Robert Thies

piano
biography

A pianist of "unerring, warm-toned refinement, revealing judicious glimmers of power," [Los Angeles Times] Robert Thies (pronounced "Theece") is an artist renowned for his consummate musicianship and poetic temperament. He first captured worldwide attention in 1995 when he won the Gold Medal at the Second International Prokofiev Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia. With this victory, Thies became the only American pianist to win first prize in a Russian piano competition since Van Cliburn's famed triumph in Moscow in 1958. 


This victory brought accolades from the White House, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Governor Pete Wilson, and Mayor Richard Riordan. The Los Angeles City Council declared February 16, 1996 "Robert Edward Thies Day," and Robert was featured on the July 1996 cover of Piano and Keyboard magazine. His win was announced in the International Herald Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times wrote a feature article, "Another American Pianist Invades Russia, Successfully."


 


Conductor Jorge Mester hails Robert "a genius", and Maestra JoAnn Falletta touted after a recent performance, "Conducting the Brahms Second Piano Concerto with Robert Thies was one of the most beautiful and deeply satisfying musical experiences of my life."


 


Praised for his "thoughtful and intensely moving interpretations" Thies enjoys a diverse career as an orchestral soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. He has already performed forty concerti with orchestras all over the world. In one season alone he performed thirteen different concerti, garnering consistent critical acclaim. He has appeared with such orchestras as the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, Liepāja Symphony (Latvia), Mexico City Philharmonic, the National Symphony of Mexico, Auckland Philharmonia (New Zealand), Louisville Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Pasadena Symphony, and the Naples Philharmonic. His concerts have been broadcast throughout the United States, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Bolivia, Hungary, Mexico, and New Zealand.


 


Mr. Thies, a Steinway artist, is a frequent recitalist in the United States and abroad, and he has developed a reputation for his "genuine" interpretations of intriguing and delicately balanced programs. He made his South American debut in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2002, and followed this with a European tour. Under the sponsorship of Community Concerts, he completed a forty-city tour of the United States in 2001. In May 1999, he was honored with a special invitation to perform in the Hermitage Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, built for Empress Catherine the Great. 


 


A dedicated chamber musician, Thies is highly sought after as a collaborator, and he has shared the stage with many esteemed musicians, including those from the LA Philharmonic and the LA Chamber Orchestra. In March 2012 he was the official pianist for the International Piatigorsky Cello Festival at USC, at which he performed over 25 works in one week and played a recital with renowned cellist, Thomas Demenga.  An avid proponent of art song, Thies has also appeared with many outstanding singers in recital, most recently at Lincoln Center in New York with tenor Shawn Thuris in a performance of Schubert's great opus, Winterreise. Over the past decade he founded the Thies Piano Quartet, the Pantoum Trio, and most recently, The Thies Consort. The Consort performs a wide range of works of varying instrumentation and size, thus allowing for innovative and unique programming with musical continuity based on a style, composer, or other concept.


 


Thies's "grace and unsurpassed lyricism" are in high demand at festivals and special celebrations. In 2002, in conjunction with the Hollywood premiere of Roman Polanski's film The Pianist, he performed Wladislaw Szpilman's Concertino for Piano and Orchestra with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. That same year Thies earned national recognition for his collaboration with noted cultural historian and author, Joseph Horowitz, in the Pacific Symphony's Dvořák in America festival. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Arnold Schoenberg's death, Thies was invited to Mexico City's Palacio de Bellas Artes in 2001 to perform the composer's seldom-heard Piano Concerto with the National Symphony of Mexico. During the fall of 1997 Mr. Thies worked alongside distinguished late Polish composer Henryk Górecki in the United States premiere of his Sonata for Piano. In a commemorative gesture just after Gorecki's recent passing, Thies's performance was broadcast on KUSC 91.5 FM Classical Radio. Thies has performed at the music festivals of Ravinia, Aspen, Sedona, Cape May, Music Academy of the West, Mostly Mozart, as well as the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival.


 


In Los Angeles, Thies has worked and recorded with many of the top studio musicians, and has worked with such film composers as James Newton Howard, James Horner, Danny Elfman, Mychael and Jeff Danna, Christopher Young, and Lalo Schifrin. His playing can be heard most recently on Mychael Danna's Oscar winning score to The Life of Pi, and he was a featured pianist on Danny Elfman's concert piece: Serenada Schizophrana. In 2010 Grammy winning conductor, Lucas Richman, invited him to join a full symphony orchestra on a North American tour of John Williams' Star Wars in Concert.


 


Thies's recordings can be found on the Centaur, Albany, Golden Tone, and Denouement Records labels. He has also made numerous classical recordings for Yamaha Disklavier, featuring the music of Prokofiev, Ravel, Brahms, and Beethoven. He has premiered and recorded works written for him, such as Stu Phillip's Variations for Piano and Orchestra, and Kevin Kaska's Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra, and premiered many works by Austrian composer, Gernot Wolfgang. In February 2006 Robert released his debut solo recording Live in Recital.  In June 2006, he recorded a crossover improvisational CD Difference with Croatian flutist, Damjan Krajacic. In the Fall of 2012 he released a follow-up duet album with Krajacic, Blue Landscapes, of original compositions and improvisations.


 


Mr. Thies is sought after as a master class teacher, chamber music coach, lecturer, and adjudicator across the globe. He currently serves on the faculty at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in downtown Los Angeles. He has also just been appointed Director of Chamber Music at the European American Musical Alliance (EAMA).  This summer program offers lessons in composition, conducting and chamber music at the historic Schola Cantorum in Paris, France – taught in the tradition of the legendary Nadia Boulanger.


 


In May 2012, he gave a "webinar" (seminar via web) simultaneously to three universities in the United States and Mexico, and spoke about developing one's musicianship to open up various music career options. He is also a frequent guest lecturer to various branches of the Music Teachers Association of California. From 2003-07, he was a member of the faculty of the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, to work beside his former teacher, Harold Heiberg, an authority on German art song. There Thies coached singers and pianists primarily on the works of the great Germanic composers of Lied: Brahms, Wolf, Strauss, Schubert, and Schumann.


 


Though born on the East Coast, Thies makes a home in Los Angeles. His teachers have included Robert Turner and Daniel Pollack, both protégés of the legendary Russian pedagogue Madame Rosina Lhevinne, and the great pianist Josef Lhevinne.


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Reviews
Louisville Orchestra Highlights Russian Masterworks
2015-04-10 http://wuol.org/review-louisville-orchestra-highlights-russian-masterworks/, Louisville
""Thies brought an unassuming stage presence, lacking all the glitz, body and facial contortions common in soloists. Instead, he allowed Prokofiev's music to exude personality without affectation. Soloist and orchestra were effortless and fluid, with a sparkling urgency throughout. Thies' ability to be unobtrusive allowed Prokofiev to be present, as though he had opened a portal to the moment of creation."
(Daniel Gilliam)
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From epic to lyric: Robert Thies brings a poet's touch to the piano in two concerts
2014-02-06 New Times, San Luis Obispo
""His no-nonsense manner and passion revealed sensitivity and power, and a lyricism fully emerged. The Adagio [of the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto] sounded under his hands like a love letter to a lost world that could only be recreated in music. As a soloist, Thies' sensibility is thoroughly Romantic, and it came out fully formed. His performance prompted the audience to give Thies one of the longest, loudest standing ovations I've heard in my years.""
(James Cushing)
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SCO Puts Gentler Spin on Beethoven
2014-10-30 La Crescenta Weekly, La Crescenta, CA
""Robert Thies is a pianist who – bless him – simply lets his instrument sing. There is nothing of the hoary carnival barker in his pianism, to say nothing of the sideshow. On the contrary. Here is a genuine aristocrat of the piano. Thies has that ability – all too rare – to tap directly into the essence of a score. Indeed, his performance had all the seeming inevitability of the score virtually playing itself. His was playing that was vibrant, alive, with a pearlescent, songful touch, but always at the service of what the music demands."
(Ted Ayala)
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Astonishing Rachmaninoff elevates Cal Phil performance
2009-07-31 Pasadena Star News, Pasadena
""It was one of those performances that sticks in the memory, and that leaves you physically moved and enchanted long after it ends. Astonishing, powerful, and delicate by turns, informed by Thies's extraordinary technical brilliance and expressivity. Under his fingers, the Rachmaninoff [Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini] took on a new color, revealing details that usually remain hidden, from tricks of virtuoso pianism to lush new richness and gentle hints at deeper meanings. He plays the work the way Rachmaninoff, who made his living as a pianist, must have played it.""
(John Farrell)
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Thies plays Chopin with the Naples Philharmonic
2005-05-10 Naples Daily News, Naples
""Close your eyes, and it is difficult not to compare him to Ashkenazy, his flawless runs and lush trills during the concerto something to behold and hear.  Thies' sensitive performance brought the audience to its feet. Chopin smiled from on high. Roars of approbation ricocheted throughout the hall. Over and over Thies and Mester returned to acknowledge the crowd.""
(Peg Goldberg Longstreth)
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