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Meet the Musicians: IPF

From the newly-minted to the well-seasoned — the International Piano Festival brings some of the world’s best artists to the Moores Opera House.

The Living Legend
Name: Abbey Simon
Age: 98
Recordings: All the concertos of Rachmaninoff, the complete works of Ravel and Schumann’s “Carnaval” and “Fantasy.” Simon’s Chopin collection includes nearly two dozen discs.

Abbey Simon never gives up — this is why the celebrated pianist is in a league of his own. At three years old, he began tinkering on the keys and was taking lessons two years later. By eight years old, he was awarded a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. There, Simon would train alongside celebrated pianists Jorge Bolet and Sidney Foster, among others.

After graduating from Curtis, Simon won a multitude of awards, including the Naumberg Award which resulted in his debut at New York City’s Town Hall. He then went on to perform — on many occasions — at Carnegie Hall before touring Europe, where he eventually lived for 12 years.

In 2016, tragedy struck when the celebrated pianist was in a devastating car accident. His injuries were so severe, Simon faced the possibility of never having the use of his hands again without surgery and painful physical therapy.

Although Simon described the possibility of never regaining the ability to play his beloved piano ever again as “unbelievable” to the media, modern medicine allowed him to grace the stage again. Last year, with a newly-healed wrist and hands, the Cullen Distinguished Professor made a victorious comeback in Moores Opera House in the 2017 International Piano Festival. The night was especially poignant as it was the same celebrated festival he founded 30 years ago.

And this year, at almost 100 years old, Simon will do it all over again.

Abbey Simon will perform on Thursday, February 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Moores Opera House. He will teach a masterclass in Dudley Recital Hall on Saturday, February 3 at 2:30 p.m. 

The Medalist
Name: Kenny Broberg
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Recent Achievement: Silver Medalist in the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Now an internationally-recognized classical pianist, Kenny Broberg (B.M. Piano ’16) can attribute his training at Moores School of Music, particularly with Nancy Weems, with helping him achieve his current level of success. Weems, chair of the Moores School of Music Piano program and former Van Cliburn competitor, was one of Broberg’s mentors while he studied at Moores.

"Kenneth is a consummate musician with a wonderfully unique and personal musical voice,” said Weems. “He deserves to be on the world stage and I have nothing but the highest possible hopes for his brilliant future career. It was one of the greatest joys of my own life to be his teacher and mentor."

As a silver medalist in the Van Cliburn, Broberg was awarded a $25,000 cash prize, three years of individualized management and U.S. concert tours, and a live recording partnership with Universal Music Group. Before this prestigious honor, Broberg won several competitions both the United States and abroad. From Sydney to Seattle, there are very few places this phenom hasn’t performed. At only 24, this distinguished alumnus is on a swift ascent to stardom.

Kenny Broberg will teach a masterclass on Thursday, February 1 at 2 p.m. in Dudley Recital Hall. He will perform on Friday, February 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Moores Opera House. 

The Muse
Name: Nadejda Vlaeva
Current City: New York
Record Label: Hyperion

At the age of 15, Nadejda Vlaeva was already winning. Two of her awards were for Liszt competitions in Italy and Hungary. She also received the Yamaha Award for best interpretation and is an official artist for the label. With recordings that have been described as “exquisite” (Clavier) and “unfailingly sympathetic and musical” (American Record Guide), it’s hardly surprising that Vlaeva’s music inspires other artists.

Ouveture,” a short animation that premiered in Lincoln Center in 2014, was inspired by Vlaeva’s music. Her work is also featured on the soundtrack of the documentary “In Search of Cezanne.” And more recently, Vlaeva was selected to perform live accompaniment for BBC’s “Planet Earth II” at the EG Conference. Vlaeva continues to take her talent and inspiration around the world, performing regularly in North America, Europe and Asia.

Nadejda Vlaeva will teach a masterclass on Saturday, February 3 at 9 a.m. in Dudley Recital Hall and performs in concert at Moores Opera House on Sunday, February 4 at 3 p.m.

The Future Patriarch
Name: Alessio Bax
Hometown: Bari, Italy
Honors: Avery Fisher Career Grant (2009) 

At 19, Alessio Bax won the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan, beginning a trajectory of artistic victories. In 1993, he entered the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition. After seven years of participation, he placed first in the competition. Bax would eventually win the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center as well as the Andrew Wolf Chamber Music Award. 

Blending his mastery with musical acumen, Bax has been described as “one of the most remarkable young pianists now before the public” by Gramophone. Now part of the music faculty at Southern Methodist University, he and his wife, pianist Lucille Chung, are co-directors of the Joaquin Achucarro Foundation. The couple tour the world performing together, while also raising their young daughter, Mila. Bax is able to maintain what some would consider a tough balancing act with a fresh perspective and sense of humor. In 2016, he told National Public Radio about the “inside joke” with a Bach selection he was about to perform, “The composer (Bach) asks the pianist to do three things at the same time, which is very similar to what goes on in a new parent’s life.” Watch his NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert.

Alessio Bax will perform at Moores Opera House on Saturday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m. He will also teach a masterclass in Dudley Recital Hall on Sunday, February 4 at 10 a.m.