Ivan Davis says farewell with Schumann

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Shelly Berg was the most prominent musician on the stage of Gusman Concert Hall Saturday night, as the third evening of Festival Miami showcased the energetic Frost School of Music dean collaborating with several faculty musicians.

As expected however the spotlight was stolen by the final artist to perform, pianist Ivan Davis, who is retiring after a remarkable 42 years of teaching at the University of Miami.

In a brief speech, Davis mentioned how much he had learned from all his students, those who had gone on to piano careers as well as those who had not. His greatest accomplishment, he hoped, was instilling in his students, “a sense of adventure and appreciation.”

Davis, 76, is retiring at the end of this school year but an even greater loss for the music world is that Saturday marked his farewell public appearance as pianist. Vision problems and arthritis have made it increasingly difficult for him to perform.

Davis’s rendering of Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) may not have been technically pristine but with the level of insight, subtle poetry and understanding Davis brought to these Schumann miniatures, no one could cavil. The relaxed fantasy, gentle musing and introspection were rendered with natural expression and simple eloquence, truly the art that conceals art. His refined encore of the favorite Scarlatti sonata with which he liked to begin his recitals, closed the circle neatly.

The rest of the concert followed the genre-crossing path established at last year’s inaugural Dean’s Concert with Berg teaming up with a variety of Frost faculty musicians in jazz and classical works. Incoming flute professor Trudy Kane joined Berg for a graceful reading of the Sonatine by Walter Gieseking, an artist known more as pianist than composer. The Miami Saxophone Quartet kicked up plenty of energy with their short but exuberant jazz set.

Berg and members of the Bergonzi String Quartet served up a lively if rough-and–ready performance of the Rondo finale of Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor. But the most impressive performance was Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie in which clarinetist Margaret Donaghue showed herself fully in synch with the music’s lyrical poise and relaxed virtuosity.

Posted in Performances

3 Responses to “Ivan Davis says farewell with Schumann”

  1. Posted Jan 24, 2010 at 4:32 pm by Jon W. Adams

    I bought at auction recently what I thought was a 100 331/3 classical records but turned out to be 1000, all from a radio station and featuring records of the 1940-1980’s, many never played. As I am playing each one I came across “Romantic Masterpieces for the Key Board”, 1963 Columbia Records played by Ivan Davis. I had never heard of him but it took less than a minute of listening to stop me from what I was doing and realize I was listening to someone with tremendous talent. Since then I have read a lot and read your article. It is funny that the end come at the same time I “found him”. I will be seeking out some of his CD. Thank you for your nice article. I just wish I could have been there to hear the program.

  2. Posted Dec 16, 2010 at 9:11 am by Larry Kent

    Some CDs are available. The discography at IvanDavis.com is a good starting point. Also check with ArchivMusic.com, which has the Liszt concertos/6th Rhapsody CD and the Wind Demon, and a few others. Also check Berkshire Record Outlet, eBay, Amazon, CD Universe. You can often find LPs on eBay, if you have a player.

  3. Posted Mar 28, 2017 at 9:35 am by PETER CATES

    I have a copy of Ivan Davis’s very exciting, highly virtuosic 1970 recording of the Tchaikovsky 1st Piano Concerto with the late, supremely underrated Henry Lewis conducting the Royal Philharmonic on a Phase 4 lp. I particularly want to commend the sense of collaboration both brought to the piece, similar to their Rach 2nd Concerto. People often complain of the superficiality of the Tchai Concerto but I own a pile of different recordings and am amazed at the depths they bring out. Even a few bad ones score points. Anyways he will be missed !

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