Piano Professor Robin McCabe produces this quarterly series highlighting music by composers inspired by fantasy, folk and fairytales, performed by top UW music students and special guests. Each performance includes a pre-concert lecture by a UW faculty member. This performance features music by Claude Gagnon, Janacek, Poulenc and Debussy, performed by top UW Music students, and a pre-concert lecture by Maya Sonenberg Professor of English at the UW.
4 pm Pre-concert Lecture:
Maya Sonenberg, UW English
Fairy Tales: A Blissful and Terrible Home
4:30 pm: Concert
Gagnon: Themes from Alice in Wonderland, for guitar
Janáček: Podhadka, for cello and piano
Poulenc and Debussy: Song Cycle, for soprano and piano
Maya Sonenberg is currently at work on three projects. In Models for Raising the Dead, each piece links actual ancestors with literary ancestors, combining memoir, family history, fiction, and close readings with visual elements (drawings, manipulated photographs, diagrams) in order to create meaning through association and metaphor and to explore the ways both genetic material and cultural constructs shape us. The second book focuses on her grandmother as an immigrant "pioneer," Jewish Utopian settlements in the Dakotas and the Bronx at the turn of the 20th century, and her love for the very problematic novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sonenberg's fiction builds on fairy tale and myth and stretches the limits of what a story can do. Finally, she is working on a series of essays about 20th century choreographer Merce Cunningham.
Pedagogically, she is interested in helping each student develop their own writerly passions to the fullest extent, an exercise in both freedom and responsibility. Her workshops use the Critical Response Process, developed by choreographer Liz Lerman, which switches the focus from statement to question and places the artist and their intentions at the center of every conversation. She has co-taught with the art department and routinely includes the study and making of artists' books in her undergraduate classes and graduate-level independent studies.
Celebrated American pianist Robin McCabe has established herself as one of America’s most communicative and persuasive artists. McCabe’s involvement and musical sensibilities have delighted audiences across the United States, Europe, Canada and in seven concert tours of the Far East. The United States Department of State sponsored her two South American tours, which were triumphs both artistically and diplomatically.
As noted by the New York Times, “What Ms. McCabe has that raises her playing to such a special level is a strong lyric instinct and confidence in its ability to reach and touch the listener.” The Tokyo Press declared her a “pianistic powerhouse,” and a reviewer in Prague declared, “Her musicianship is a magnet for the listener.” Richard Dyer, the eminent critic of the Boston Globe: ‘Her brilliant, natural piano playing shows as much independence of mind as of fingers.”
Her recordings have received universal acclaim. Her debut album for Vanguard Records featured the premiere recording of Guido Agosti transcription of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. Critics praised it as “mightily impressive.” Stereo Review described her disc of Bartok as “all that we have come to expect from this artist, a first-rate performance!” She was commissioned to record four albums for the award-winning company Grammofon AB BIS in Stockholm, which remain distributed internationally, including the CD “Robin McCabe Plays Liszt,” (AB BIS No. 185).
McCabe, earned her bachelor of music degree summa cum laude at the University of Washington School of Music, where she studied with Béla Siki, and her master’s and doctorate degrees at the Juilliard School of Music, where she studied with Rudolf Firkusny. She joined the Juilliard faculty in 1978 then returned to the UW in 1987 to accept a position on the piano faculty. In 1994 McCabe was appointed Director of the School of Music, a position she held until 2009. She has held a Ruth Sutton Waters Professorship and a Donald Petersen Professorship in the School of Music. In addition, McCabe is a dedicated arts ambassador and advocate for arts audience development, frequently addressing arts organizations across the country. With colleague Craig Sheppard, she has launched the highly successful Seattle Piano Institute, an intense summer “immersion experience” for gifted and aspiring classical pianists that enjoyed its sixth session in 2015. Also In 2015, McCabe performed and recorded the complete cycle of Beethoven’s ten sonatas for violin and piano, with colleague Maria Larionoff.
The winner of numerous prizes and awards, including the International Concert Artists Guild Competition and a Rockefeller Foundation grant, McCabe was the subject of a lengthy New Yorker magazine profile, “Pianist’s Progress,” later expanded into a book of the same title.
In 1995 McCabe presented the annual faculty lecture — a concert with commentary — at the University of Washington. She is the first professor of music in the history of the University to be awarded this lectureship. Seattle magazine selected McCabe as one of 17 current and past University of Washington professors who have had an impact on life in the Pacific Northwest. In 2005, to celebrate its 100th year as an institution, The Juilliard School selected McCabe as one of 100 alumni from 20,000 currently living to be profiled in its centenary publication recognizing distinction and accomplishments in the international world of music, dance, and theater. Today she is a highly- sought teacher at the University of Washington, with students from around the world seeking admission to her studio.
McCabe performs regularly throughout the United States, and in September of 2011 she made her first visit to South Korea. In October of 2015 McCabe gave solo recitals in Beijing, and master classes at the International Beijing Piano Festival. She appears often as an invited jurist for international piano competitions, most recently in New Orleans, San Antonio, and Vancouver, Canada. In June of 2016 she is invited to serve on the jury of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition.