A pianist of “unerring, warm-toned refinement, revealing judicious glimmers of power” (Los Angeles Times), ROBERT THIES (pronounced “Theece”) is an artist renowned for his consummate musicianship and poetic temperament. He first captured worldwide attention in 1995 when he won the Gold Medal at the Second International Prokofiev Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia. With this victory, Thies became the only American pianist to win first prize in a Russian piano competition since Van Cliburn’s famed triumph in Moscow in 1958.
This victory brought accolades from the White House, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Governor Pete Wilson, and Mayor Richard Riordan. The Los Angeles City Council declared February 16, 1996 “Robert Edward Thies Day,” and Robert was featured on the July 1996 cover of Piano and Keyboard magazine. His win was announced in the International Herald Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times wrote a feature article, “Another American Pianist Invades Russia, Successfully.”
Conductor Jorge Mester hails Robert “a genius,” and Maestra JoAnn Falletta touted after a recent performance, “conducting the Brahms Second Piano Concerto with Robert Thies was one of the most beautiful and deeply satisfying musical experiences of my life.”
Praised for his “thoughtful and intensely moving interpretations,” Thies enjoys a diverse career as an orchestral soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. He has already performed forty concertos with orchestras all over the world. In one season alone he performed thirteen different concertos, garnering consistent critical acclaim. He has appeared with such orchestras as the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Liepāja Symphony (Latvia), the Mexico City Philharmonic, the National Symphony of Mexico, the Auckland Philharmonia (New Zealand), the Louisville Orchestra, the Fort Worth Symphony, the Virginia Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Pasadena Symphony, and the Naples Philharmonic. His concerts have been broadcast throughout the United States, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Bolivia, Hungary, Mexico, and New Zealand.
Thies, a Steinway artist, is a frequent recitalist in the United States and abroad, and he has developed a reputation for his “genuine” interpretations of intriguing and delicately balanced programs. He made his South American debut in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2002, and followed this with a European tour. Under the sponsorship of Community Concerts, he completed a forty-city tour of the United States in 2001. In May 1999, he was honored with a special invitation to perform in the Hermitage Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, built for Empress Catherine the Great.
A dedicated chamber musician, Thies is highly sought after as a collaborator, and he has shared the stage with many esteemed musicians, including those from the LA Phil and the LA Chamber Orchestra. In March 2012 he was the official pianist for the International Piatigorsky Cello Festival at USC, at which he performed over 25 works in one week and played a recital with renowned cellist Thomas Demenga. An avid proponent of art song, Thies has also appeared with many outstanding singers in recital, most recently at Lincoln Center in New York with tenor Shawn Thuris in a performance of Schubert’s great opus Winterreise. Over the past decade he founded the Thies Piano Quartet, the Pantoum Trio, and most recently, the Thies Consort. The Consort performs a wide range of works of varying instrumentation and size, thus allowing for innovative and unique programming with musical continuity based on a style, composer, or other concept.
Thies’ “grace and unsurpassed lyricism” are in high demand at festivals and special celebrations. In 2002, in conjunction with the Hollywood premiere of Roman Polanski’s film The Pianist, he performed Wladislaw Szpilman’s Concertino for Piano and Orchestra with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. That same year Thies earned national recognition for his collaboration with noted cultural historian and author, Joseph Horowitz, in the Pacific Symphony’s Dvořák in America festival. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Arnold Schoenberg’s death, Thies was invited to Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes in 2001 to perform the composer’s seldom-heard Piano Concerto with the National Symphony of Mexico. During the fall of 1997 Thies worked alongside distinguished late Polish composer Henryk Górecki in the United States premiere of his Sonata for Piano. In a commemorative gesture just after Górecki’s recent passing, Thies’ performance was broadcast on KUSC 91.5 FM Classical Radio. Thies has performed at the music festivals of Ravinia, Aspen, Sedona, Cape May, Music Academy of the West, and Mostly Mozart as well as the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival.
In Los Angeles, Thies has worked and recorded with many of the top studio musicians, and has worked with such film composers as James Newton Howard, James Horner, Danny Elfman, Mychael and Jeff Danna, Christopher Young, and Lalo Schifrin. His playing can be heard most recently on Mychael Danna’s Oscar winning score to The Life of Pi, and he was a featured pianist on Danny Elfman’s concert piece Serenada Schizophrana. In 2010 Grammy-winning conductor Lucas Richman invited him to join a full symphony orchestra on a North American tour of John Williams’ Star Wars in Concert.
Thies’ recordings can be found on the Centaur, Albany, Golden Tone, and Denouement Records labels. He has also made numerous classical recordings for Yamaha Disklavier, featuring the music of Prokofiev, Ravel, Brahms, and Beethoven. He has premiered and recorded works written for him, such as Stu Phillip’s Variations for Piano and Orchestraand Kevin Kaska’s Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra, and premiered many works by Austrian composer Gernot Wolfgang. In February 2006 Robert released his debut solo recording Live in Recital. In June 2006, he recorded a crossover improvisational CD, Difference, with Croatian flutist Damjan Krajacic. In the fall of 2012 he released a follow-up duet album with Krajacic, Blue Landscapes, of original compositions and improvisations.
Thies is sought after as a master class teacher, chamber music coach, lecturer, and adjudicator across the globe. He currently serves on the faculty at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in downtown Los Angeles. He has also just been appointed Director of Chamber Music at the European American Musical Alliance (EAMA). This summer the program offers lessons in composition, conducting, and chamber music at the historic Schola Cantorum in Paris, France – taught in the tradition of the legendary Nadia Boulanger.
In May 2012, he gave a “webinar” (seminar via web) simultaneously to three universities in the United States and Mexico, and spoke about developing one’s musicianship to open up various music career options. He is also a frequent guest lecturer to various branches of the Music Teachers Association of California. From 2003-2007 he was a member of the faculty of the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, working beside his former teacher, Harold Heiberg, an authority on German art song. There, Thies coached singers and pianists primarily on the works of the great Germanic composers of Lied: Brahms, Wolf, Strauss, Schubert, and Schumann.
Though born on the East Coast, Thies makes a home in Los Angeles. His teachers have included Robert Turner and Daniel Pollack, both protégés of the legendary Russian pedagogue Madame Rosina Lhevinne and the great pianist Josef Lhevinne. For more information, visit Robert Thies at: robertthies.org.