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 nearly fifty years.
Dedicated to large-scale projects, Sheppard’s most recent endeavor has been the 24 Preludes and Fugues, Opus 87, of Dmitri Shostakovich, which he performed during the winter and spring of 2015 in Houston (Rice), the San Francisco Conservatory, Oberlin College, the Shanghai Conservatory, and the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, culminating in a performance and recording in Seattle’s Meany Theater in late April. The CDs from his Meany performance will be available Fall 2015 on Roméo Records. During the 2015-16 season, he will perform the Shostakovich at the Royal College of Music in London, Bargemusic in New York, the University of Minnesota and the Jerusalem Arts Center at Mishkenot Shaananim, among others.
Sheppard has made many trips to the Far East over the past fifteen years, giving master classes and performing in leading conservatories and universities in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. He made two trips to New Zealand, in 2007 and 2008, performing both books of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, returning in September, 2012 to perform the first two books of Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage. That same month, he undertook a residency at the Melba Conservatory of the University of Melbourne in Australia, during which he gave recitals of the Liszt Années and Debussy’s Préludes, in addition to numerous master classes and seminars.
Sheppard’s many CDs in recent years have gleaned nearly unanimous praise in the international press. Bryce Morrison, reviewing Sheppard’s most recent release of Debussy’s Estampes, Images I and II, and The 12 Etudes, wrote in the February 2014 issue of Gramophone magazine: ‘The performances are vivid and characterful at every level… Seattle is blessed indeed at having such a thrilling and audacious artist in its midst.’ In the April, 2011, issue of London’s International Record Review of Sheppard’s 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.’ Peter Cossé, Germany’s foremost piano critic, has had this to say about Sheppard’s Bach: ‘Sheppard’s technique, in all its elasticity, confirms a musician who always puts such 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 these two opening solo recitals of Yo-Yo Ma and Craig Sheppard, the festival is off to a great start! Ludwig van Beethoven would have loved pianist Craig Sheppard!’ Sheppard’s recital début at the Berlin Philharmonic, featuring the 24 Chopin Préludes and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, caused the critic from Die Welt to enthuse: ‘The pianist revealed himself as an intimate connoisseur of Bach’s soul.’
In the 2012-13 season, Sheppard gave two recitals in honor of the 150th anniversary of Debussy’s birth, including the 24 Preludes and the Études, in addition to Estampes and both books of Images. To celebrate Franz Liszt’s 200th birthday in October 2011, Sheppard performed the first two books of Les Années de Pèlerinage in Seattle, the Nehru Memorial Library in New Delhi, and the War Memorial Museum in Auckland. In 2010, Sheppard initiated a series of five piano recitals in Seattle’s Meany Theater, entitled Mostly Brahms, in which the complete solo works of Brahms were interspersed with seminal works by Robert Schumann, Brahms’s friend and mentor. The Brahms and Schumann recitals will eventually be released live on Romeo Records. Previously, Sheppard spent several seasons exploring the great keyboard works of J.S. Bach, live performances of the Six Keyboard Partitas, the Inventions and Sinfonias, and both books (48 Préludes and Fugues) of The Well Tempered Clavier. Critics and audiences alike have been unanimous in their praise of his Bach. A performance ofThe Last Three Piano Sonatas of Franz Schubert, recorded live in Seattle’s Meany Theater, was released in January, 2011.
In 2008 and 2009, clips from Sheppard’s live recordings of the 32 Beethoven sonatas, a nine-CD set entitled Beethoven: A Journey, were featured in an exhibition entitled Schulz’s Beethoven: Schoeder’s Muse, mounted respectively at the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California, and the Ira F. Brilliant Beethoven Center at San José State University in California. Exploring Charles Schulz’s lifelong love of Beethoven, portrayed so vividly in the popular comic strip, Peanuts, the exhibition drew audiences from all over the world. In May, 2008, Sheppard gave solo recitals and master classes in four major cities in The People’s Republic of China – Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen and Shenzhen. Returning to China in June, 2011, he gave master classes in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, and all-Brahms recitals in Beijing and Chengdu. In March, 2008, Sheppard appeared for the second time in the Hunter Council Chambers of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, performing Book II of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, a work he recorded subsequently in Seattle’s Meany Theater in April, 2008 (released on Romeo Records in November, 2008). On May 18th, 2004, he wound up a seven-concert series in Seattle’s Meany Theater featuring the 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas, a popular series entitled Beethoven: A Journey that met with great critical acclaim. In 1999, he was presented by the Seattle Symphony in a highly acclaimed series of lecture/recitals at Benaroya Hall. He appeared with the Seattle Symphony in 1998 in their inaugural season at Benaroya, and was featured with the orchestra in the opening concerts of the 1996-97 season at the Opera House along with the violinist Midori. In the early 2000s, Sheppard taught for several summers at the Heifetz International Music Institute in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
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 the legendary Eleanor Sokoloff, and earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees at the Juilliard School, studying 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 January 1972, Sheppard gave his New York début at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In September of the same year, he won the Silver Medal at the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition in England. During these early years, he was also a Bronze Medal laureate of the Busoni, Dino Ciani, and Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master competitions. 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 on multiple occasions (including a recording the Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto with the London Philharmonic, conducted by Sir John Pritchard) and many orchestras 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 Symphony, the Seattle Chamber Music Festival (where he has appeared nearly every year), and other local and regional arts organizations.
Craig Sheppard’s repertoire is eclectic, comprising forty-plus recital programs and over sixty concerti spanning all 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, Augustin Hadelich, 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, Erich Leinsdorf, Kurt Sanderling, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas, Aaron Copland, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Esa Pekka Salonen, David Zinman, and Leonard Slatkin. A champion of contemporary music, Sheppard has given world premières in recent seasons of works by Laura Kaminsky (Horizon Lines) at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, and Jake Heggie (Another Sunrise), commissioned by Music of Remembrance and based on the diaries of the life of the Polish dissident, Krystyna Zywulska.
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. Many former students hold prominent positions at universities throughout the US, Europe and Asia. With his colleague, Dr. Robin McCabe, Sheppard is co-founder of the highly successful Seattle Summer Piano Institute at the University of Washington, now in its sixth year, a two-week intensive camp for gifted young pianists from around the world who wish to learn about all aspects of music making, performing and career building.
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.