Anton Nel, Beethoven and his Hamburg Steinway

Anton Nel

Anton Nel

Anton Nel is one of the most recognizable names in the Austin classical music scene. He arrived in Austin as a young 23-year-old to take up a faculty position at the University of Texas. This was followed by professorships at the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan.

He returned to Austin and UT in 2000 where he now heads the division of keyboard studies.

“For a city of its size, Austin has a terrific classical music community,” writes Nel in an email. “I enjoy the fact that many musicians work in more than organization and that there’s so much mutual admiration and support between them.”

Born in South Africa, Nel made his debut at the age of 12 in Beethoven’s Piano Concert No. 1.

And having just finished a run at Zach Scott Theatre, where he performed Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations as part the Broadway play 33 Variations, he’ll have his time in the spotlight at the Long Center in an all-Beethoven solo recital on April 14.

Clearly, Beethoven is in his blood.

“I’ve loved his music since an early age, and saying that I like his melodic gifts, forward-looking ideas, sense of architecture, etc. is really not enough,” Nel writes. “The power of his music really cannot be appropriately put into words, and I think it’s wonderful that everyone — no matter what their level of understanding of classic music — can be profoundly affected by it.”

And he doesn’t get tired of it.

“Beethoven wrote so much piano music of course, and keeping it fresh is really not hard! As with all great music, there are always new discoveries to make as you practice, plus it’s a joy to perform it.”

Nel will be performing his all-Beethoven recital on the Hamburg Steinway piano he handpicked for the Long Center. When Austin was getting ready for its new performing arts center, Cliff Redd, the Long Center’s first chief, asked Nel to select a piano for the hall.

“I found the piano quite by accident,” he writes. “The summer before I was charged to select the Long Center’s piano I was, as usual, at the Aspen Music Festival, where I became acquainted with an extraordinary piano.”

He explains that every summer truckloads of Steinways travel from New York to the concerts halls, teaching studios and practice rooms of the Aspen Music Festival. At the end of each summer there is a big sale, and those unsold return to New York.

“This piano really jumped out at me as something with a uniquely beautiful sound, as well as the versatility to be a solo, chamber music, or concerto instrument. I absolutely loved it and played it many times.”

The piano didn’t get sold in Aspen and it made the trip back to New York. Back on the east coast, it became a favorite of several major artists, including Murray Perahia. But the piano ultimately found its way to Austin and into the Long Center.

“I still remember my response to Cliff Redd: ‘Do I have the piano for you!’ The rest is history.”

Come hear Anton Nel perform his only Austin solo recital of the season. Sunday, April 14 at 3 p.m. at The Long Center. Tickets and information.

Comments & Reviews on ATXclassical

  1. Anton will be performing on the fortepiano this weekend, which should be a rare treat! Check it out:

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