UH’s International Piano Festival Celebrates 33 Years of Concerts, Master Classes

Festival Founder Abbey Simon Joined by Kirill Gerstein, John O’Conor

Abbey Simon

Masters of the grand piano from around the globe soon will converge on the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. Veterans and rising stars will be in the spotlight during the school’s 33rd Annual International Piano Festival (IPF) Feb. 5 – 7.

For three days, master musicians Abbey Simon, Kirill Gerstein and John O’Conor will deliver concerts and master classes at UH. Festival tickets can be purchased online or by calling 713-743-3313. Prices are as follows:

  • Recitals only - $60, $35 for students and seniors
  • Recitals and master classes - $85, $45 for students and seniors
  • Single recitals - $25, $15 for students and seniors
  • Single master classes - $10, $5 for students and seniors
  • Artist conversation luncheon - $15 (includes boxed lunch)

Recitals will be performed in UH’s Moores Opera House. Master classes will be conducted in Dudley Recital Hall. The luncheon will be in Room 108 of the Moores School of Music. All venues can be accessed from Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard.

Festival founder Simon is a UH institution and a legend in the world of classical music. As a youth, he honed his talents under the guidance of Josef Hofmann. In 1940, Simon earned the Walter Naumburg Prize. This led to worldwide performances in top concert halls including Carnegie Hall. He arrived in Houston in 1977 and continues to teach up and coming concert stars at the Moores School of Music. Simon is among the most recorded musicians of all time, and has not lost a beat in his nearly nine decades of playing piano.

The Russian-born Gerstein is a recipient of the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award and took first prize in the 2001 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. Additional honors include the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award and a 2010 Avery Fisher Grant. Gerstein performed with orchestras and symphonies in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Indianapolis and other major cities. He is a favorite soloist at the Houston Symphony, and this marks his solo recital debut at the IPF. Internationally, he has shared the stage with noted European orchestras such as the Czech, Munich, Rotterdam and Royal Philharmonics.

Irish pianist O’Conor has entertained audiences around the globe for more than 40 years. His talents have found warm receptions in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and other renowned concert halls. In addition to being an acclaimed performer, O’Conor is a dedicated educator. He holds the titles Distinguished Artist in Residence, professor of music and chair at the piano division at Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia.

A complete schedule of events for the International Piano Festival is as follows:

Feb. 5

  • 7:30 p.m. – Abbey Simon Recital in Moores Opera House featuring the works of Clementi, Schumann, Chopin and Ravel

Feb. 6

  • 9 a.m. – John O’Conor Master Class in Dudley Recital Hall
  • 12:30 p.m. – Artists’ Conversation Luncheon in Room 108 of the Moores School of Music
  • 2 p.m. – Abbey Simon Master Class in Dudley Recital Hall
  • 7:30 p.m. – Kirill Gerstein Recital in Moores Opera House, featuring the works of Bach and Liszt

Feb. 7

  • 11:30 a.m. – Kirill Gerstein Master Class in Dudley Recital Hall
  • 3 p.m. - John O’Conor Recital in Moores Opera House, featuring the works of Beethoven, Schubert and Field


Gerstein and O’Conor will perform on Steinway pianos complementing the Moores School of Music’s initiative to become an all-Steinway institution. Recently, an anonymous donor contributed $5 million to provide the school with 170 Steinway pianos. This donor challenged the school to raise $1 million for an endowed fund to support the maintenance of these instruments.