Internationally acclaimed pianist Walter Ponce has performed around the world as a soloist with symphony orchestras, in solo recitals, and in collaboration with many renowned artists. He has been heard in concert halls of almost every major city of North and South America, in many countries of Europe and in Japan, Korea, and China. For many years he was under the management of the Wilford Division of Columbia Artists Management (CAMI), in a roster that included pianists Martha Argerich, Alicia de Larrocha, and Maurizio Pollini.
“This was delectable playing done with an electric crackle that Liszt himself would have applauded.”Chicago Tribune
Of his performance with Georg Solti, the Chicago Tribune headlined “Pianist Shines—Walter Ponce is Magical in his Chicago Symphony Debut.” Following his New York solo debut, the New York Times critic wrote: “Each music season brings its quota of surprises, and Walter Ponce’s recital might qualify as one of the current winter crops… It all added up to an impressive showing.” About Ponce’s Tully Hall recital, New York Magazine‘s renowned critic Peter G. Davis wrote: “Ponce’s playing could hardly have shown more discipline, muscular control, or imaginative use of the piano’s expressive resources. Better still is his ability to define and articulate each score with such balanced precision and unforced eloquence, creating a beautifully proportioned musical context that allows the composer to speak naturally and spontaneously in his own voice.” At the invitation of Daniel Barenboim, Ponce was featured in Chicago’s prestigious Orchestra Hall Piano series, about which the critic of the Chicago Tribune wrote: “This was delectable playing done with an electric crackle that Liszt himself would have applauded.”
Walter Ponce has performed in collaboration with numerous distinguished musicians including Sydney Harth, Jean-Jacques Kantarow, Mark Kaplan, Ani Kavafian, Jaime Laredo, Max Rabinovitsj, Zara Nelsova, Elmar Oliveira, Leslie Parnas, Alexander Schneider, Walter Trampler, the Cleveland, Audubon, American, and Lenox Quartets, and guest appearances with Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society. He has participated in festivals at Marlboro, Ravinia, Bermuda, Seattle, Caramoor, Aspen, Sintra and Evora in Portugal, Tangiers in Morocco, and Cervantino and San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.
An advocate of new music, Ponce has given premieres of more than two hundred works, including those by George Rochberg, Karel Husa, George Crumb, William Bolcom, and Morton Gould. Ponce premiered and made the original recording of George Crumb’s Voice of the Whale under the guidance of the composer. Composers Paul Reale and Ezra Laderman have written piano concertos specifically for Ponce. The latter was premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
TV stations across the United States and abroad have shown many of his solo and duo recitals; nationwide broadcasts by National Public Radio and worldwide through the Voice of America, and recitals for the BBC and Radio Basel, Switzerland. In 1995, at the invitation of then Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Ponce presented a solo recital as part of the United Nations 50th anniversary celebrations.
Recordings for Columbia Masterworks, Library of Congress, CRI, Vox Cum Laude and, with Yehuda Hanani, the complete works for cello and piano by Beethoven. Ponce has served in the jury of numerous international piano competitions, including the University of Maryland, Robert Casadesus in Cleveland, Gina Bachauer in Salt Lake City, Busoni in Bolzano, and many others.
Born in Bolivia, Walter Ponce’s musical beginnings took place at the National Conservatory of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is at this time that he first played for Alberto Ginastera, an association that continued in New York City when Ponce studied with him his celebrated Piano Sonata. At 17 he came to the United States, one of the youngest ever to receive a grant from the Department of State’s Fulbright program, which continued for an unprecedented four years. In New York, he graduated from Mannes College with a Bachelor of Science degree and from the Juilliard School with Master and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees. In 1967, he was one of three students chosen by Juilliard to study with Vladimir Horowitz. He also had two private lessons with Claudio Arrau.
Walter Ponce is Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at UCLA, where he was Director of Keyboard Studies. In addition, he has taught at St. John’s University in New York City, C. W. Post College, Bowdoin College, Colgate University, and the Aspen Music School and Festival. He has given innumerable master classes in colleges, universities, and music schools throughout North and South America, Europe, China, and Korea.
Ponce is the author of The Tyranny of Tradition in Piano Teaching: A Critical History from Clementi to the Present. Following a performance at the Eastman School of Music’s Kilbourn Hall, a music critic in Rochester, New York, wrote “After hearing Ponce I understand his reputation as a ‘pianist’s pianist.’ This recital was outstanding —the many piano students in the audience couldn’t have heard a better model.”