Fred Sturm - Pianist
Pianist Fred Sturm has specialized in the music of Latin America, and of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos in particular, for over twenty-five years. During the past three years, he has turned his attention to the music of Mexican composers, with special emphasis on the music of Federico Ibarra, performing all of Ibarra’s works over a series of concerts devoted to music of Mexico and Spain. In spring of 2012, he completed a project recording the works of Ibarra, with a CD released on September 30, 2012.
In response to that recording, Ibarra wrote, “In your recording I find a complete understanding of the pieces with respect to form, and what a variety of colors you draw from the instrument! Your tone faithfully captures the thought, and I find your control of dynamics faithful to the score from the violent volcanic eruptions of some movements to the tasteful irony and elegance of Sonata 0. In sum, I thank you deeply for your interpretation of my music.”
Also in spring of 2012 Sturm organized a four-concert festival devoted to Villa-Lobos’ music, celebrating the composer’s 125th birthday, in which he performed both as a solo pianist and in various ensembles. Video from those concerts can be found on a YouTube channel called VillaLobos125, with separate playlists for concerts of February 19, 2012, March 5, 2012, and March 18, 2012. He has recently presented the music of Villa-Lobos to the national convention of the College Music Society, to the New Mexico state convention of the Music Teachers National Association, and in various other educational and cultural venues. Over the past two years, he has performed a varied repertory by Mexican and Spanish composers as well as Villa-Lobos in venues in the United States, Mexico, and Germany.
Sturm’s recordings include five compact discs to date:
- American Rags, Brazilian Tangos, Afrocuban Dances (2002) juxtaposes ragtime music of Joplin, Scott and Lamb with Ernesto Nazareth’s Tangos Brasileiros and Ernesto Lecouna’s Afrocuban Dances, a grouping that emphasizes the similarities in popular styles from Brazil, through Cuba and the Caribbean, to the United States.
- Piano Music of Ginastera and Villa-Lobos (2003) pairs the music of Villa-Lobos with that of the Argentine composer he considered his “spiritual heir,” Argentina’s Alberto Ginastera.
- In Spanish Dances: Piano Music of Mompou, Granados, and Turina (2005), Sturm moved across the Atlantic to the Iberian Peninsula, exploring the music of some of his favorite Spanish composers.
- Brazilian Soul: Piano Music of Villa-Lobos (2008) is devoted entirely to Villa-Lobos, including the set of 16 Cirandas to be performed at Penn Arts.
- Sonidos de Nueva España: Piano music by Mexican composers (2010) surveys the music of a number of Mexican composers, especially focusing on Rodolfo Halffter and Federico Ibarra.
- Currently in production is a CD of the complete piano works of Federico Ibarra.
Sturm was featured earlier this year (March/April, 2012) in Fanfare Magazine, where Robert Schulslaper wrote of him:
“Sturm plays this varied repertoire with relish, sensitivity, and an individual response to each composer. Energetic and rhythmically adroit in extroverted music, he doesn’t dawdle or break the flow in slow or languid measures but uses beautifully gauged rubatos, ritardandos, dynamics, and colorful pedaling to express the composers’ thoughts. He’s stylistically flexible, performing everything from Ibarra to Granados with finesse and fine attention to detail without imperiling the grand design.”
Reviewer Michael Cameron added:
“His surveys of Latin American, American, and Spanish music have earned him well-deserved prominence in this corner of the vast keyboard literature.”
Sturm makes his home in Albuquerque, NM, where he has made most of his living in his “day job” of piano technician. He has taken care of the pianos at the University of New Mexico for over 25 years, and regularly writes articles for the Piano Technicians Journal and teaches classes at national and regional convention. Recently he has been trying to bridge the gap between the two halves of his professional life, offering a class entitled “From the Point of View of the Pianist,” where he tries to give his fellow piano technician a better understanding of the needs of the performing musician.
A broad sampling of Fred Sturm’s performances of Ibarra can be seen and heard on his YouTube channel, where you can find playlists of his performances of Villa-Lobos, Ibarra, Mompou, and Halffter, as well as playlists of many of his concerts over the past three years.