Craig Sheppard is a renowned pedagogue whose former students hold positions in major universities and conservatories in the USA 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 London, Shanghai, Beijing, Jerusalem and Oslo, as well as numerous universities and conservatories in the US. His CDs of the Shostakovich, recorded live in Seattle’s Meany Theater, 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 in 1947, 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, subsequently doing a Music from Marlboro tour, and studied 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 in 1973 and living there for the next twenty years, 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 the USA, working with conductors such as Erich Leinsdorf, Sir Georg Solti, Kurt Sanderling, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Sir John Pritchard, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Charles Groves, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas, Aaron Copland, 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 the USA in 1993 as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington’s School of Music in Seattle, becoming a Full Professor in 2004. Sheppard’s repertoire comprises forty-plus recital programs and over sixty concerti spanning all major eras of Western classical music. Over the years, he has collaborated with Wynton Marsalis, José Carreras, Ida Handel, Sylvia Rosenberg, Victoria de los Ángeles, 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 Seattle Piano Institute with colleague, Dr. Robin McCabe, an intensive ‘boot camp’ held every July 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.