Ivan Davis 1932-2018

By Lawrence Budmen


Pianist Ivan Davis, a longtime University of Miami faculty member, died Monday after suffering a stroke. He was 86 years old. 

Davis, who enjoyed an international career, was a professor of keyboard studies at UM for 42 years. He retired in 2008 after a performance of Schumann’s Kinderzenen, which was also his final concert appearance.

Davis studied at the Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome on a Fulbright scholarship. He won second prize at the Ferrucio Busoni International Piano Competition in 1956 and first prize at the Franz Liszt International Competition in 1960. Appearances with every major American orchestra and high profile recording contracts followed. 

In the 1970’s and 80’s, he was a formidable presence on Miami’s concert scene, frequently appearing as soloist with the Miami Philharmonic and Miami Chamber Symphony. Sometimes he filled in on a few hour’s notice for scheduled artists who had cancelled due to illness.

Julian Kreeger, who produced many of his recordings for the Audiofon label, said he had “a unique repertoire,” encompassing such rarities as Czerny’s Variations on “La Ricordanza” and a solo piano version of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite. He championed the piano works of Louis Moreau Gottschalk and George Antheil and recorded scores by such obscure 19th-century American composers as George Mason and William Henry Fry. His recordings of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 are highly prized by collectors.

Many of his students have gone on to teaching and performing careers. Alan Johnson, director of the UM Frost Opera Theater and a former Davis student said, in an e-mail, that Davis’s “love of life lived in each note he played” and that “he instilled in his students a sense of adventure.” 

Pianist Roberta Rust, a Davis student who is director of keyboard studies at Lynn University, noted that Davis, an opera enthusiast, “was greatly inspired by opera and the spontaneous and intuitive aspects of music.” Rust said that he had “an insatiable curiosity about the best upcoming talent” and “he encouraged interpretive freedom, the development of musical personality and nurtured the student’s natural virtuosity.”

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Sat Mar 17, 2018
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