New York Principals
Sheryl Staples, Violin; Cynthia Phelps, Viola; Carter Brey, Cello
Violinist Sheryl Staples joined the New York Philharmonic as Principal Associate Concertmaster, The Elizabeth G. Beinecke Chair, in September 1998 and currently serves as Acting Concertmaster, The Charles E. Culpeper Chair. She made her solo debut with the Philharmonic in 1999 performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, led by Kurt Masur, and has since been featured in concertos by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Haydn, Bach, and Vivaldi with conductors including Alan Gilbert, Lorin Maazel, and Sir Colin Davis. In addition she has performed as soloist with more than 40 orchestras nationwide, including The Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Diego and Richmond Symphony Orchestras, and Louisiana Philharmonic. In November 2014 she performs Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante with Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps, led by Jaap van Zweden.
A great lover of chamber music, Ms. Staples frequently performs in the New York area in venues including Avery Fisher Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, 92nd Street Y, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ms. Staples has performed chamber music for U.S. Ambassadors in London, Paris, Berlin, Beijing, and Hong Kong, and in 2013 she toured Mexico, Brazil, and Chile. Recent summer festival appearances include La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, Boston Chamber Music Society, and Salt Bay Chamberfest. She has also collaborated and performed at the chamber music festivals of Santa Fe, Mainly Mozart, Seattle, Aspen, Sarasota, Martha’s Vineyard, Strings Music Festival, and Brightstar Music Festival. She appears on three Stereophile compact discs with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.
Sheryl Staples is a native of Los Angeles, where she developed her love for ensemble work at an early age. She began studying the violin at age five, and her major mentors were Robert Lipsett and Heiichiro Ohyama. Before finishing studies at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Thornton School of Music, Ms. Staples was appointed concertmaster of the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and other professional ensembles in Los Angeles. She then became concertmaster of the Pacific Symphony in 1994 while enjoying a varied career consisting of solo appearances, chamber music, teaching (at USC’s Thornton School of Music and the Colburn School of Performing Arts), and Hollywood studio recording work for numerous major motion pictures.
At the age of 26 Ms. Staples joined The Cleveland Orchestra as associate concertmaster, a position she held for three years. In addition, she taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Encore School for Strings, and Kent/Blossom Music Festival, and she was a member of the Cleveland Orchestra Piano Trio. Currently she is on faculty at The Juilliard School working with students aspiring toward orchestral careers.
Ms. Staples resides in New Jersey with her husband, percussionist Barry Centanni, and children, Michael and Laura. Mr. Centanni and Ms. Staples premiered William Kraft’s Concerto a Tre for piano, violin, and percussion, written for them, at Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society’s summer festival and recorded it for release on the Albany Records label in 2008. They also premiered David Sampson’s Black River Concerto for solo violin, percussion, and orchestra in April 2011 with the Montclair State University Symphony.
Ms. Staples performs on the “Kartman” Guarneri del Gesu, c. 1728, previously on loan from private collector Peter Mandell and now in the collection of the New York Philharmonic.
Cynthia Phelps is the Philharmonic’s Principal Viola (The Mr. and Mrs. Frederick P. Rose Chair). Her solo appearances with the Orchestra have included performances on the 2006 Tour of Italy, sponsored by Generali, and the 1999 premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Two Paths, which the Orchestra commissioned for her and Philharmonic Associate Principal Viola Rebecca Young. Other solo engagements have included the Minnesota Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and Orquesta Sinfónica de Bilbao. Ms. Phelps performs with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Boston Chamber Music Society, and Bargemusic. She has toured internationally with the Zukerman and Friends Ensemble; appeared with The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and the Guarneri, American, Brentano, and Prague string quartets; and has given recitals in the music capitals of Europe and the U.S. Her honors include the Pro Musicis International Award and first prize in the Lionel Tertis International Viola and Washington International String competitions. Her most recent album, for flute, viola, and harp, on Telarc, was nominated for a Grammy Award.She has released a solo CD on Cala Records. Ms. Phelps has performed on PBS’s NPR, Radio France, and RAI in Italy.
Carter Brey was appointed Principal Cello, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Chair, of the New York Philharmonic in 1996. He made his official subscription debut with the Orchestra in May 1997 performing Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations under the direction of then Music Director Kurt Masur, and has since performed as soloist each season.
From the time of Mr. Brey’s New York and Kennedy Center debuts in 1982, he has been regularly hailed by audiences and critics for his virtuosity, flawless technique, and complete musicianship. He rose to international attention in 1981 as a prizewinner in the Rostropovich International Cello Competition. The winner of the Gregor Piatigorsky Memorial Prize, Avery Fisher Career Grant, Young Concert Artists’ Michaels Award, and other honors, he also was the first musician to win the Arts Council of America’s Performing Arts Prize.
Mr. Brey has appeared as soloist with virtually all the major orchestras in the United States, and performed under the batons of prominent conductors including Claudio Abbado, Semyon Bychkov, Sergiu Comissiona, and Christoph von Dohnányi. His chamber music career is equally distinguished; he has made regular appearances with the Tokyo and Emerson string quartets as well as The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and at festivals such as Spoleto (both in the United States and Italy), and the Santa Fe and La Jolla Chamber Music festivals. He presents an ongoing series of duo recitals with pianist Christopher O’Riley; together they recorded Le Grand Tango: Music of Latin America, a disc of compositions from South America and Mexico released on Helicon Records. On another CD he collaborated with violinist Pamela Frank and violist Paul Neubauer in Aaron Jay Kernis’sStill Movement with Hymn (on Decca’s Argo label). He also recorded all of Chopin’s works for cello and piano with pianist Garrick Ohlssen (currently available on Hyperion).
Mr. Brey was educated at the Peabody Institute, where he studied with Laurence Lesser and Stephen Kates, and at Yale University, where he studied with Aldo Parisot and was a Wardwell Fellow and a Houpt Scholar. His violoncello is a rare J. B. Guadagnini made in Milan in 1754.