Praised by The London Times as “ravishing,” by The New York Times for his “elegant, velvety tone,” by The Los Angeles Timesas “energetic and sassy…exceptional” and by The Seattle Times as “sublime,” violist Richard Yongjae O’Neill has distinguished himself as one of the great instrumentalists of his generation. An Emmy Award winner, two-time Grammy nominee, and Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, he has achieved recognition and critical acclaim not only as a champion of his instrument but as a social and musical ambassador as well. He has appeared as soloist with the London, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Euro-Asian Philharmonics; the BBC, KBS, Hiroshima and Korean Symphonies; the Moscow, Vienna, and Württemburg Chamber Orchestras; Alte Musik Köln, Kremerata Baltica and Sejong with conductors Andrew Davis, Miguel Harth Bedoya, Vladimir Jurowski, Nicholas McGegan, Eiji Oue, Francois Xavier Roth, Vassily Sinaisky, Leonard Slatkin and Yannick Nezet-Seguin. Highlights of this season include collaborations with Gidon Kremer, concertos with Kremerata Baltica and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, a European tour and a complete Beethoven String Quartet cycle with the Ehnes Quartet, and the 10th anniversary of DITTO, his chamber music project and festival in South Korea.
As a recitalist he has performed in many of the greatest halls of the world including Carnegie, Alice Tully, Avery Fisher, Kennedy Center, San Francisco’s Herbst Theater, Wigmore Hall, Salle Cortot, the Louvre, Madrid’s National Concert Hall, Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colon, Tokyo’s International Forum and Opera City, Osaka Symphony Hall, and Seoul Arts Center. An Artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center as well as Principal Violist of Camerata Pacifica he frequently collaborates with the world’s greatest musicians including Emanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, Leon Fleisher, Gidon Kremer, Warren Jones, Garrick Ohlsson, Menahem Pressler, Daniil Trifonov, James Ehnes, Boris Giltburg, Steven Isserlis, Edgar Meyer and The Juilliard, Emerson, Borromeo, Symanovski String Quartets, among many others. Festival appearances include Marlboro, Aspen, Bridgehampton, Casals, Chamber Music Northwest, Dresden, Great Mountains, La Folle Journée, La Jolla, Mecklenburg, Menlo, Moritzburg, Mostly Mozart, Music Academy of the West, Prussia Cove, Saint Barthélemy, Saratoga, Seattle and Tongyeong.
A UNIVERSAL/Deutsche Grammophon recording artist, he has made ten solo albums and many other chamber music recordings which have sold more than 200,000 copies. He has remained one of the best selling South Korean recording artists for over a decade with multiple platinum disc awards. His recordings of Schoenberg were twice nominated for a GRAMMY in 2006 and 2010.
Dedicated to the music of our time, he has worked with composers Mason Bates, Elliott Carter, Paul Chihara, Unsuk Chin, Mario Davidovsky, John Harbison, Jo Kondo, Chris Paul Harman, Matthias Pintscher, Huang Ruo, George Tsontakis, Melinda Wagner, John Zorn, and has premiered works commissioned and composed for him by Carter, Harbison, Ruo, and Chihara. In 2018 he will premiere composer Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes with the composer at the piano for Camerata Pacifica.
A popular figure in South Korea, he has appeared on virtually all major television networks and newspapers and publications. His 2004 appearance in the KBS Documentary Series, “Human Theater” was viewed by over 12 million and led to a second series and his popularity with the Korean public. In 2013, he led a documentary series featuring his work with a multicultural youth orchestra for MBC, “Hello?! Orchestra” which led to an International Emmy in Arts Programming and a feature length film that debuted at the Busan International Film Festival. Recently he has been partnering with MBC and OXFAM, which brought him to the northern Rift Valley of Kenya in 2015 where he explored clean water access.
In his tenth season as artistic director of DITTO he has introduced tens of thousands to chamber music in South Korea. On its first two international tours, DITTO sold out Tokyo’s International Forum and Osaka Symphony Hall as well as the Shanghai Concert Hall. The first violist to receive the Artist Diploma from Juilliard, he holds a Bachelors of Music from The USC Thornton School of Music magna cum laude and a Masters from The Juilliard School: Donald McInnes, Karen Tuttle and Paul Neubauer were his mentors. In 2007 he was honored with a Proclamation from the New York City Council for his achievement and contribution to the arts. He serves as Goodwill Ambassador for the Korean Red Cross, The Special Olympics, UNICEF and OXFAM, runs marathons for charity and serves on the faculty of the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara.
He performs on two rare violas: one made by Matteo Goffriller of Venice, the ex-Trampler, made in 1727, and the other, a Gasparo da Salo, ex-Iglitzin, the Count of Flanders.