The University of Houston Moores School of Music presents the 33rd annual International Piano Festival—a thrilling weekend of recitals and master classes with three of the world's great keyboard performers.
February 5-7, 2016
“…Mr. Gerstein is emerging as one of the most respected pianists of his generation.” — New York Times
The multifaceted pianist Kirill Gerstein has rapidly ascended into classical music’s highest ranks. With a masterful technique, discerning intelligence, and a musical curiosity that has led him to explore repertoire spanning centuries and styles, he has proven to be one of today’s most intriguing and versatile musicians. His early training and experience in jazz has contributed an important element to his interpretive style, inspiring an energetic and expressive musical personality that distinguishes his playing.
Mr. Gerstein is the sixth recipient the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, presented every four years to an exceptional pianist who, regardless of age or nationality, possesses broad and profound musicianship and charisma and who desires and can sustain a career as a major international concert artist. Since receiving the award in 2010, Mr. Gerstein has shared his prize through the commissioning of boundary-crossing new works by Oliver Knussen, Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau, Timothy Andres and Alexander Goehr with additional commissions scheduled for future seasons. Mr. Gerstein was awarded First Prize at the 2001 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Tel Aviv, received a 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award, and a 2010 Avery Fisher Grant.
Orchestral highlights of the 2014-15 season include performances of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Charles Dutoit, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Seguin, and Bernstein’s The Age of Anxiety with the Nashville Symphony, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and St. Louis Symphony. He makes his Minnesota Orchestra debut under Courtney Lewis, performing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1. He also returns to San Francisco Symphony to perform Thomas Adès’s In Seven Days, under the baton of the composer himself. The performance will also feature live video art by Tal Rosner. In recital, he appears on Carnegie Hall’s Keyboard Virtuosos series in Zankel Hall, performing works by Bartók, Bach, and Liszt.
Additional performances include the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, and Vancouver Symphony. Internationally, he plays with the Vienna Philharmonic, London’s Philharmonia and BBC Symphony Orchestras, the Gewandhaus Leipzig Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and makes chamber appearances at the Lockenhaus Festival, Salzburger Festspiele, and Schubertiade in Austria, Schloss Elmau in Germany, and the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. He is also the featured soloist in the opening concert of the Edinburgh Festival.
Last season, Mr. Gerstein made orchestral debuts with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Semyon Bychkov, and with the Cincinnati Symphony conducted by Louis Langree. In recital, he premiered a newly commissioned work by Timothy Andres, titled Old Friend. The work was featured on a program at Jordan Hall in Boston and for the Gilmore Foundation in Kalamazoo, MI.
His recent North American engagements have included performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Montreal, Oregon, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver symphonies among others. He was in residence at the San Antonio Symphony where he was soloist in both Brahms concertos during the orchestra’s Brahms Festival and he performed Rachmaninoff’s complete concertos in a three week residency with the Houston Symphony. He has also recently appeared at the Aspen Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Chicago’s Grant Park, with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Vail Valley Bravo Festival, Mann Music Center and Saratoga, with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, and with the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom. In 2012, Mr. Gerstein toured with long-time chamber music partner cellist Steven Isserlis, with performances in New York, Vienna, VA, Cleveland and Chicago, and he has, in recent seasons performed in recital at the 92nd Street Y and Town Hall in New York, as well as in Boston, Cincinnati, Detroit, Miami, Vancouver, Toronto, and at Washington’s Kennedy Center.
Internationally, Kirill Gerstein has played with such prominent European orchestras as the Czech, Munich, Rotterdam and Royal Philharmonics, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Dresden Staatskappelle, NDR Sinfonieorchester, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Swedish Radio Orchestra, Tonkünstler Orchestra Vienna, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne and Zurich Tonhalle, as well as with the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in Caracas with Gustavo Dudamel. He has also performed recitals in Paris, Prague, Hamburg, at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. He made his Salzburg Festival debut playing solo and two piano works with Andras Schiff and has also appeared at the Proms, Verbier, Lucerne and Jerusalem Chamber Music Festivals.
Mr. Gerstein’s second solo recording featuring Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Schumann’s Carnaval was released by Myrios Classics in June 2014. His first solo recording with works by Schumann, Liszt and Oliver Knussen, also on Myrios, was chosen by The New York Times as one of the best recordings of 2010. Mr. Gerstein also collaborated with Tabea Zimmerman on two recordings of sonatas for viola and piano by Rebecca Clarke, Henri Vieuxtemps, Brahms, Schubert and Franck for the Myrios label, released in February 2011 and November 2012. In summer 2014, he will record the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 and the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.
Born in 1979 in Voronezh, in southwestern Russia, Mr. Gerstein studied piano at a special music school for gifted children and while studying classical music, taught himself to play jazz by listening to his parents’ extensive record collection. After coming to the attention of vibraphonist Gary Burton, who was performing at a music festival in the Soviet Union, Mr. Gerstein came to the United States at 14 to study jazz piano as the youngest student ever to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music. After completing his studies in three years and following his second summer at the Boston University program at Tanglewood, Mr. Gerstein turned his focus back to classical music and moved to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Solomon Mikowsky and earned both Bachelors and Masters of Music degrees by the age of 20. He continued his studies in Madrid with Dmitri Bashkirov and in Budapest with Ferenc Rados. An American citizen since 2003, Mr. Gerstein now divides his time between the United States and Germany, where he has been a professor of piano at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart since 2006.
"A pianist of unbounding sensitivity" (Gramophone)
"He represents a vanishing tradition that favors inner expression and atmosphere over showmanship and bravura" (Chicago Tribune)
"Impeccable technique and musicality … it would be hard to imagine better performances" (Sunday Times – London)
"This artist has the kind of flawless touch that makes an audience gasp" (Washington Post)
"Exquisite playing" (New York Times).
The Irish pianist John O’Conor has been gathering wonderful reviews for his masterly playing for over forty years. Having studied in his native Dublin and in Vienna with Dieter Weber and been tutored by the legendary Wilhelm Kempff his unanimous 1st Prize at the Beethoven International Piano Competition in Vienna in 1973 opened the door to a career that has taken him all around the world.
He has performed in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand and has appeared with such orchestras as the London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, l'Orchestre National de France, the Scottish and Stuttgart Chamber Orchestras, the Israel Camerata, the NHK, Yomiuri, Kyushu, Kyoto and Sapporo Symphonies in Japan, the KBS Symphony in Korea, the Shanghai Sinfonietta, the Singapore Symphony, the New Zealand Symphony and the orchestras of Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Seattle, Montreal, Toronto, Tampa and Washington DC in North America.
He has given concerts in many of the world's most famous halls including Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, the Wigmore Hall and South Bank Centre in London, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Dvorak Hall in Prague and the Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo.
He also enjoys collaborating in Lieder Recitals and performing chamber music with many instrumentalists and ensembles such as the Cleveland, Tokyo, Vanbrugh, Vermeer, Takacs, Vogler, Ying, Audubon and Navarra Quartets.
Mr. O'Conor also continues to make significant contributions to the arts in his native country and has championed the works of Ireland's leading 19th century composer, John Field. He became a key figure in the development of young artists through his role as Director of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and was a co-founder of the Dublin International Piano Competition of which he is Artistic Director and Chairman of the Jury.
John O'Conor first gained widespread attention in the United States in 1986 with the release of his first volume of Beethoven Sonatas on the Telarc label. He went on to record the complete sonatas and these were issued as a box set in 1994. CD Review described Mr. O'Conor's performances of these sonatas as "recordings of the highest calibre and Beethoven playing at its best" and went on to say "This Beethoven series should become the complete set of choice".
Mr. O'Conor has made more than 20 recordings for the Telarc label including the complete Beethoven Bagatelles, cited by the New York Times as the best recording of these works; four volumes of Mozart Piano Concertos with Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra; numerous works of Schubert including the late A major Sonata, the complete Impromptus and Moments Musicaux, some Waltzes and the Trout Quintet with the Cleveland Quartet; and two volumes of short piano pieces entitled "Piano Classics" and "Autumn Songs". He has recorded most of the major works of John Field including the complete Concertos, Sonatas and Nocturnes. His recording of Field's Nocturnes featured on Billboard's classical charts for many weeks. He has also made a recording of his favourite Irish Airs with the Irish Chamber Orchestra entitled "Irish Classics".
In 2007 and 2008 he recorded the complete Piano Concertos of Beethoven with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andreas Delfs and these recordings have been greeted with great acclaim.
John O'Conor is deeply committed to the development of young pianists in Ireland and in other countries. He gives masterclasses and lectures in many of the places he performs as well as in many of the major music institutions including the Juilliard and Manhattan Schools in New York, the Peabody Institute, Harvard, Yale, Temple, Rutgers, Indiana, Texas and Seattle Universities and those in Vancouver, Kansas City and Tampa, the Ravinia Festival, the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Adamant Music School in Vermont, Piano Texas at TCU, the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, the Hamamatsu Piano Academy in Japan, Seoul National University and the National University of the Arts in Korea, the Australian National Academy and the Sydney Conservatorium in Australia, the Paris Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music in London.
He has been invited on the juries of most of the world's most prestigious International Piano Competitions including those in Leeds, Moscow (Tchaikovsky), Vienna (Beethoven), Warsaw (Chopin), Tel Aviv (Rubinstein), Hamamatsu, Beijing, Shanghai, Munich, Bolzano (Busoni), Cologne, Vevay (Clara Haskil), Cleveland, Salt Lake City (Gina Bachauer), Sydney, Pretoria, London, College Park (William Kapell), Valencia (Jose Iturbi), Hilton Head, Bonn (Beethoven), Seoul and Xiamen (China).
From 1997 to 2011 he took on the mantle of his revered professor Wilhelm Kempff and gave the annual Beethoven Interpretation Course in Kempff’s own villa in Positano, Italy where Kempff gave the course from 1957. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the course in 2007 a TV documentary was made entitled "Beethoven Bootcamp" which was shown in many countries and is now available on YouTube. Prof. O'Conor now gives this course annually at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin.
Prof. O'Conor is regarded as one of the most important piano teachers in the world today. He is Distinguished Artist in Residence, Professor of Music and Chair of the Piano Division at Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia, a faculty member at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, International Visiting Artist at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and Visiting Professor at Showa University in Japan. His students have won many international prizes (most recently First Prizes at the Maria Canals Competition in Barcelona in 2012 and the Beethoven Competition in Bonn in 2013) and he is in great demand for masterclasses and as a juror at the most prestigious International Piano Competitions worldwide.
For his services to music he has been awarded Honorary Doctorates by the National University of Ireland, by Trinity College Dublin, by the Dublin Institute of Technology and by Shenandoah University, Virginia and an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He has been decorated with the title "Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" by the French Government, has been awarded the "Ehrenkreuz für Wissenschaft und Kunst" by the Austrian Government, the "Order of the Rising Sun" by the Japanese Government, and has also been decorated by the Italian and Polish governments.
John O’Conor is a Steinway Artist.
Abbey Simon has been hailed as a super-virtuoso whose appearances in the concert halls of the world are eagerly anticipated not only by music lovers, but also by professional musicians who come to hear him spin his own particular magic. He is recognized as one of the grand masters of the piano.
Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer wrote, “Simon’s recital offered more than a glimpse into the fabled golden age of piano playing…His virtuosity is marked not only by speed, power, lightness and accuracy but also by intricate interplay of voices and lambent colors.” And critic Scott MacClelland reported from the West coast “when they’ve written the final chapter on great pianists of the 20th century, the name Abbey Simon will be included. Indeed, that name might well mark the first chapter on 21st-Century pianists as well.”
Through the years, critics have hailed Simon’s mastery and noted that his playing has its roots in the great pianists of the past. Improvising at the piano at the age of three, he had natural perfect pitch and began taking lessons at the age of five. After studying with David Saperton, the son-in-law of celebrated pianist Leopold Godowsky, Saperton took him to play for the great pianist Josef Hofmann. At the age of eight, Simon was accepted by Hofmann as a scholarship student at the Curtis Institute where he trained with fellow classmates Jorge Bolet and Sidney Foster, among others.
Upon graduation from Curtis, Simon went on to win numerous awards. He made his official debut in New York’s Town Hall as winner of the prestigious Naumburg Award. Following this success he performed at Carnegie Hall a number of times before his debut tour to Europe. His success in Europe was so great that he did not return to the U.S. for some 12 years.
He has been the recipient of the Federation of Music Clubs Award, the National Orchestral Association Award, and a Ford Foundation Award. Following his debut in Europe, he received the Harriet Cohen Medal and the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Award.
Simon’s recordings for Philips, EMI, HMV, and Vox make him one of the most recorded classical artists of all time. He has recorded all the concertos of Rachmaninoff, the complete works of Ravel, and Schumann’s Carnaval and Fantasy. His Chopin collection encompasses some 20 disks.
Abbey Simon has served on the faculties of such noted schools as Indiana University and the Juilliard School. Simon currently holds a Cullen Distinguished Professorship at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1977. Recently, Abbey Simon was presented in recital on the “Naumburg Looks Back” series in Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall.