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KU Professor receives international acclaim for recordings—compared to “the most famous Liszt pianists of all time”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

LAWRENCE, KS—Fanfare magazine, one of the world's leading music journals, recently published an extensive interview with Steven Spooner, associate professor of piano at KU, as well as multiple glowing reviews of his latest recordings, The Historical Piano Recital Series.  Additionally, his collaboration on recently released Native Informant is at the top of the HBDirect bestseller list.

The Historical Piano Recital Series, a set of six recordings, was reviewed in the April edition ofFanfare and several critics hailed the brilliant performances by comparing Spooner’s playing to the most legendary performers of the past.

“Spooner is a pianist in the tradition that many believe died with the likes of Horowitz, Arrau, Bolet, Cziffra, and Wild” writes critic Radu A. Lelutiu. Critic Lynn René Bayley states, “He is assistant professor of piano at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Yet his talent, to my ears, is easily the equal of most major pianists of today and far superior to a large number of those ‘most exciting and dynamic pianists of their generation.’”

The performances of Liszt are especially noted and led critic Radu A Lelutiu to say, “In many respects, Spooner’s grandly-conceived reading of the Liszt Sonata reminds me of (Sviatoslav) Richter’s in its unflagging concentration and frequent clashes between demonic surges and mystical respites…Here one is able to compare Spooner directly to some of the most famous Liszt pianists of all time, such as Gyorgy Cziffra.”  In addition, Spooner received plaudits for his own compositions. Critic Jerry Dubins writes, “Spooner’s Argerich portrait is brilliantly realized, both as a composition and in his playing of it. It’s quite hair-raising.”

Spooner is also celebrating the release of Native Informant, a collection of works by the renowned composer Mohammed Fairouz. Spooner collaborates on the Song Cycle POSH, commissioned by Reach Out Kansas, Inc., featuring baritone Chris Thompson. Native Informant was released by Naxos this past month and is the first of several releases. The CD is currently number one on the bestseller list for HBDirect. 
 “Steven Spooner is clearly one of America's most distinguished pianists. His recording of my work on Naxos has received attention not often paid to any classical album and this largest of record labels has expressed deep commitment to our future work together,” Fairouz said.

Spooner’s Historical Piano Recital Series, as well as Native Informant, are available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.com

Photo of Steven SpoonerAbout Steven Spooner
Described as “dazzling,” (Washington Post) critics have hailed the powerful performances of pianist Steven Spooner and noted that the “American had everything: polished technique, musical intelligence, innate sensitivity, and a personality that reaches across the keyboard.” Spooner has performed around the world and is quickly becoming one of the more noted American pianists of his generation. He has given solo recitals at prestigious venues such as the Salle Cortot in Paris, Holland’s Vredenburg Centre, Budapest’s Great Hall of the Liszt Academy, Geneva’s Fete de la Musique and numerous halls across Europe, Latin America, South America and the United States. Recently, he made his Carnegie Hall recital debut in a tour sponsored by the Hungarian Government, and this season will perform in Rome (Academia Santa Cecilia), New York (Carnegie Weill Recital Hall), Washington D.C. (National Gallery of Art), Jakarta, Singapore (Esplanade Recital Hall), Budapest, Italy, and throughout Asia. Spooner wields an unusually large repertoire and recently mounted an enormous recital series akin to Anton Rubinstein’s 18 historic solo recitals of 1885, embracing the standard piano literature from the Baroque to composers of the 21st century. His continued interest in new music leads him to collaborate with Egyptian composer Mohammed Fairouz (commissioned by the ROKI Foundation) to premiere and record several of his works during the 2011/12 season. Spooner presented the 32 Beethoven Sonatas in nine recitals in the fall of 2012.

Spooner has been unusually successful in the limited number of international piano competitions in which he participated—he is prizewinner at each of the seven international piano competitions he has entered and top prizewinner at both the Hilton Head International Piano Competition and the Artlivre International Piano Competition. He captured First Prize and was recipient of the Niekamp Career Grant as most outstanding pianist in French music at the Paris Conservatory. He also holds prizes from the New Orleans International Piano Competition, and his performance at the 1999 International Liszt Competition was a sensational success that resulted in several return invitations to Holland. Russian piano legend and Moscow Conservatory Professor Viktor Merzhanov commented, “His performances possess the deep understanding of the contents of Liszt’s works, organic and instinctive feeling of form and outstanding virtuosity. The crystal-clear enunciation of each tone and the feeling of phrasal climaxes and structure are also worth mentioning. His pianistic art must attract more attention from concert organizers around the world.”

Spooner is an active chamber collaborator and has performed with a diverse and distinguished list of vocalists and instrumentalists, including Silk Road Ensemble Bassist Daxun Zhang, former Philadelphia Orchestra Trombonist, M. Dee Stewart, Baritone Chris Thompson, and prize-winning violinist Leor Maltinsky. Spooner’s orchestral engagements include performances with the Danubia Symphony Orchestra, Brevard Symphony Orchestra, Crescent City Symphony, New Orleans Civic Symphony, Ozark Chamber Orchestra, and recent performances with the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin during their tour of North America.

Spooner has released 14 recordings on the EMR Classics, Everything music and IU recording labels. He has studied at Paris Conservatory, Moscow and Tbilisi Conservatories in the former Soviet Union, and earned his doctorate at Indiana University, Bloomington. His teachers/coaches include Tatiana Nikolaeva (Moscow Conservatory), Karen Shaw, Edmund Battersby, and Leonard Hokanson (Indiana University, Bloomington), Emile Naoumoff (Paris Conservatory and Indiana University, Bloomington), and Nodar Gabunia (Tbilisi Conservatory), and Logan Skelton. In 2008 he was the final recipient of the Ivory Classics Foundation prize that enabled him to study with the legendary virtuoso Earl Wild.

He has served as guest artist-in-residence at Paris Conservatory Summer Sessions and has been appointed to the Artist Faculty of the Amalfi Coast Music Festival in Italy, the International Institute for Young Musicians, the Adam Gyorgy Castle Academy in Budapest, and the JCoM Fest in Jakarta. Spooner is increasingly in demand for his engaging and energetic masterclasses at major music institutions all over the world, such as the Paris Conservatory, Milan Conservatory, Liszt Academy of Music, and the Shanghai and Beijing Conservatories. Spooner currently serves on the piano faculty at the University of Kansas and specializes in workshops and lectures on a variety of performance and pedagogical topics. A dedicated and caring teacher, Steven’s students have been named winners of several prizes at national and international piano competitions. Spooner is a Steinway Artist. Further info: www.stevenspooner.com.

For more information, contact the KU School of Music at 785-864-3436. music.ku.edu.

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