University of Houston International Piano Festival

The founder of the University of Houston International Piano Festival, Abbey Simon isn’t comfortable being called a legend. “It’s very easy for people to say things like that,” he tells us. “I’m lucky to have heard the greatest pianists, Josef Hoffman, Vladimir Horowitz and Arthur Rubinstein. Those were legends. I’m just an old pianist.” At 89, Simon can’t be called young, but just a pianist? Hardly. He’s been playing for more than 85 years. (The story is that while still a toddler, Simon heard a tune on the radio and promptly sat down at a piano and played it.)

He built a highly respected reputation as a concert pianist and eventually came to the University of Houston, where he’s a distinguished professor and where he founded the festival. After more than eight decades as a musician, Simon says his interest in the piano has never wavered. “You’re playing the same pieces, but you look for different sounds, different meanings, different everything,” he says, “I’ve become fascinated with the colors of the piano, the colors of harmony and of melody. That’s my prime interest right now.”

The festival will feature Simon in concert, along with two other pianists, Di Wu and Danny Driver. This is Wu’s debut at the festival, but not in Texas. She was a finalist at the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. She’ll perform music by Debussy, Prokofiev and Granados on Friday, while Driver, one of Europe’s top pianists, will perform the music of Debussy, Schumann and Beethoven on Saturday. Simon will tackle Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel and Rachmaninoff during his performance on Sunday. Several related events, including the annual Artists Conversation Luncheon and several master classes, are also on the schedule. Friday through Sunday. 4800 Calhoun. For a complete schedule, call 713-743-3313 or visit www.music.uh.edu/pianofestival. $5 to $85.
Feb. 4-6, 2011

 
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