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 couple decades, 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 the CD Federico Ibarra, Music for Piano, 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’ musical the University of New Mexico, 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.
In 2016, he organized a two-concert chamber festival of music by Ibarra at UNM, videos of which can also be found in a YouTube playlist. He has recently turned his attention to piano works of Arturo Márquez, Alejandro Rutty, and Mario Carro among others
Sturm’s recordings include seven compact discs to date:
En Clave, Piano Music of Márquez, Ibarra and others (2023), includes all of Marquez' solo piano music, late works of Ibarra, and pieces by Miguel del Aguila, Mario Carro and Alejandro Rutty.
Federico Ibarra, Music for Piano (2012) includes Sonatas 1 - 6, Sonata 0 (an early work) and Paramo Petreo.
("He plays the music of Ibarra as if he were writing it on the spot. It is rare to hear a musician so inhabited by the material." Peter Burwasser, Fanfare Magazine)
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.
(“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.” Robert Schulslaper, Fanfare Magazine)
Brazilian Soul: Piano Music of Villa-Lobos (2008) is devoted entirely to Villa-Lobos, including the set of 16 Cirandas, Ciclo Brasileiro, Alma Brasileira, and A Lenda do Caboclo.
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.
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.
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.
A broad sampling of Fred Sturm’s performances 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. In many cases, his are the only performances available publicly.
Sturm makes his home in Albuquerque, NM, where he has made most of his living in his “day job” of piano technician. He took care of the pianos at the University of New Mexico for over 30 years, and regularly writes articles for the Piano Technicians Journal and teaches classes at national and regional conventions of the Piano Technicians Guild. 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.
Another of his interests is historical research, in the areas of the history of the piano and of piano tuning and technology. He has translated The Art of Tuning, by Claude Montal a blind French piano technician and manufacturer of the mid 19th century, as well as materials connected with his life and work, including his patents and biographical materials published during his lifetime. For these materials and information about the book, see his Art of Tuning website. He has also published many articles on a number of piano related topics, including a series on the history of temperament. A selection of these articles and papers can be found on researchgate.net and academia.edu.