March 21, 2018
By Erich Burnett
Photo credit: Hirotoshi Sato

Famed performer’s appointment begins with the 2018-19 academic year.

Internationally renowned pianist Dang Thai Son will join the Oberlin Conservatory of Music faculty as professor of piano, an appointment that begins in the fall of 2018.

Dang is regarded as a masterful interpreter of the works of Chopin and French repertoire. He has performed extensively in top concert halls and with major orchestras around the world, and has enjoyed collaborations with artists ranging from Vladimir Ashkenazy to Pinchas Zukerman.

"We are thrilled that the esteemed pianist Dang Thai Son will be joining our faculty,” says Professor of Piano Alvin Chow, chair of Oberlin’s Piano Department. “We felt an instant musical and personal connection with him. He has a most distinguished international career not only as a superb performing artist, but also as a master teacher and jury member of the world’s most prestigious piano competitions. We are truly excited about the insights and passion he will bring to our already acclaimed piano faculty."

Dang rose to prominence in 1980 when he won first prize and the gold medal at the X Warsaw International Chopin Piano Competition, the first major international competition won by an Asian pianist.

Born and raised in Vietnam, Dang began piano studies with his mother, Thai Thi Lien, co-founder of what is known today as the Vietnam National Academy of Music. As a boy growing up in a remote village, Dang played on dilapidated pianos that were rescued from his mother’s school in Hanoi amid a rain of bombs from U.S. warplanes. Discovered during a visit to Vietnam by Russian pianist Isaac Katz, Dang later took up studies at the Moscow Conservatory, where his teachers included Vladimir Natanson and Dmitri Bashkirov.

Dang Thai Son master class photo
Dang Thai Son works with Oberlin-Como Fellow Aimi Kobayashi in a March 2017 master class at Oberlin. (Photo by Dale Preston '83.)

Dang’s extensive discography—much of it devoted to the music of Chopin—includes a pair of 2017 releases: a recording of Schubert on JVC Kenwood and a collection of works by Paderewski that includes a concerto recorded with the Philharmonia Orchestra and conductor Ashkenazy. In 2016, Dang won Canada’s Prix Opus for Concert of the Year, an award presented by the Fondation Arte Musica. He is a recipient of an honorary doctorate from the Music Academy in Bydgoczsz, Poland, and is the subject of the biography A Pianist Loved by Chopin: The Dang Thai Son Story, published by Yamaha Music Media Corporation in 2003.

Dang has taught at Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo, Taipei National Normal University, and Université de Montréal. He has presented master classes throughout the world and has been a member of the juries of numerous prominent piano competitions, among them the Clara Haskil, Cleveland, A. Rubinstein in Tel Aviv, Hamamatsu, and Chopin in Warsaw.

In March 2017, he took part in a weeklong residency at Oberlin that included a series of master classes. The residency was part of the Oberlin-Como Piano Academy, an exclusive partnership with Italy’s International Piano Academy Lake Como.

As a member of the Oberlin piano faculty, Dang will mentor Oberlin-Como Fellows and will have his own studio of undergraduate pianists.

“Over the past 30 years of teaching, I have only agreed to be a 'guest' professor, which speaks volumes about my love for independence," Dang says. "This time is different: No more being an outsider! I have decided to change my life by joining the music family at the Oberlin Conservatory, which has truly welcomed me. I very much look forward to building our new house together.”

Dang joins an Oberlin piano faculty that includes Chow, Angela Cheng, Stanislav Ioudenitch, Robert Shannon, Haewon Song, Peter Takács, and William Grant Naboré, artistic director of the Oberlin-Como Piano Academy. Learn more at www.oberlin.edu/piano.

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