The founder of the University of Houston International Piano Festival, Abbey Simon isnt comfortable being called a legend. Its very easy for people to say things like that, he tells us. Im lucky to have heard the greatest pianists, Josef Hoffman, Vladimir Horowitz and Arthur Rubinstein. Those were legends. Im just an old pianist. At 89, Simon cant be called young, but just a pianist? Hardly. Hes 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 hes 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. Youre playing the same pieces, but you look for different sounds, different meanings, different everything, he says, Ive become fascinated with the colors of the piano, the colors of harmony and of melody. Thats my prime interest right now.
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The festival will feature Simon in concert, along with two other pianists, Di Wu and Danny Driver. This is Wus debut at the festival, but not in Texas. She was a finalist at the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Shell perform music by Debussy, Prokofiev and Granados on Friday, while Driver, one of Europes 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