The University of Houston Moores School of Music presents the 34th annual International Piano Festival—a thrilling weekend of recitals and master classes with three of the world's great keyboard performers. Opening with festival founder Abbey Simon, it continues with the recent winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition, Lucas Debargue, a scintillating program by British pianist Danny Driver, and a poetic recital by American Ann Schein.
February 9-12, 2017
“…Driver’s delivery was ideal: urgent, direct and unfussy, with touches of gentle eloquence and mysticism.”
The international critical acclaim that Danny Driver’s recordings and performances have generated over recent years has cemented his reputation as one of Britain’s most respected and versatile pianists. Described variously as ‘bold, exuberant and precise’ [The Guardian] and of ‘impeccable technique and musicianship’ [Gramophone], he has earned two Gramophone Award nominations, a National Public Radio Top 10 Award and, most recently, Limelight Magazine’s Instrumental Recording of the Year 2014 Award for his recording of Handel’s Eight Great Suites.
Danny Driver’s recent concerto appearances have included the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Minnesota Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Orchestra of Opera North, and Hong Kong Pro Arte. He has appeared twice at the BBC Proms, most recently with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Charles Dutoit. Other distinguished conductors with whom Driver has performed include Andrew Litton, Richard Farnes, Martyn Brabbins, Rebecca Miller, Rory Macdonald, Christopher Warren-Green, James Macmillan, and Bramwell Tovey; during 2016-17 he will perform together with Alexander Shelley and Mario Venzago.
Recitals feature prominently in Danny Driver’s schedule of engagements; he has appeared regularly at Wigmore Hall, most recently in a BBC Radio 3 live broadcast recital (Handel, Adès, Beethoven, C P E Bach, Schumann), in Germany, Italy, Israel, Sweden, the USA, China, and at many major venues in the UK. Highlights of Driver’s 2016-17 schedule will include début performances at the Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series (London), Music Toronto, the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, and the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
As a chamber musician Danny Driver has appeared at the Australian Chamber Music Festival, Bard Music Festival, Birdfoot Music Festival, Eilat Chamber Music Festival, Cayman Arts Festival, and Stockholm’s Festival O/Modernt. He collaborates regularly with violinist Chloë Hanslip, with whom he will perform extensively in Ireland, the UK, and Italy during April/May 2016, and with baritone Christian Immler, with whom he has given broadcast recitals for Deutschland Radio and Radio France. Driver’s long-standing partnership with ‘cellist Oliver Coates recently included performance of Morton Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field at King’s Place and Adès’ Lieux Retrouvés.
Driver’s fruitful relationship with London-based Hyperion Records has spawned a thoroughly acclaimed discography of works by C P E Bach, Handel, Schumann, and Balakirev, and also highly praised interpretations of neglected British composers such York Bowen, Benjamin Dale and Erik Chisholm, all of whom he has championed in concert as well as on record. A second contribution to Hyperion’s epic Romantic Piano Concerto Series, featuring works by Amy Beach, Dorothy Howell and Cécile Chaminade, is due for release in October 2016.
Danny Driver trained with Alexander Kelly and Piers Lane whilst studying at Cambridge University, with Irina Zaritskaya at the Royal College of Music in London, and completed his studies privately with Maria Curcio. As a student he won numerous awards including the Royal Over-Seas League Keyboard Competition and the title of BBC Radio 2 Young Musician of the Year.
Photo credit: Richard Houghton
“There has never been a foreign pianist who caused such a stir since Glenn Gould's arrival in Moscow and Van Cliburn's victory at the Tchaikovsky Competition." —Olivier Bellamy, Huffington Post France, July 2015
In 2015 the French pianist Lucas Debargue became the most talked-about artist of the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition.
Despite being placed 4th, his muscular and intellectual playing, combined with an intensely poetic and lyrical gift for phrasing, earned him the coveted Moscow Music Critics’ Award as ”the pianist whose incredible gift, artistic vision and creative freedom have impressed the critics as well as the audience.” He was the only musician across all disciplines to do so. Soon after the competition Debargue was signed by Sony Classical, and recorded a live recital for his debut release with music by Ravel, Liszt, Chopin and Scarlatti in his native city of Paris.
Debargue was born in 1990 in a non-musical family. In 1999 he settled in Compiègne, about 90km north of Paris and began his initial piano studies at the local music school at the age of 11.
At 15 Debargue ceased piano studies having found no musical mentor to help him share his passion with others and having become frustrated at playing solely for himself. He began to work, successfully for his Baccalaureate at a local college and joined a rock band. At 17 he relocated to the capital to study for a degree in Arts and Literature at Paris Diderot University and, remarkably, ceased playing the piano altogether for three years.
In 2010 he was asked to play at the Fête de la Musique festival in Compiègne, and this marked his return to the keyboard. Shortly after he was put in touch with his current mentor and guide, the celebrated Russian professor Rena Shereshevskaya, who is based at both the Rueil-Malmaison Conservatory and the École Normale de Musique de Paris ‘Alfred Cortot’. Seeing in Debargue a future as a great interpreter, Professor Shereshevskaya admitted him into her class at the Cortot School to prepare him for grand international competitions. It was at the age of 20 when Debargue started formal piano training.
Only four years later he entered the Tchaikovsky Competition in 2015, and the world instantly took note of a startling and original new talent. “There hasn’t been a foreign pianist who has caused such a stir since Glenn Gould’s arrival in Moscow, or Van Cliburn’s victory at the Tchaikovsky Competition,” said The Huffington Post.
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.
A performer of fierce integrity and dazzling communicative power, Debargue draws inspiration for his playing from many disciplines, including literature, painting, cinema and jazz. The core piano repertoire is central to his career, but he is also keen to present works by lesser-known composers such as Nikolai Medtner, Samuel Maykapar and Nikolai Roslavets.
Photo credit: Felix Broede-SONY Music Entertainment
““…one admired her grasp of style, her technical fluency, her ability to make a melody sing out clearly above (the) ornamentation, and the independence of her hands."
From her first recordings with Kapp Records, and her highly acclaimed Carnegie Hall recital debut as an artist on the Sol Hurok roster, Ann Schein’s amazing career has earned her praise in major American and European cities and in more than 50 countries around the world. Since her debut in Mexico City in 1957, she has performed thousands of concerts on every continent.
Ms. Schein has performed with conductors including George Szell, James Levine, Seiji Ozawa, James dePreist, David Zinman, Stanislaw Skrowacewski, and Sir Colin Davis, and with major orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Baltimore Symphony, the Washington National Symphony, the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Over her many years performing in London she appeared repeatedly in the Promenade Concerts in Albert Hall, including several Last Nights, when favorite soloists are invited to perform. In 1963 she was invited to perform at the White House during the Kennedy administration. Famed critic, Paul Hume, wrote in the Washington Post, “She drew the loveliest sound from the White House piano I have heard.”
In the 1980-81 season, Ann Schein extended the legacy of her teachers, Mieczyslaw Munz, Arthur Rubinstein, and Dame Myra Hess performing 6 concerts of the major Chopin repertoire in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall throughout an entire season to outstanding reviews and sold-out houses, the first Chopin cycle presented in New York in 35 years.
Ann Schein has received many distinguished honors for her Chopin performances, beginning with her first recordings in 1958 for Kapp Records. In a special survey of outstanding Chopin recorded performances during the bicentennial of Chopin’s birth in 2010, entitled “A Century of Romantic Music”, Gregor Benko and Ward Marston cited her performances of Chopin stating in her biography, “Ann Schein was trained in her native United States, where she studied with both Mieczyslaw Munz and Arthur Rubinstein. Her first recordings, made when she was 18 and 19, established her as one of the premiere Chopin pianists of our time.”
From 1980-2001 she was on the piano faculty of the Peabody Conservatory, and since 1984 she has been an Artist-Faculty member of the Aspen Music Festival and School. During 2008-09 seasons she served as a Visiting Faculty member at Indiana University. From 2007-10 she was on the jury of the Irving S. Gilmore Keyboard Festival, culminating in the prize going to Kirill Gerstein as the winner of the 2010 Gilmore Artist Award. In December of 2012 Peabody Conservatory honored her with a Distinguished Alumni Award.
Recent recordings include an album of all-Schumann for Ivory Classics and an all-Chopin recording of the Opus 28 Preludes and the b minor Sonata, Opus 58 for MSR Classics. An American album, also for MSR Classics, includes the 1945-46 Elliott Carter Piano Sonata and the Piano Variations of Aaron Copland, as well as a work written for her by double bass and guitar artist, Grammy Award winner and jazz great, John Patitucci, entitled “Lakes”. His nephew J.P. Redmond, a rising composer, has written a piano sonata dedicated to her named “Northeastern Sonata”.
A book written by the music critic for the Washington Post, author and musicologist, Cecelia Hopkins Porter, entitled, “Five Lives in Music: Women Performers, Composers and Impresarios from the Baroque to the Present” features Ann Schein as the 20th Century artist.
In 2015 she was invited to give a recital during the National MTNA convention in Las Vegas, receiving as well a video presentation of her long and illustrious career hosted by Sally Coveleskie, National Director, Higher Education Sales of the Steinway Company. She was presented with an inscribed Tiffany gold clock and honored for her more than 50 years as a Steinway artist.
In May, 2016, she performed the 3rd Rachmaninoff Concerto with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, the most recent of over 100 performances of this revered work throughout her career. She has been invited to serve as Visiting Professor at the Eastman School of Music for the 2016-2017 season as well as travelling across the United States performing and giving Master Classes throughout the coming year.
She and her husband, Earl Carlyss, for 21 years 2nd violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, have performed countless chamber music performances both as a duo and in other works with many distinguished colleagues. They are parents of two daughters, Linnea and Pauline, and have two granddaughters, Olivia and Maggie.
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.