Craig Sheppard, piano
Professor of Piano Craig Sheppard joined the faculty of the School of Music of the University of Washington in 1993 after living twenty years in London. Known for his ebullience and passion at the keyboard, allied to a technical mastery and deep commitment to both scholarly and historic perspectives, Sheppard continues to enjoy a highly successful international concert career that has spanned over forty years. He has made eleven trips to the Far East since 2002, giving master classes and performing in leading conservatories and universities in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. He has made two trips to New Zealand, in 2007 and 2008, performing both books of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, and returns in September, 2012 to perform the first two books of Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage.
In the April, 2011, issue of London’s International Record Review of Sheppard’s most recent CD release, The Last Three Piano Sonatas by Franz Schubert, Robert Matthew-Walker noted: ‘It was Hans Keller who said that All great artists are, by virtue of what they do, also great teachers, and those who have heard Sheppard’s recent recordings on the Romeo label – particularly the complete Beethoven sonatas and the Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues – will know the truth of that statement…The City of Seattle and the students at its University are indeed fortunate to have him in their midst.’ Bryce Morrison, in an earlier review of Sheppard’s traversal of the Beethoven sonatas in Gramophone magazine, said: ‘On record, there are few [performances] more piquantly characterized or, at their finest, more deeply sensitive to the darker recesses of Beethoven’s towering imagination’. Peter Cossé, Germany’s foremost piano critic, had this to say about Sheppard’s Bach: ‘Sheppard’s technique, in all its elasticity, confirms a musician who always puts these means at the service of the composer. Sheppard’s Bach is learned, and in every respect well informed as to performance practices of the day. Yet, he never forces his views on the listener, but rather gives the listener sufficient breathing space in which to store the memories.’ Following Sheppard’s appearance at the 2010 Minnesota Beethoven Festival, the reviewer exclaimed: ‘With the [solo] recitals of Yo-Yo Ma and Craig Sheppard, the festival is off to a great start!’ Sheppard’s recital debut at the Berlin Philharmonic, featuring the 24 Chopin Preludes and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, caused one critic to enthuse: ‘The pianist revealed himself as an intimate connoisseur of Bach’s soul.’
Craig Sheppard was born in Philadelphia in November, 1947. Following early studies with Dr. Lois Hedner and Susan Starr, he studied at the Curtis Institute under Eleanor Sokoloff, then at the Juilliard School with Sasha Gorodnitzki. He also worked with Claude Frank and Lilian Kallir as a Fromm Fellow at Tanglewood, and with Rudolf Serkin and Pablo Casals at the Marlboro Festival, culminating in a nationwide tour in the Music from Marlboro series. In 1972, Sheppard gave his New York début at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and six months later won the Silver Medal at the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition in England. Moving to London in 1973, he continued studies with Ilona Kabos, Peter Feuchtwanger and Sir Clifford Curzon, and performed with all the major orchestras in Great Britain and many on the European continent, including the Berlin Philharmonic and the orchestra of La Scala, Milan. During the twenty years he lived in England, Sheppard taught at Lancaster University, the Yehudi Menuhin School, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, in addition to giving numerous concerts and master classes at both Oxford and Cambridge universities. Returning to this country in 1993 and taking up residence in Seattle, Sheppard quickly became a favorite at such venues as the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, the Seattle Symphony (where he opened the 1996 Season), and other local and regional arts organizations.
Craig Sheppard’s repertoire is eclectic, comprising forty-plus recital programs and over sixty concerti spanning all the major eras of Western music. An avid chamber music player, musicians he has collaborated with include Wynton Marsalis, José Carreras, Victoria de los Angeles, Irina Arkhipova, the Cleveland and Emerson string quartets, and many members of the younger generation, including James Ehnes, Stefan Jackiw, Richard O’Neill, Edward Aaron and Johannes Moser. In this country, he has soloed with the orchestras of Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, Rochester and Seattle among others. Conductors he has played with include Sir Georg Solti, Kurt Sanderling, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas, Aaron Copland, Yehudi Menuhin, Esa Pekka Salonen, David Zinman, and Leonard Slatkin. A champion of contemporary music, Sheppard gave the world première this past summer of Laura Kaminsky’s Horizon Lines at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, and will give the world première this coming May for Music of Remembrance of a new commission by Jake Heggie on the life of the Polish dissident, Krystyna Zywylska.
A much sought after pedagogue, Sheppard’s students in both Europe and in the US have won numerous local, national and international competitions over the years. A number of former students hold positions at universities throughout the US, Europe and Asia. With his colleague, Dr. Robin McCabe, Sheppard is co-founder of the Seattle Summer Piano Institute at the University of Washington, held every summer at the School of Music for a group of sixteen gifted young pianists from around the world.
Craig Sheppard’s CDs can be found on the Roméo, AT-Berlin, Philips, Sony, and Chandos labels. A voracious reader, he is known for his broad academic interests, particularly foreign languages.