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Faculty Concert:  Robin McCabe, Craig Sheppard, Cristina Valdés, Rachelle McCabe: Piano Power!

Tuesday, April 30, 2024 - 7:30pm
$20 general; $15 UW affiliate; $10 students, seniors.
Pianists Rachelle McCabe, Craig Sheppard, Robin McCabe, and Cristina Valdés. Photo: Joanne DePue
Pianists Rachelle McCabe, Craig Sheppard, Robin McCabe, and Cristina Valdés. Photo: Joanne DePue

Fingers will fly, with air traffic control required at the two keyboards when faculty pianists Robin McCabe, Cristina Valdés and Craig Sheppard join forces with guest artist Rachelle McCabe to present dynamic and festive arrangements for Two Pianos, Eight Hands.


W.A. Mozart (1756-1791): Overture to The Magic Flute
Piano 1:  Cristina Valdés, Rachelle McCabe

Piano 2:  Craig Sheppard, Robin McCabe

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)Grand Rondo in A major, D. 951
Rachelle McCabe and Craig Sheppard

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): The Firebird Suite (Transcribed by Joo-Hye Lee)
Danse Infernale
Piano 1: Robin McCabe, Rachelle McCabe
Piano 2: Craig Sheppard, Cristina Valdés


Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990): Overture to Candide
Transcribed by Laurent Beeckmans
Piano 1: Cristina Valdés, Craig Sheppard
Piano 2:   Robin McCabe, Rachelle McCabe

Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944): Pièces Romantiques, Opus 55
La Chaise à Porteurs
Idylle Arabe
Sérénade d’Automne
Danse Hindoue
Cristina Valdés and Robin McCabe

Georges Bizet (1838-1875): Fantasy on Themes from Carmen
Transcribed by Mack Wilberg
Piano 1: Craig Sheppard, Rachelle McCabe
Piano 2: Robin McCabe, Cristina Valdés

Program Note

Thoughts on Tonight’s Program
We pianists spend a LOT of time alone at the keyboard. Unlike members of an orchestra or opera company, for example, we work almost entirely alone, honing our craft.  So, imagine the joy and elation that comes in partnering with others of our same species, to celebrate and relish the power of the piano!!

This, then, is the spirit of tonight’s program.  Now why, you might ask, are we trespassing on and poaching from the repertoire of opera, symphony and musical theater? Don’t we have enough of our own piano literature to keep us contented?

The answer to this lies in our conviction that the piano as an instrument has the power to evoke limitless possibilities of timbre, color and texture. Through the piano we can conjure up the world of different instrumental “voices” and atmospheres. “The piano possesses its own occult powers,” said critic Alex Ross in a recent New Yorker review of transcriptions performed by Igor Levit at Carnegie Hall. 

Through the piano, and in the hands of a good pianist, our instrument can be a “virtual” orchestra. The cleverly-constructed transcriptions we bring you this evening will hopefully affirm this. And, most importantly, we hope that you will enjoy your immersion into this enticing world, with the four of us.
—Program notes ©2024, Robin McCabe 


Rachelle McCabe

Rachelle McCabe, professor emerita of music at Oregon State University, enjoys an international career as a concert pianist and artist teacher. She has performed as soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as in China, Canada, Southeast Asia, and France. She has held teaching residencies in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and British Columbia. 

Rachelle McCabe is the artistic director of Corvallis-OSU Piano International with its prestigious Steinway Piano Series, workshops, and educational outreach programs. In lieu of live concerts during the pandemic lockdown, Rachelle directed an exciting virtual piano festival presenting more than 20 world-renowned pianists in exclusive performances. The festival is available at  Rachelle also directs the OSU Chamber Music Workshop and the OSU Piano Institute, both summer programs.

Believing in the power of collaborative arts to help bring about change, Rachelle has created innovative programs and videos with writer/philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore and various other poets, artists, and scientists to address the global crisis of climate change and extinction. McCabe and Moore have performed their compelling program, Variations on a Theme of Extinction, in many cities across the USA, Canada, and Scotland, and a film version which weaves Rachelle’s studio performance of Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Corelli with Kathleen’s spoken narrative in various Oregon locations is found on YouTube.

Rachelle McCabe is a highly respected teacher and since completing her 35-year professorship at Oregon State in 2021, she keeps an independent studio of highly motivated students. In demand as a guest artist teacher and adjudicator, her current schedule includes master classes and festivals as well as concerts in Hong Kong, Atlanta, Portland, Eugene, and Seattle.

Rachelle holds a doctorate (DMA) from The University of Michigan, a master's degree from The Juilliard School, and a bachelor’s degree from The University of Washington. Her teachers were Willard Schultz, Bela Siki, Ania Dorfmann, Gyorgy Sandor, and Theodore Lettvin. 

Celebrated 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 nine 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.  McCabe holds a Michiko Morita Miyamoto Professorship in Piano at the School of Music and has previously held a Ruth Sutton Waters Professorship and a Donald Petersen Professorship in the School of Music.

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.

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 has made several tours of South Korea, Japan and China.  In 2022 she has been appointed Artistic Advisor to the Beijing Royal School, an elite private K-12 institution which is evolving an international Arts curriculum  She appears often as an invited jurist for international piano competitions, most recently in New Orleans, San Antonio, and Vancouver, Canada.  In 2016 she served on the jury of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition. In March of 2022 she served on the jury for the Hilton Head International Piano Competition.

Piano Professor Craig Sheppard

Craig Sheppard is Professor of Piano and Head of Keyboard at the School of Music of the University of Washington in Seattle.  He is also Professor of the Advanced Innovation Center at the China Conservatory in Beijing, and his former students hold positions in conservatories and universities throughout the world. 

A veteran of over fifty years on the international stage, in the past few seasons he has performed both Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues and Bach’s The Art of Fugue in venues throughout the United States, as well as London, Manchester (UK), Jerusalem, Shanghai and Beijing’s Forbidden City Concert Hall, in addition to giving masterclasses at all of the above. 

As recording artist, his LPs and CDs have appeared on the Sony, Chandos, Philips, EMI and AT-Berlin labels.  He has published 26 CDs with Romeo Records (NY) since 2005, including the complete Beethoven sonatas (Beethoven: A Journey), the Six Bach Partitas, the Inventions and Sinfornias, both books of The Well Tempered Clavier, the last three Schubert sonatas, Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage I and II, Debussy’s 24 Preludes and 12 Études (including both books of Images and Estampes), the 24 Preludes and Fugues of Shostakovich, Late Piano Works, Opus 116-19,  of Johannes Brahms, and Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of Fugue).   

Within the past two decades, he has traveled many times to the Far East for performances and masterclasses, including Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore.  He has performed at the Nehru Memorial Library in New Delhi, held a residency at the Melba Conservatory in Melbourne, Australia, and performed three times in New Zealand, including the first ever public performances of both books of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. Most recently, he performed the Complete Chopin Nocturnes at the Museu do Oriente in Lisbon.

Born in Philadelphia in November, 1947, Craig Sheppard graduated from both the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School, studying with Eleanor Sokoloff and Sasha Gorodnitzki respectively.  He also worked with Rudolf Serkin and Pablo Casals at the Marlboro Festival, and later with Ilona Kabos, Peter Feuchtwanger and Sir Clifford Curzon in London.  During his early years, in addition to a successful début at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, he won top prizes in the Busoni, Ciani, and Rubinstein competitions.  However, it was his Silver Medal at the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1972 that brought him to international attention.  Moving to London in 1973 and living there for the next twenty years, Sheppard taught at Lancaster University, the Yehudi Menuhin School, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  He also performed on multiple occasions with all the major British orchestras and with many on the European continent, under such conductors as Sir George Solti, Erich Leinsdorf, Kurt Sanderling, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas, Aaron Copland, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir John Pritchard, Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Zinman, and Leonard Slatkin. In the United States, he has performed with the orchestras of Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, Rochester and Seattle, and many others. 

Craig Sheppard’s solo repertoire is eclectic, comprising nearly fifty solo recital programs and more than sixty concerti covering a wide spectrum within the Western canon.  He also has a great love of chamber music and has collaborated with many great instrumentalists and singers, including Wynton Marsalis, José Carreras, Victoria de los Angeles, Irina Arkhipova, Ida Handel, Sylvia Rosenberg, Mayumi Fujikawa, the Cleveland, Emerson and Miró string quartets, and many musicians of the younger generation, including James Ehnes, Stefan Jackiw, Richard O’Neill, Edward Arron and Johannes Moser.

Sheppard is invited frequently to serve on the juries of distinguished international competitions, including most recently the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv in May of 2021 and the National Society of Arts and Letters in Chicago in 2022.  He also returns regularly to the Jerusalem Music Center to perform and teach, as well as the Chetham’s Summer School in Manchester, UK.  With colleague Dr. Robin McCabe, Sheppard is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Seattle Piano Institute, a boot camp for aspiring young pianists  held every July at the University of Washington, this summer celebrating its 14th anniversary.

Cristina Valdés, piano

Pianist Cristina Valdés presents innovative concerts of standard and experimental repertoire, and is known to “play a mean piano.” A fierce advocate for new music, she has premiered countless works, including many written for her. She has performed across four continents and in venues such as Lincoln Center, Le Poisson Rouge, Miller Theatre, Jordan Hall, and the Kennedy Center. Ms. Valdés has appeared both as a soloist and chamber musician at festivals worldwide including New Music in Miami, the Foro Internacional de Música Nueva in Mexico City, Brisbane Arts Festival, the Festival of Contemporary Music in El Salvador, Havana Contemporary Music Festival, and the Singapore Arts Festival. 

An avid chamber musician and collaborator, Ms. Valdés has toured extensively with the Bang On a Can “All Stars”, and has performed with the Seattle Chamber Players, the Mabou Mines Theater Company, the Parsons Dance Company, and Antares. Her performances on both the Seattle Symphony’s Chamber Series and [UNTITLED] concerts have garnered critical acclaim, including her “knockout” (Seattle Times) performance of Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and her “arrestingly eloquent performance” of Dutilleux’s Trois Preludes (Bernard Jacobson/MusicWeb International).

Ms. Valdés has appeared as concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Philharmonic, the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, Johns Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, the Binghamton Philharmonic, NOCCO, Philharmonia Northwest, the Eastman BroadBand, and the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, amongst others. In 2015 she performed the piano solo part of the Ives 4th Symphony with the Seattle Symphony under the direction of Ludovic Morlot, which was later released on CD to critical acclaim and made Gramophone’s list of Top 10 Ives Recordings. Other recent recordings include Orlando Garcia’s “From Darkness to Luminosity” with the Málaga Philharmonic on the Toccata Classics label, and the world premiere recording of Kotoka Suzuki’s “Shimmer, Tree | In Memoriam Jonathan Harvey”. She can also be heard on the Albany, Newport Classics, Urtext, and Ideologic Organ labels.

In recent seasons she gave performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3, the world-premiere performance of Carlos Sanchez-Guttierez’s “Short Stories” for piano and string orchestra with the Orquesta de Cámara de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and the U.S. Premiere of “Under Construction” for solo piano and tape playback by Heiner Goebbels at Benaroya Hall. Last season she was the featured soloist with the Seattle Symphony on two of their “[untitled]” new music series concerts.

Ms. Valdés received a Bachelor of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music, and a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts from SUNY Stony Brook. She currently lives in Seattle where she founded the SLAM Festival, a new music festival dedicated to the music of Latin-American composers, and performs regularly as a member of the Seattle Modern Orchestra. She is an Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington, and is the Director of the UW Modern Music Ensemble.