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Schumann Festival features virtuoso pianist

Ian Hobson, known for versatility, performs at BU

Pianist Ian Hobson, recognized worldwide for his talent, plays two fre concerts at BU.

Was Ian Hobson destined from birth to be an internationally known pianist? As a baby, in Wolverhampton, England, Hobson was inventing songs on a toy piano. His parents noticed that their child had perfect pitch. When they bought him a real piano, he learned to play by ear, then started formal musical education at age five.

Hobson, who is known as one of the greatest pianists of our time, will present two special performances at BU on Thursday, April 6 and Friday, April 7. Featuring challenging works for the keyboard and for chamber music, the concerts are a highlight of the CFA School of Music’s month-long Schumann Festival. On April 6, at 8 p.m. at the Tsai Performance Center, Hobson will perform Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, Op. 12, Sonata in G minor, Op. 22, and Carnaval, Op. 9. On April 7, at 8 p.m. at the CFA Concert Hall, with the Muir String Quartet, he will perform Clara Schumann Romances, Op. 11, Piano Quintet, Op. 44, and Piano Trio No. 2 in F major, Op. 80. Both concerts are free and open to the public.

Hobson is famous for his versatility, and his programs consistently demonstrate a repertoire that spans the centuries and demands an extraordinary command of styles and scholarly vision. His keyboard skills are such that he gained the attention of England’s best music schools as a teenager. At 16, Hobson was offered an open scholarship to Cambridge University, but instead attended the Royal Academy of Music in London. His mentor there was Sidney Harrison, the noted concert pianist and author. The following year he became the youngest recital diplomate in the history of the academy. He then earned a music degree from Cambridge University in two years, instead of the usual three.

Hobson went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate at Yale University’s Graduate School of Music. In 1980, as a 28-year-old associate professor of music at the University of Illinois — where he is now a full professor — Hobson won the silver medal at the Arthur Rubinstein Competition. In 1981 he won second prize at the Beethoven International Piano Competition in Vienna and first prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition.

“Mr. Hobson is a clean, precise pianist with a sure technique and unfailingly musical instincts,” wrote the New York Times about his 1983 New York City debut at Alice Tully Hall. “He does not set out to dazzle; his keyboard mastery does not call attention to itself. It is simply there — poised and irrefutable.”

The pianist’s recordings and recital performances encompass a cross section of works from mammoth to miniature: a series of works from The London Pianoforte School, the complete cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas, all of the Brahms Variations for Piano, as well as Rachmaninoff’s 17 études-tableaux and 24 preludes, Chopin-Godowsky’s études, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and contemporary works written for him by Ridout, Lees, Liptak, and Gardner. During the last several seasons, Hobson’s engagements have included appearances at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, performances of the Chopin and Moscheles concertos at the Bard Music Festival, and recitals across the United States, as well as in England and Italy.