“A Steinway is my perfect music making partner. It gives me the confidence to create the stories I want to tell.and play with colors due to its vast depth and range.”
Photo: Michele Laurita
As The Washington Post lauded, Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez "is not to be taken lightly.” Praised for her bold, passionate performing style allied with musicianship of keen sensitivity, Perez has been championed by iconic keyboard performers, from the great Claudio Arrau to Lazar Berman and Tamàs Vàsàry.
Steinway Artist Vanesssa 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 invited her to perform his “Sureña,” a piece laced with Venezuelan folk melodies.
In recent years, Perez’s performance highlights have ranged from concerts with the Orquesta de la Juventud Simón Bolívar under Gustavo Dudamel in Caracas and with the Orquesta under Diego Matheuz in Puerto Rico’s Casals Festival, to Chopin Festival of Majorca, Spain, and toured Central America with the Youth Orchestra of the Americas under Carlos Miguel Prieto and Jean Philippe Tremblay. She has played with symphony orchestras in the U.S. from Miami to Minnesota to Vermont and in solo recitals from Manhattan to Miami to San Diego. In Europe, as soloist, Perez has performed at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, the Montpellier Festival in France, Konzerthaus in Berlin, and the Wigmore Hall in London, among others.
One of Perez’s latest projects, "New Worlds," finds the pianist performing with the American actor Bill Murray (Groundhog Day), cellist Jan Vogler, and violinist Mira Wang. Led by the iconic American comedian and cellist Vogler, this group presents a program exploring core American values in literature and music (as represented by the likes of Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein), as well as inspirations in bridging the New World and Europe. After the project's premiere in June 2017 at the Dresden Music Festival, the ensemble toured “New Worlds,” performaning at Washington’s Kennedy Center, a sold out Carnegie Hall in New York, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, as well as performances in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Boston. 2018 brought a tour of Europe and Australia, including London’s Royal Festival Hall, Berlin’s Philharmonie, Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Athen’s Odeon Herodes, and Sydney’s Opera House.
As a soloist, Perez’s most recent recording titled Spain was released by the Steinway & Sons label in 2016. On this atmospheric album, the pianist performs music by Manuel de Falla, a Spanish composer with an attraction to French culture, and by Falla's friend and mentor Claude Debussy, a Frenchman with an affinity for Spain. Perez plays evocative piano suites taken from three stage works by Falla: "La Vida Breve," "El Sombrero de Tres Picos," and "El Amor Brujo," the latter of which includes the famous “Ritual Fire Dance.” Also by Falla are "Homenaje," an homage to Debussy, and "Fantasía Bética," commissioned by Arthur Rubinstein. The album’s Debussy works include “La soirée de Grenade” (the second movement of Estampes), “La Puerto del Vino” (from the second book of his Préludes) and “Lindaraja” (his first piece in a Spanish style).
Critics were suitably beguiled by Spain, with the review in International Piano declaring: “The Venezuelan pianist Vanessa Perez could hardly have given us a more vivacious view of Spain: castanets click, guitars strum and bodies whirl in the true spirit of Andalusian flamenco.” All Music Guide seconded that view, hailing the album as “strong…exciting.”
Perez’s previous recording, released in 2012 by Telarc, was Chopin: The Complete Preludes – an acclaimed milestone in her discography. The Washington Post reviewed the album, marveling over her way with the 24 Preludes, Op. 28: “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, as if she were forcing these delicate hothouse flowers into the fresh air for the first time.”
Perez’s debut solo album, released by VAI in 2005, featured the pianist in Chopin’s four dramatic Ballades, pieces from Isaac Albéniz’s landmark Iberia, and a work by contemporary composer Suzanne Farrin. Reviewing her VAI release, 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.” In addition to her solo albums, Perez has been a featured guest on hit recordings by other high-profile artists. Superstar violinist Joshua Bell invited the pianist to record Astor Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” with him for his 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 his 2008 Sony album, “Tango” and her latest collaboration with actor Bill Murray, cellist Jan Vogler, violinist Mira Wang titled “ New Worlds” was released in 2017 on Decca Gold.
With her recordings and many concerts, Perez has developed a significant international profile, playing some of the most prestigious venues across the U.S., Latin America and Europe. The pianist has performed with conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, Gustav Meier, James Judd, Ligia Amadio, David Gimenez Carreras, Carlos Izcaray, Diego Matheuz, John Axelrod, and Carlos Miguel Prieto. Also has collaborated with pianist Gabriela Montero, violinist Daniel Hope, singers Isabel Rey and Heather Buck, pianist Ingrid Fliter and Dali String quartet. Reviewing a Perez performance of Mozart’s D Minor Concerto in Germany with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, the Dortmunder Zeitung called her “a virtuosa wild at heart and with a gentle touch,” combining “spontaneous freshness and poetic expression.”
An eclectic performer, Vanessa Perez can be seen in an episode of Amazon’s hit TV series Mozart in the Jungle. She was filmed at the piano performing a concert of Messiaen’s "Turangalîla Symphony" for inmates at New York’s Rikers Island prison, alongside actor Gael García Bernal, and composer Suzanne Farrin. She was also seen in front of broad audiences playing Chopin’s mazurkas with the Limon Dance Company for their performances in Manhattan’s Bryant Park and the Joyce Theatre. Perez has been featured performing on such popular radio stations as WQXR New York, WFMT Chicago, Sirius XM, and WGBH Boston, as well as on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” American Public Media’s “Performance Today,” Minnesota Public Radio, and Texas Public Radio. Together with the “New Worlds Project” she was interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning by Janey Pauley, and performed for the Stephen Colbert show in New York in 2017.
Perez was raised to her pre-teen years in Venezuela, where she began her studies with Luminita Duca. 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 for a sold-out 2,500-seat auditorium. 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.
A dual citizen of the U.S. and Venezuela, Perez currently resides in Manhattan, with her husband, pianist-arranger Stephen Buck with whom she also gives duo concerts, and their children. Their duo performances of Debussy and Falla pieces are also featured on her “Spain” recording.