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Pianists Sheppard and Hobson to Perform at Oberlin March 8, 10

March 6, 2015

Cathy Partlow Strauss

Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall will be the setting for a festival of piano in the coming week.

Craig Sheppard and Ian Hobson, two of the world's most celebrated pianists, will present free recitals on the evenings of Sunday, March 8, and Tuesday, March 10. Known for their remarkable technical versatility and interpretive insight, Sheppard and Hobson will deliver very different programs that showcase their deep artistic commitment to the composers' masterly statements for the instrument.

American pianist Craig Sheppard will perform the complete 24 Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 8. Among the most influential in the canon of 20th-century solo piano works, these incredibly varied pieces were composed over an intense three-month period following an inspirational meeting, in October 1950, between the composer and the great Russian pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva. Sheppard's playing, beautifully suited to the variety found in the Shostakovich, is marked by an "astounding force and charisma, playing which rides on a knife edge between abandon and control," according to Gramophone Magazine.

The 8 p.m. concert on Tuesday, March 10, by English pianist Ian Hobson is a program of broader variety and centers on the works of virtuoso pianist-composers Chopin and Rachmaninoff. Chopin's inventive Ballades Nos. 3 and 4 and Scherzos Nos. 3 and 4 command the first half of the evening. These are among the finest, most original, and enduring works that capture the essence of the Romantic aesthetic.

The second part of the program is anchored by Rachmaninoff's Opus 24 Preludes. Hobson's performance of these pieces inspired this accolade from Clavier Magazine: "The Preludes reveal Hobson as a majestic master; he imbues these tone poems with variety and textural clarity. Throughout he wields his gargantuan technique, bronze tone, and elegant phrasing with consummate taste, producing performances of world-class stature." Hobson's Tuesday recital will close with Fritz Kreisler's Three Old Viennese Dances.


CRAIG SHEPPARD has enjoyed a highly successful international concert career that has spanned over 40 years. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he is a graduate of both the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School. His teachers included Susan Starr, Eleanor Sokoloff, Sasha Gorodnitzki, and Rudolf Serkin. He spent the first part of his career in London, where he also studied with Ilona Kabos, Peter Feuchtwanger, and Sir Clifford Curzon.

In 1972, Sheppard made his debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Six months later, he won the silver medal at the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition in England. Living in London for the next 20 years, he performed with every major British orchestra, many on the European continent, and in this country, the orchestras of Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco, among many others, under prominent conductors including Sir Georg Solti, Erich Leinsdorf, Kurt Sanderling, Yehudi Menuhin, Aaron Copland, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Sir Andrew Davis, Leonard Slatkin, and David Zinman. Sheppard taught at London's Yehudi Menuhin School and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and is now professor of piano at the University of Washington in Seattle.

IAN HOBSON came to international attention in 1981 when he won first prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition. A native of Wolverhampton, England, Hobson is now recognized throughout the world for his masterful performances of the Romantic repertoire, his deft and idiomatic readings of neglected piano scores old and new, and his assured conducting from both the piano and the podium. Hobson is also renowned as a dedicated scholar and educator, who has pioneered renewed interest in the music of lesser-known masters Johann Hummel and Ignaz Moscheles. He is also an effective advocate of works written expressly for him by several of today’s noted composers, including John Gardner, Benjamin Lees, David Liptak, Alan Ridout, and Roberto Sierra.

As guest soloist, Hobson appears regularly with the world’s major orchestras in the United States, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Abroad, he has been heard with Great Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Scottish National Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Hallé Orchestra, ORD-Vienna, Orchester der Beethovenhalle, Moscow Chopin Orchestra, Israeli Sinfonietta, and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Active in the recording studio, Hobson has been engaged in recording a 16-volume collection of the complete works of Chopin for the Zephyr label. This edition includes approximately 45 minutes of Chopin music never before recorded, making Hobson the first ever to record the composer’s entire oeuvre as a single artist.

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