© STEVE KORN
 






 

Along with the undoubted virtuosity comes lyrical invention of the highest order.

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MusicWeb UK. From a review of Schumann Novelletten recording. (read other MusicWeb UK reviews)

His vivid and magisterial ideas (were) backed not by mere facility, but by the highest technical authority. Sheer talent does not come much larger than Craig Sheppard's, a talent fulfilled in this recital in brilliant and convincing style.

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'Music and Musicians' magazine, July, 1986. From a recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.

What struck one about Sheppard's playing was his total instinct for Mozart as he immersed himself in this sublime music. This was easily the finest performance of a Mozart piano concerto in this hall for many a day, and few players could have possessed a closer rapport with the conductor and orchestra.

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'The South Wales Echo', Cardiff, Wales. October 16, 1989. Following a performance of the Mozart Concerto K.491 in St. David's Hall, Cardiff, with the London Philharmonic under Sir Georg Solti.

Listen to his concluding octaves in Rigoletto (for him a burst of thunderous applause) or the final pages of Tannhuser and you will witness an astounding force and charisma, playing which rides on a knife edge between abandon and control .. You won't easily find more exciting or, indeed, more leonine Liszt playing. Small wonder that at one stage he was acclaimed as a second William Kapell ..

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Gramophone Magazine, February, 1996
Review of Liszt recordings reissue on EMI (CD-CFPSD4745) (read full review)

Both Beethoven's and Bach's magnificent variations (the Goldberg and the Diabelli) are superbly performed. Sheppard has the technique, scope, poise, and understanding to bring them off as impressively as any performance on discs. The same is true of the other works he tackles, but it is the lofty level of his playing in general that ultimately remains, rather than any particular reading.

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'Turok's Choice' newsletter, New York, January, 2002. A review of the recently issued CDs by Annette Tangermann in Berlin.

Der Pianist offenbarte sich als intimer Kenner der Bachschen Seele, beleuchtete jede Facette der 32 Stücke, konstruierte dabei einen spannungsreichen inneren Bogen und spielte die Variationen doch zugleich mit dem Anschein des Selbstverständlichen fast Beiläufigen. [The pianist revealed himself as an intimate connoisseur of Bach's soul, illuminating every facet of the thirty-two (Goldberg Variations) pieces, constructing within them an inner line full of tension, playing however at the same time with the appearance of naturalness and ease.]

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'Die Welt', Berlin, 27 April, 1999. From a solo recital in the 'Klavier um Vier' series at the Berliner Philharmonie.

Craig Sheppard, who only last week served up a stellar Beethoven solo program at Meany, joined the Emerson String Quartet for one of the most delectable romantic showpieces of the chamber repertoire .. the best of the evening came in the Schumann, with Sheppard in excellent form and obviously on the same page as the quartet. Mercurial in its romanticism, this performance veered from the dulcet to the supercharged. The five players clearly took the deepest care to shape each passage, dovetailing the melodies so that each part fit together like the pieces of a Stradivarius.

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The Seattle Times, January 17, 2003
Perfomance of the Schumann Piano Quintet with the Emerson String Quartet (read full review)

Sheppard doled out his part (in the Beethoven A Major sonata for piano and cello) with as much finesse as if he were a soloist at Carnegie Hall. His scholarly phrasing projected the innumerable intricacies of this complex opus. (Following a performance of the Brahms-Handel Variations), the awestruck listeners insisted on an encore.

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'The Salt Lake City Tribune' - August 23, 1998.

It was a high-intensity evening, as Craig Sheppard took on the first four sonatas with a crackling energy that quickly transmitted itself to the audience. At times, it sounded as if Sheppard's piano should bear a "Danger: High Voltage" sign; the playing was downright explosive. This was not one of those quiet, refined evenings of culture where the gentleman to your right is peaceably nodding off halfway into the Adagio movement. This was a recital that was hewn out of rock and fire and the unadulterated power of Beethoven.

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The Seattle Times, January 09, 2003
"Beethoven: A Journey" sonata cycle (read full review)

The constant variety in the music was amplified further by the tremendous variety in Sheppard's interpretive arsenal, from matters of articulation and touch to the most detailed control of dynamics. Crescendo passages grew in volume and intensity so subtly that you were only gradually aware of the pianist's intentions. Crisp staccato passages gave way to the most liquid and smoothly articulated passages. Huge contrasts marked new directions in the sonatas. Sheppard compellingly re-created the innate drama of this music, with its whirlwind climaxes and dramatic conclusions.

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The Seattle Times, March 19, 2003
"Beethoven: A Journey" sonata cycle (read full review)

What strikes you first about Sheppard's Beethoven is his absolute mastery of the material and the brilliance of his technique. But equally apparent is the tremendous variety of touch, tone, dynamics and characterization of every episode of every movement.

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The Seattle Times, May 23, 2003
"Beethoven: A Journey" sonata cycle (read full review)

The intellectual rigor that Sheppard brings to his playing was much in evidence. So was the clear sense of architecture that led the listener through repeated phrases, a little louder each time, to a sudden and dramatic collapse and then on to the next phrase.

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The Seattle Times, October 16, 2003
"Beethoven: A Journey" sonata cycle (read full review)

Sheppard did not disappoint. From the opening notes of the exuberant, irrepressible Op. 78 sonata to the decorous Andante Favori encore, it was clear that this charismatic, riveting artist was on form. The more lighthearted sonatas were rendered in a way that made clear the origins of the verb "to play." The more serious ones were full of supercharged intensity, the sort of music that makes listeners lean forward in their seats and forget all about coughing or twitching.

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The Seattle Times, January 09, 2004
"Beethoven: A Journey" sonata cycle (read full review)

Sheppard meets all these challenges as an important pianist at the height of his powers. His playing conveys a sense of being on the edge, with the intensity of a coiled spring behind every note. Sometimes the music is tumultuous and headlong, with an improvisatory quality that suggests the player is newly inspired as he goes along. And sometimes it's all elegant simplicity, as a rush of chords dwindles down to a note or two.

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The Seattle Times, May 20, 2004
"Beethoven: A Journey" sonata cycle (read full review)

Sheppard has that particular kind of technical command which doesn't so much conquer extreme difficulties as absorb them. This was a true musician at work, with exactly the right kind of rhythmic flair and lightness of touch in the toccata-like passages, a lovely sense of the lyrical phrase (the opening bars beautifully launched the whole Concerto), and an apparent inability to make an ugly sound even in such rampantly fiendish passages as the first movement's massive cadenza.

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'The BBC Listener', 27 March, 1986. From a performance of Prokofieff's 2nd Piano Concerto with the BBC Symphony conducted by Sir John Pritchard.

I found it a rewarding experience to hear Craig Sheppard play (the Tschaikovsky concerto) with a precise, unexaggerated brilliance. There were fiery dynamics and a degree of emotional ardour, but no sentimentality.

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'The Daily Telegraph', Liverpool (England), April 2, 1975. From a performance of the Tschaikovsky Concerto No.1 with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Kurt Sanderling.

Last night Mr. Sheppard played a programme of grand contrasts and unremitting challenge. What we heard was scrupulously loyal and imaginative, controlled but daring, full of intelligence and lan.

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'The Financial Times', London. May 16, 1986. From a recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Schumann's Novelettes played complete can be a daunting experience for both pianist and audience. Yet Craig Sheppard, in his Queen Elizabeth Hall recital on Sunday evening, was so vivaciously alive to the music's every nuance, even when the composer prolongs his argument on ecstasy as if loath to leave his private and enchanted dream world, that he erased all sense of time. Indeed, his quasi-orchestral colouring, imaginative pinpoint pianism and brio made the Novelettes' neglect seem inexplicable.

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'The Daily Telegraph', London. November 13, 1983.

Sheppard's interpretation of the (Beethoven) Sonata in E flat Major, Opus 31 No.3, was enthralling: he sustained the wholework in the broadest sense, but showed subtely and refinement of detail, rising to a tremendous but controlled pitch in the last movement.

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'The Daily Telegraph', Manchester (England), March 7, 1975. Following a live performance on BBC Radio 3.

The Goldberg Variations can be listened to in a diversity of ways, but Mr. Sheppard invited us to experience them as a feat of virtuoso musical thinking, incredibly sustained.

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'The London Times', June 26, 1980. From a performance at the Wigmore Hall.

The ensemble was effortless enough to suggest that the five were blood relations. Schumann is often accused of over-favouring his own instrument. Mr. Sheppard made nonsense of that charge. With prize-winning fingers to dissolve all complexities into child's play, he was as happy in tonal blending and balance as in timing and closely matched phrasing.

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'The London Times', June 4th, 1977. From a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall with the Bartok String Quartet from Budapest.

Craig Sheppard brought acute musical insight, the instincts of a poet and exceptional technical ability (and agility) to bear on his performance. His dynamic range was wide - from a singularly beautiful bell-like carrying tone to pianissimos of an ethereal kind.

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'The Argus', Capetown, South Africa, February, 1982. Following a performance of the Chopin Concerto in E minor with the Capetown Symphony.

Scharfes Zupacken kennzeichnete den vom Anschlag her nuancenreichen pianistischen Solopart des Amerikanern Craig Sheppard, der mit seiner sprunghalften Spontaneitt und geballten rhythmischen Kraft in das Klavierkonzert und die Rhapsody in Blue einen spannungreichen improvisatorischen Charakter einbrachte. [An incisive attack informed the touch of the richly nuanced solo piano part played by the American, Craig Sheppard, who brought an exciting and improvisatory character to both the Concerto in F and the Rhapsody in Blue through his rapid-fire spontaneity and his concentrated rhythmic energy.]

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'Weser-Kurier', Bremen, 20 April, 1982. From a concert with the Westflische Sinfonieorchester in the Town Hall, Bremen, of Gershwin's Concerto in F and the Rhapsody in Blue.

Das sichere Aufspielen, energisch aber ebenso einfhlsam und zart, der akzentuierte Anschlag, Lufer wie Perlen auf einer Kette, oder wuchtige Akkordsulen rissen das Publikum im sehr gut besuchten Kurhaussaal zu einem Begeisterungssturm hin, der selten erlebt wurde. [Secure beginnings of phrases, energetic but equally sensitive and delicate, a well-defined touch, runs like pearls of a necklace, and massive columns of chords thrilled the public in the well-attended Kurhaus Concert Hall, causing them to break out in a storm of enthusiasm that has seldom been witnessed.]

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'Hammer Zeitung', April, 1985. From a performance with the Nordwestdeutschen Philharmonie of Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto.

What distinguished his Chopin was a series of exquisite details. It was playing that revealed layer after layer of music in each piece, as if one were faceting a gemstone.

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'The Seattle Times' - October 29, 1997. From a recital in Seattle's Meany Theater.

Sheppard makes any composer he plays sound like a specialty of his. To the Brahms Concerto No. 2 and to the A Major Intermezzo (played as an encore), he brought rhythmic freedom without artifice and lyricism without treacle.

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'The Seattle Weekly' - December 12, 1998.

Blessed with a formidable intellect and an equally formidable technique, Sheppard invariably makes these musical journeys rewarding, as they were Tuesday.

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'The Seattle Times' - October 25, 2001. From a recital in Seattle's Meany Theater.




 


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