Faculty colleagues Craig Sheppard, piano, and Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, cello, conclude their cycle of performances of the complete Beethoven works for cello and piano with the magnificent A Major Sonata, Opus 69, and the three sets of variations.
Craig Sheppard is a renowned pedagogue whose former students hold positions in major universities and conservatories in this country and around the world, including England, Germany, Argentina, Chile, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Known for his passion at the keyboard, allied to technical mastery and a deep commitment to both scholarly and historical perspectives, Sheppard celebrates nearly fifty years on the international concert platform. He has performed his most recent project, the 24 Préludes and Fugues of Shostakovich, Opus 87, in New York, London, Shanghai, Beijing, Jerusalem and Oslo, as well as numerous universities and conservatories in the US. His CDs of the Shostakovich have met with critical acclaim in both national and international press. In the July, 2016 issue of Fanfare magazine, Peter Rabinowitz writes: “What’s especially impressive is Sheppard’s sense of the music’s changing landscapes, his ability to shape its emotional trajectories. This is a set full of interpretive astuteness that repays repeated listening.” Bryce Morrison writes in the February, 2016 issue of Gramophone: “…clearly at the zenith of his career, he achieves a brilliantly inclusive poise and brio that go to the very heart of Shostakovich. He ends the Fugue No.24 in a blaze of maestoso glory and a storm of cheers. Finely recorded, this is a memorable issue.”
In the April, 2011 issue of London’s International Record Review of Sheppard’s 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 recording on the Roméo label – particularly the complete Beethoven sonatas and Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, Books I and II – 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.’ Sheppard’s recital début at the Berlin Philharmonic, featuring Chopin’s 24 Préludes and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, caused one critic to enthuse: ‘The pianist revealed himself an intimate connoisseur of Bach’s soul.’ Following Sheppard’s appearance at a recent Minnesota Beethoven Festival, the reviewer exclaimed: ‘With the recitals of Yo-Yo Ma and Craig Sheppard, the festival is off to a great start!’
Craig Sheppard was born in Philadelphia and graduated both the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School, studying with Eleanor Sokoloff and Sasha Gorodnitzki respectively. He also worked at the Marlboro Festival with Rudolf Serkin and Pablo Casals, and in London with Ilona Kabos, Peter Feuchtwanger and Sir Clifford Curzon. He gave his New York début in January, 1972 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and six months later won the Silver Medal at the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition. Moving to London the following year, he played with all the major British orchestras on multiple occasions, as well as many on the European continent and many of the major orchestras in this country, working with conductors such as Erich Leinsdorf, Sir Georg Solti, Kurt Sanderling, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas, Aaron Copland, Yehudi Menuhin, Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Zinman and Leonard Slatkin. During his London years, Sheppard taught at Lancaster University, the Yehudi Menuhin School, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, in addition to giving masterclasses at both Oxford and Cambridge universities.
Sheppard returned to this country in 1993 as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington’s School of Music, becoming a Full Professor in 2004. Sheppard’s repertoire is eclectic, comprising forty-plus recital programs and over sixty concerti spanning all major eras of Western classical music. He has collaborated with Wynton Marsalis, José Carreras, Ida Handel, Sylvia Rosenberg, Victoria de los Angeles, Irina Arkhipova, the Cleveland, Bartók and Emerson String Quartets, in addition to musicians of the younger generation, including James Ehnes, Stefan Jackiw, Richard O’Neill, Edward Arron and Johannes Moser. He travels frequently to Europe, the Far East, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and South America to give concerts and masterclasses.
In 2010, Sheppard co-founded the annual Seattle Piano Institute with colleague, Dr. Robin McCabe, a musical boot camp for gifted young pianists that includes frequent private lessons along with supervised practice in dedicated practice rooms, masterclasses and seminars. Sheppard is known for his broad academic interests, particularly foreign languages, and his CDs can be found on the Roméo, AT-Berlin, Philips, Sony and Chandos labels.
“Riveting” (NYTimes) cellist, Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Toronto and Iceland Symphonies, among others, and her recital and chamber music performances have taken her across the US, Europe and Asia. Following the release of her debut recording of Britten’s Suites for Solo Cello on Centaur Records, she has performed in some of the world’s greatest halls including Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall and Disney Hall. The press have described her as “charismatic” (NYTimes) and praised her performances for their “emotional intensity” (LATimes).
An avid chamber musician, she has collaborated in performance with Itzhak Perlman, Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode and members of the Emerson, Guarneri, St. Lawrence and Cavani Quartets and has performed in numerous chamber music festivals, including Santa Fe, Seattle, Orcas Island, Bay Chamber, Prussia Cove and Marlboro, with whom she has toured. She is cellist of the Seattle-based group, Frequency, and cellist and founding member of Decoda, The Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall.
The 2018-2019 season started with a national TV appearance with the Iceland Symphony on their annual “Our Classics” program. Also this season, Sæunn makes her debut with the BBC and Seattle Symphonies performing the award-winning cello concerto, Quake, written for her by Páll Ragnar Pálsson. Chamber music appearances take her to Carnegie Hall in New York City, Seoul, Glasgow, Cleveland and Los Angeles, as well as recitals in Reykjavík, and Chicago following the Spring 2019 release of her recording of Icelandic solo cello music on the Sono Luminus label.
Highlights of the 2017-2018 season include the US premiere of Betsy Jolas’ Wanderlied and the Hong Kong premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Canticle of the Sun, as well as recitals and chamber music appearances in New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Glasgow, London and Reykjavík. In addition to commissioning Daníel Bjarnason to write his piece for multi-track celli, Bow to String, Sæunn enjoys close working relationships with composers of our time such as Páll Ragnar Pálsson, Halldór Smárason, Melia Watras, Jane Antonia Cornish and Þuríður Jónsdóttir.
Sæunn has garnered numerous top prizes in international competitions, including the Naumburg Competition and the Antonio Janigro Competition in Zagreb. She received a Bachelor of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music, a Master of Music from The Juilliard School and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from SUNY Stony Brook. Her teachers and mentors include Richard Aaron, Tanya Carey, Colin Carr and Joel Krosnick.
Born in Reykjavík, Iceland, Sæunn serves on the faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle, teaching cello and chamber music. For more information, please visit www.saeunn.com