Faculty Spotlight

Abbey Simon key to International Piano Festival's success

Music legend joined by Di Wu, Danny Driver for 2011 festival Feb. 4-6

Abbey Simon

Moores School of Music piano professor Abbey Simon leads the International Piano Festival.

Believe it or not, Abbey Simon has been playing the piano for eight decades. The distinguished professor of piano began tickling the ivories at the tender age of 3 and has yet to stop.

Each spring, Simon treats Houston fans to a sampling of his talents at the Moores School of Music's International Piano Festival. The event, which he founded in 1984, brings top pianists from around the globe to UH for three days of recitals and master classes.

The 2011 International Piano Festival runs Feb. 4-6 in UH's Moores Opera House and Dudley Recital Hall. In addition to Simon, acclaimed pianists Di Wu and Danny Driver will perform at the event.

"This festival offers the students and music lovers the chance to hear the most accomplished musicians from different parts of the world," he said. "We've had Argentines, Brazilians, Chinese, English, Italian. You name it, we have it."

Simon began exploring music as a toddler when he heard some music playing on the radio. He sat down at a nearby piano and began playing the same tune that was on the radio. From that moment, he focused all of his energies on the piano.

"I'm a very lucky man because I've known what I've wanted to do all of my life," he said. "I would never want to do anything else."

At this year's International Piano Festival, Simon — who turned 89 in January — will perform selections from Beethoven, Ravel, Chopin and Rachmaninoff during his concert at 3 p.m., Feb. 6 in Moores Opera House. He also will join guests Wu and Driver for his favorite part of the festival, the Artists Conversation Luncheon at 12:30 p.m., Feb. 5 in Room 108 of MSM. This brown bag lunch event provides audiences with an intimate opportunity to chat with the pianists and learn about their artistic processes.

Di Wu will make her IPF debut, but is no stranger to the Lone Star state. She was among the finalists of the prestigious Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. Born in China, Wu has performed around the world with top orchestras including the Beijing Philharmonic, the New York Pops and National Symphony Orchestra. Wu will perform selections from Debussy, Granados, Schoenberg and Prokiev during her concert at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 4 in Moores Opera House.

Driver hails from the United Kingdom, where he has established himself as one of Europe's top pianists. He has earned honors at the Royal Over-Seas League Competition and the BBC Radio 2 Young Musician of the Year Competition. He has shared the stage with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra among others. His most recent recording of the works of J.S. Bach's son, C.P.E. Bach, has been named one of National Public Radio's Records of the Year. Driver will perform works from Debussy, Schuman, Beethoven and York Bowen at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 5 in Moores Opera House.

Read more about Abbey Simon on his faculty profile page on the Moores School of Music website.

For a complete schedule of IPF events and ticket prices, visit http://www.music.uh.edu/pianofestival/.

—Mike Emery