Tony Arnold is a luminary in the world of chamber music and art song. Today’s classical composers are inspired by her inherently beautiful voice, consummate musicianship, and embracing spirit” (Huffington Post). Hailed by The New York Times as “a bold, powerful interpreter,” she is internationally acclaimed as a leading proponent of contemporary music in concert and recording, having premiered hundreds of works by established and emerging composers. Since becoming the first-prize laureate of both the 2001 Gaudeamus International Competition (NL) and the 2001 Louise D. McMahon Competition (USA), Arnold has collaborated with the most cutting-edge composers and instrumentalists on the world stage and shares with audiences her “broader gift for conveying the poetry and nuance behind outwardly daunting contemporary scores” (Boston Globe). Her unique blend of vocal virtuosity and communicative warmth, combined with wide-ranging skills in education and leadership were recognized with the 2015 Brandeis Creative Arts Award, given in appreciation of “excellence in the arts and the lives and works of distinguished, active American artists.”
As the soprano of the intrepid International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Arnold is a catalyst for dozens of groundbreaking projects, the most recent of which is David Lang’s Whisper Opera in ICE’s touring production directed by Jim Findlay. She has toured the U.S. extensively as a member of the George Crumb Ensemble and has become the voice most associated with Crumb’s music since the beloved Jan DeGaetani. A noted guest artist at international festivals on four continents, Arnold has been featured at the Darmstadt Festival and Witten New Music Days (Germany), Time of Music (Finland), Cervantino (Mexico), Musica Sacra Maastricht (Netherlands), Tongyeong Festival (Korea), Perspectives XXI Festival (Armenia), and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. She regularly appears with leading ensembles including the JACK Quartet, Orion Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Talea Ensemble, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Now, Los Angeles Philharmonic Green Umbrella, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
With more than 30 discs to her credit, Arnold has recorded a broad segment of the modern vocal repertory with esteemed chamber music colleagues. Her recording of George Crumb’s iconic Ancient Voices of Children (Bridge) was nominated for a 2006 Grammy Award, and her recording with ICE of Nathan Davis’ On the Nature of Thingness (Starkland) was named Best Contemporary Classical Album at the 2016 Independent Music Awards. Other notable releases include György Kurtág’s monumental Kafka Fragments (Bridge), Jason Eckardt’s uncompromising Undersong (Mode) and Tongues (Tzadik), Olivier Messiaen’s mystical Harawi (New Focus), and the complete Webern project under the direction of Robert Craft (Naxos). Of the Webern, The Guardian writes, “sung with remarkable poise and warmth by soprano Tony Arnold…each [song] is a perfectly etched miniature, a nugget of impacted lyricism, and Arnold unwraps them with immense care.”
A strong advocate for the creation and commissioning of new music, Arnold’s artistry has attracted many of the most gifted composers of our time. The growing repertoire of vocal chamber music now includes major works written for her voice by Georges Aperghis, Eric Chasalow, Philippe Manoury, Josh Levine, George Crumb, Pamela Madsen, Fredrick Gifford, David Liptak, Brett Dean, Christopher Theofanidis, Jason Eckardt, Hans Tutschku, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, Jesse Jones, Nathan Davis, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, John Zorn, and David Gompper, amongst others. In 2012, Arnold and violinist Movses Pogossian were the recipients of a Chamber Music America Commissioning Grant to support the creation of Seven Armenian Songs by Gabriela Lena Frank. Upcoming commissioning projects include a new work for voice with the International Contemporary Ensemble by Marcos Balter and the premiere of Amy Williams’s Fünf Worte for soprano and harmonium.
Arnold has worked on a sustained basis with young composers and performers, sparking new musical ideas and fostering collaboration with succeeding generations. In the summer of 2017, she will join the vocal arts faculty of the venerable Tanglewood Music Center, followed by an appointment to the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory beginning September 2017. In 2015-16, she was the Kunkemueller Artist-in-Residence at the Boston Conservatory and was simultaneously in residence at Brandeis University as part of the Brandeis Creative Arts Award. In 2009, Arnold was the first performer ever invited to be the Howard Hanson Distinguished Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music. For over a decade she served on the faculty of the University at Buffalo, where she founded the extended techniques vocal ensemble BABEL. She is currently on the faculty of the Wellesley Composers Conference (Mass.), the soundSCAPE Festival (Italy), and New Music on the Point (Vt.). She has performed, lectured, and given master classes as a guest in over 50 universities worldwide.
Arnold is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University. Growing up in suburban Baltimore, she composed, sang, and played every instrument she could persuade her parents to let her bring home, but never intended to become a professional vocalist. Instead, she applied her varied musical background to the study of orchestral conducting. Following graduate school, she was a fellow of the Aspen Music Festival (as both conductor and singer), and she enjoyed success as the music director of several orchestras in the Chicago area. In her early 30s, Arnold reconnected with her love of singing and discovered a special ability for making the most complex vocal music accessible to every audience. Having been inspired by many mentors, she is especially indebted to the teaching of sopranos Carmen Mehta and Carol Webber, conductors Robert Spano and Victor Yampolsky, and composer György Kurtág.