of Armenian descent, Kashkashian graduated from the Peabody Conservatory of Music where she studied with Walter Trampler and Karen Tuttle.
Highlights of upcoming seasons include world premieres of the Betty Olivero viola concerto, the Bartók concerto with Stockholm, Seoul, Tai Pei, Hamburg and Cleveland orchestras, as well as the premiere of the Steinberg-Ueno theatre project.