Steven Spooner

Professor, Piano
Primary office:
312 Murphy Hall


D.Mus. Indiana University, Bloomington; A.D. Tbilisi State Conservatory

Critics and audiences have unanimously hailed the distinctive and compelling performances of pianist Steven Spooner describing him as “a pianist in the tradition that many believe died with the likes of Horowitz, Arrau, Bolet, Cziffra, and Wild. His talent, to my ears, is easily the equal of most major pianists of today and far superior to a large number of those “most exciting and dynamic pianists of their generation”(FANFARE MAGAZINE). Naxos recording artist Steven Spooner has established an international career that regularly brings him to major venues on four continents and has become one of the more noted American pianists. Passionately devoted to the solo recital, he has been engaged and often re-engaged at prestigious venues such as the Salle Cortot in Paris, Holland’s Vredenburg Centre, Budapest’s Great Hall of the Liszt Academy, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Rome’s Santa Cecilia, and Singapore’s Esplanade. During the past season he has daringly reinvented the solo recital format by allowing audiences to vote for one of several programs he has prepared.

Steven wields an unusually large repertoire and has mounted an enormous recital series akin to Anton Rubinstein’s solo recitals of 1885. These live recitals were recently documented in a 5-cd box-set entitled The Historical Piano Recital Series. His enthusiasm for new music has produced an ongoing collaboration with renowned composer Mohammed Fairouz (commissioned by the ROKI Foundation) to premiere and record several of his works during the next few seasons. Steven is currently documenting his family’s musical life along with a traversal of the 32 Beethoven Sonatas for their new XOTV show, A Life of Music.

Steven has been unusually successful in the limited number of international piano competitions in which he participated—he is prizewinner at each of the seven international piano competitions he has entered and top prizewinner at both the Hilton Head International Piano Competition and the Artlivre International Piano Competition. He captured First Prize and was recipient of the Niekamp Career Grant as most outstanding pianist in French music at the Paris Conservatory. His performances and recordings of works by Liszt have garnered particular attention worldwide.

Steven is an active collaborator and performs with a diverse and distinguished list of musicians including, the Borromeo Quartet, Violinist Renaud Capuçon, Silk Road Ensemble Bassist Daxun Zhang, Trombonist M. Dee Stewart, and Baritone Chris Thompson. Mr. Spooner’s recent orchestral engagements include performances of the Schnittke Concerto with the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin during their tour of North America and with the Danubia Symphony Orchestra, Sao Paulo Chamber Orchestra, Topeka Symphony, Brevard Symphony Orchestra, Crescent City Symphony, New Orleans Civic Symphony, and Ozark Chamber Orchestra.

Steven has just made a multi-disc commitment with Naxos Records and has released 15 recordings on the Naxos, TMG, EMR Classics, Everythingmusic, and IU recording labels. He has studied at Paris Conservatory, Moscow and Tbilisi Conservatories in the former Soviet Union, and Indiana University, Bloomington. His teachers/coaches include Tatiana Nikolaeva (Moscow Conservatory), Nodar Gabunia (Tbilisi Conservatory) Karen Shaw, Edmund Battersby, Leonard Hokanson (Lieder Coaching) (Indiana University, Bloomington), and Emile Naoumoff (Paris Conservatory and Indiana University, Bloomington). In 2008 he was the final recipient of the Ivory Classics Foundation prize that enabled him to study with the legendary virtuoso Earl Wild.

He has served as guest artist-in-residence at Paris Conservatory Summer Sessions and has been appointed to the Artist Faculty of the Amalfi Coast Music Festival in Italy, the International Institute for Young Musicians, Musicfest Perugia, the Adam Gyorgy Castle Academy in Budapest, and the JCoM Fest in Jakarta. Steven is increasingly in demand for his humorous, engaging, and energetic masterclasses at major music institutions all over the world such as the Paris Conservatory, Milan Conservatory, Liszt Academy of Music, and the Shanghai and Beijing Conservatories. Steven currently serves on the piano faculty at the University of Kansas and specializes in workshops and lectures on fingering, aspects of style, and a variety of performance and pedagogical topics. A dedicated and caring teacher, Steven’s students have been named winners of several prizes at important international and national piano competitions. Steven Spooner is a Steinway Artist. Further info: »


The Washington Post

Review of the American Liszt Society National Festival. 5/2008
"At the same time, there was already plenty to listen to -- and watch -- during a performance Saturday at Catholic University's Hartke Theatre of the composer's transcription of Schubert's "Erlkoenig." Anything added to Steven Spooner's dazzling, blurry-handed sweeps of the entire piano would have been dizzying."

The Breslau News

"The competition (The International Liszt Competition) on Thursday afternoon was ruled by the very professional, serious, and beautiful performance of Steven Spooner from the U.S.A. His playing was thought through to the finest detail from the beginning to its perfect conclusion. His Transcendental Etudes, Wilde Jagd and Harmonies du Soir were virtuosic and emotionally stirring. The Schubert Serenade in Liszt's transcription was both lyrical and clearly conceived."

Savannah Times

Review of Hilton Head International Piano Competition winner's recital. 10/25/1996
"American Steven Spooner had everything: polished technique, musical intelligence, innate sensitivity, and a personality that reaches across the keyboard. Spooner's Scarlatti (Dominico, Sonatas K. 213 and 184) were perfectly sketched pieces of understatement highlighting the 26-year-old's clarity, sensitivity and simplicity of statement. But Spooner has plenty of what Maestro Claudio Abbado calls the Big Utterance. Spooner used pedal technique rather than force to coax immense sound, achieving dense volume from the middle voice, and a growling resonance in the low voice. Accuracy was commendable throughout."

The Herald Times

Review of all Liszt concert. 11/13/2002
"Spooner, victor in the Liszt Competition in Russia, took on music of what was referred to as the 'virtuoso Liszt,' music of the composer as a young man...There were flourishes galore and chordal clusters and runs and resounding climaxes...One heard phenomenally agile pianism along with temperamentally sensitive musicianship."

The Herald Times

Review of duo concert with violinist Leor Maltinski. 8/6/2002
"Following a break, Maltinski turned to Beethoven and Franck. The Beethoven A Minor Sonata for Violin and Piano, Opus 23, brought forth an appropriate energy mixed with reserve. From both the violinist and pianist Steven Spooner one heard a warmth of touch and temperament that gave the sonata just the right adornment. Here was well-executed Beethoven." "The Franck Sonata in A Major sounded just as embracing Sunday as it did Friday. What a delicious musical confection it is, and what a test for both instrumentalists. Maltinski's interpretation was a winning one, generous in floating tones as well as flaming passage work, where called for. In total, his reading - beautifully complemented by Spooner - left a dreamy impression, almost other worldly in nature."

Carolina Morning News

Review of Hilton Head International Piano Competition winner's recital. 10/1996
"Louisiana-born Steven Spooner, 26, rounded out the program with enchanting interpretations of two Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti--some of the most interesting pianistic characterizations of these harpsichord compositions one is apt to encounter... enchanting."

Emile Naoumoff

Concert pianist, Sony recording artist, composer, Associate Prof. Indiana University
"It is an honor and almost a duty for me to be able to fully recommend Steven Spooner. He is among more than the top 1% of his generation as an auspicious pianist, musician, scholar. His stage presence is striking, his ear and his fingers have an amazing complicity. He has the enlighted touch of a Lipatti, the power of a Richter, both mental and physical, the articulation of Michelangeli...he becomes 'one' with the instrument, carving the sounds into meaningful rests as well. He is an inspiration to all of us around him."

Viktor Merzhanov

Concert pianist, Professor, Moscow Conservatory, from letter of recommendation, 2002.
"His performance possesses the deep understanding of the contents of Liszt's works, organic and instinctive feeling of form and outstanding virtuosity. His programs for the first and second rounds of the competition were very demanding, requiring not only technical perfection but the ability to create colorful artistic images. The crystal-clear enunciation of each tone and the feeling of phrasal climaxes and structure are also worth mentioning. All of the above made Mr. Spooner's playing very memorable. His pianistic art must attract more attention from concert organizers around the world."


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Etude-Toccata (a la Argerich) (From Missouri Fine Arts Academy Summer Festival, 2006)

Mozart Sonata K. 330, I (University of Idaho, 2005)

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