Walter Ponce, Piano
Internationally acclaimed pianist WALTER PONCE has performed around the world as soloist with symphony orchestras, in solo recitals and in collaboration with many renowned artists. Of his appearance with the legendary Sir Georg Solti, the Chicago Tribune headlined "Pianist Shines with Chicago Symphony Orchestra -- Walter Ponce is Magical in his Chicago Symphony Debut."
For many years he was under the management of the renowned Wilford Division of Columbia Artists Management (CAMI) in a roster that included pianists Martha Argerich, Alicia de Larrocha, and Maurizio Pollini.
Ponce has been heard in concert halls of almost every major city of North and South America, in many countries of Europe, and in Morocco, Japan, Korea, and China (Shenzhen, Yichang, Changsha, Xiamen, and Beijing.) His last performance under the auspices of CAMI took place as soloist with the San Antonio Symphony conducted by Alan Gilbert, now Music Director of the New York Philharmonic.
His European debut took place in London's Wigmore Hall followed by a remarkable New York City debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that prompted the New York Times to conclude "Each music season brings its quota of surprises, and Walter Ponce's recital might qualify as one of the current winter crop... It all added up to an impressive showing." Other New York City solo recitals include the Bosendorfer Artists Series, Town Hall, Hunter College, and Carnegie Hall's "Emerging Artist Series" about which Bernard Holland wrote in the New York Times "...a rendering of Schubert's mystical and mysterious B-flat Sonata ... served as an admonishment to the wicked and an example for the virtuous.” In his review of a solo recital at Alice Tully Hall, New York Magazine's renowned critic Peter G. Davis wrote “Ponce's playing could hardly have shown more discipline, muscular control, or imaginative use of the piano's expressive resources. Better still is his ability to define and articulate each score with such balanced precision and unforced eloquence, creating a beautifully proportioned musical context that allows the composer to speak naturally and spontaneously in his own voice.”
At the invitation of Daniel Barenboim, Ponce was featured in Chicago’s prestigious Orchestra Hall Piano series. Reviewing this recital, Dan Tucker wrote in the Chicago Tribune “This was delectable playing done with an electric crackle that Liszt himself would have applauded."
Walter Ponce has performed in collaboration with numerous distinguished musicians including Stephanie Chase, Sydney Harth, Jean-Jacques Kantarow, Mark Kaplan, Ani Kavafian, Jaime Laredo, Max Ravinovitsj, Zara Nelsova, Elmar Oliveira, Leslie Parnas, Alexander Schneider, Walter Trampler, the Cleveland, Audubon, American, and Lenox Quartets, and guest appearances with Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society. He has participated in festivals such as Ravinia, Bermuda, Seattle, Caramoor, Aspen, Sintra and Evora in Portugal, Tangiers in Morocco, and Cervantino and San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. At the Marlboro Festival, Ponce participated in the performance of Stravinsky's Les Noces with pianists Richard Goode and Ruth Laredo with Leon Kirchner conducting, Dallapiccola's Music for Three Pianos with the composer and Murray Perahia, and the first Marlboro performance of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time with Felix Galimir, Nathaniel Rosen and Richard Stoltzman.
TV stations across the United States and abroad have shown many of his solo and duo recitals; nationwide broadcasts by National Public Radio and worldwide through the Voice of America, and recitals for the BBC and Radio Basel, Switzerland. In 1995, at the invitation of then Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Ponce presented a solo recital as part of the United Nations 50th anniversary celebrations.
A busy advocate of new music, Ponce has given the premieres of more than two hundred works, including those by Hugo Weisgall, George Rochberg, Karel Husa, George Crumb, William Bolcom, and Morton Gould. Composers Paul Reale and Ezra Laderman have written piano concertos specifically for Ponce. The latter was premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Ponce made the original recording of George Crumb's Voice of the Whale under the guidance of the composer.
Ponce has served as a member of the jury in numerous international piano competitions, including the University of Maryland, Robert Casadesus in Cleveland, Washington D.C., Gina Bachauer in Salt Lake City, and countless others. Recordings for Columbia Masterworks, Library of Congress, CRI, Vox Cum Laude; with cellist Yehuda Hanani, the complete works for cello and piano by Beethoven and works by the Cuban composer Jorge Martín.
Born in Bolivia, Walter Ponce's musical beginnings took place in the National Conservatory of Buenos Aires, Argentina, studying in that city's vibrant musical environment that produced so many outstanding pianists. It is also at this time that he first played for Alberto Ginastera, an association that continued in New York City, when Ponce studied with him his celebrated Piano Sonata. At 17 he came to the United States, one of the youngest ever to receive a grant from the Department of State’s Fulbright program, which continued for an unprecedented four years. In New York he graduated from Mannes College with a Bachelor of Science degree and from the Juilliard School with Master and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees. He was one of three students chosen by Juilliard to play and study with Vladimir Horowitz (1967). At Marlboro he was coached by Rudolf Serkin in several chamber music works. He also had two private lessons with Claudio Arrau.
Walter Ponce is Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York; presently, Distinguished Professor at UCLA. In addition, he has taught at St. John's University in New York City, C. W. Post College, Bowdoin College, Colgate University, and the Aspen Music School and Festival. He has given innumerable master classes in colleges and universities throughout the North and South America, Europe, China, and Korea.
Ponce has written a book titled Masters and Disasters – From Clementi to the Present: The Traditions of Abuse in Piano Teaching, a history and critique of the art of piano teaching. It will be published in 2015.
Following a performance at the Eastman School of Music’s Kilbourn Hall, the music critic of the “City” of Rochester, New York, wrote "After hearing Ponce I understand his reputation as a 'pianist's pianist.' This recital was outstanding —the many piano students in the audience couldn't have heard a better model.”