About Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez, The Washington Post called it right, saying, “Vanessa Perez is not to be taken lightly.” Perez is a product of the same energized musical culture in Venezuela that produced such international stars as conductor Gustavo Dudamel and pianist Gabriela Montero. Praised for a bold, passionate performing style allied to musicianship of keen sensitivity, Perez has been championed by iconic performers. Conductor Zubin Mehta said of the pianist: “Her level of musical perception and artistic awareness impressed me as much as her total command of the keyboard.”
This spring of 2012, Perez made her Telarc/Concord debut with the release of an all-Chopin studio recording that features the 24 Preludes Op. 28, Fantasie in F minor Op. 49, Barcarolle Op. 60 and two Preludes No. 25 Op. 45, and 26, A Flat major prelude. Soon after this recent May US release, her “ Chopin Preludes” reached No. 5, on the Classical Billboard Charts. American Record Guide describes this recording as “ This is exceptional Chopin Playing...This is emotionally bold yet finely nuanced playing, the combination you need for this repertory” ….”The Prelude (Op.45) sings with dark passion, one of the most compelling performances since Michelangeli’s…On one of her release concerts performing the Op.28 Preludes, the Washington Post said“ Perez dove into the Preludes as if discovering them for the first time, flinging them out into the hall with a kind of wild intensity that was often breathtaking”
Perez has developed an international profile, playing prestigious venues across the United States, Latin America and Europe. The pianist has performed not only with Dudamel and Montero, but also with such top musicians as pianist Ingrid Fliter, cellist Jan Vogler, violinist Colin Jacobsen and conductors John Axelrod, Enrique Batiz, David Gimenez Carreras, Karel Mark Chichon and Diego Matheuz. Reviewing a Perez performance of Mozart’s D Minor Concerto in Germany, the Dortmunder Zeitung called her “a virtuosa wild at heart and with a gentle touch,” combining “spontaneous freshness and poetic expression.” The Miami Herald, witnessing Perez in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, marveled at her “youthful fire” and “rapt lyricism.”
Among other high-profile experiences in the studio, Perez joined superstar violinist Joshua Bell to record Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion for Bell’s At Home with Friends album, released by Sony Classical in 2009. She also teamed with Jan Vogler to duet on Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango and more for the cellist’s 2008 Sony album, Tango. As a solo artist, the pianist’s new Chopin collection follows her 2005 album for VAI that featured Chopin’s four Ballades, pieces from Albéniz’s Ibería and a work by contemporary composer Suzanne Farrin. Reviewing that, International Piano said: “Perez can hold her head up high in the most distinguished company in Chopin’s Ballades. If anything, her Albéniz is even more impressive – impassioned, rich-toned and seductively coquettish where appropriate.”
Perez was raised to age 11 in Venezuela, where she began her studies in Caracas, with Luminita Duca at the “Emil Friedman school”. In the U.S., she studied with noted Claudio Arrau pupils Ena Bronstein and Rosalina Sackstein; at 17, she won a full scholarship for London’s Royal Academy of Music to study with Christopher Elton. She continued her studies with pianists Lazar Berman and Franco Scala in Italy, at the renowned Accademia Pianistica Incontri Col Maestro in Imola; she then completed post-graduate studies with Peter Frankl at Yale University and pianist Daniel Epstein in New York City. Perez made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2004, but her first performance in New York wasn’t in an uptown classical concert hall – it was at the downtown jazz shrine of the Blue Note, where Latin jazz star Arturo Sandoval had her perform his Sureña, a piece laced with Venezuelan folk melodies. A dual citizen of the U.S. and Venezuela, she currently resides just outside Manhattan, in New Jersey.
A watershed moment in the development of Perez’s artistry was her meeting, at age 14, with legendary pianist Claudio Arrau. Touched by her playing, he described the young musician as “a pianist whose technique, musicality and intelligent approach to the music she plays made a profound impression on me.” For Perez, “meeting Arrau changed me,” she says. “He was so humble, and his encouragement gave me so much strength when things became difficult, as they do. Some of his best advice wasn’t about playing the piano, per se. He took my hand and said, `You must learn about everything, not just music – live life to the fullest, all aspects of it. Only then will life come through your playing.’ I have always taken this to heart.”
As more music lovers around the world have realized in recent years through the success of Gustavo Dudamel and the training program of El Sistema, Venezuela is a deeply artistic society. “People connect to each other in Venezuela through a sense of community, and music is a special sort of community,” Perez explains. “I was used to playing for big crowds since I was a little girl.” At age 11, she was invited to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, to make her concert debut performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the Orquesta Sinfonica Municipal and conductor Carlos Riazuelo for a sold-out 2,500-seat auditorium. By 1998, the president of Venezuela had awarded Perez the Jose Felix Ribas Prize, the highest honor accorded a young performer for contributing to the artistic enhancement of the country.
Since then, Perez has performed in concert halls and festivals the world over, a draw for both her rich musicality and her alluring stage personality. El Clarin of Buenos Aires wrote about one of her concert appearances there: “To watch Perez play is an amazing show in itself. . . Each phrase finishes in something similar to a caress of the keyboard, in a fast or slow gesture as suggested by the music's momentum but always harmonious and beautiful. . .” In recent years, her performance highlights have ranged from an appearance in the International Keyboard Institute & Festival in New York, the Gilmore international Keyboard Festival, and a collaboration with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra under John Axelrod in Germany, to concerts with the Orquesta de la Juventud Simon Bolivar under Gustavo Dudamel in Caracas, Conductor Nikolaj Znaider and Teresa Carreno Youth orchestra, and under Diego Matheuz in Puerto Rico’s Casals Festival.
A frequent performer throughout the Americas, Perez has performed in the cultural capitals of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay and Peru, as well as with symphony orchestras in the U.S. from Miami to Minnesota to Vermont and in recital from Manhattan to Miami to San Diego. She has performed at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, the Montpellier Festival in France, the Beethoven-Haus in Germany, the Wigmore Hall in England and the Gothic Hall in Belgium, as well as the famed Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. Actively involved in contemporary music, Perez has collaborated with and performed works by such composers as Paul Moravec, Lowell Liebermann, Suzanne Farrin and Paul Desenne.
Along with making recordings of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Berlin Symphony and Mozart’s D Minor Concerto with Venezuelan conductor Eduardo Marturet, Perez has been featured playing on such radio stations as WQXR New York, WFMT Chicago, WGBG Boston among others, and most recently on Minnesota Public Radio, Texas Public radio, NPR ‘s “ All things Considered”, and American Public Media “ Performance Today”.