The 2005-2006 season marks the 45th anniversary celebration of the New York debut of the distinguished pianist Ivan Davis. One of the most honored artists of his generation, the Texas-born Davis began his studies at the age of 12 with his aunt, continued as a scholarship student of Silvio Scionti at North Texas State University, then received a Fulbright Award to study with Carlo Zecchi at L’Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. In 1955 he won first prize at the National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artist Competition and took top prizes in several international competitions: the Casella in Naples, the Busoni in Bolzano, and the Vianna da Motta in Lisbon. In 1960 he climaxed his prize-winning career by capturing the Grand Prize of the Franz Liszt competition and began his studies with the legendary Vladimir Horowitz.
Previously, on October 21, 1959, Davis made his New York debut in recital at Town Hall, after which Harold Schonberg wrote in the New York Times, "this was an unusually exciting debut and it left no doubt that an important new American pianist has arrived on the scene." Davis soon appeared on national television as soloist with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra and recorded with them works of Liszt and Rachmaninoff for Columbia Records, which also issued discs of solo piano works by Liszt, Haydn, Mozart, Scarlatti, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin, as well as concerto favorites with Andre Kostelanetz.
During the next few years, Mr. Davis gave recitals in every state in the U.S.A. and appeared with almost every major symphony orchestra and every leading conductor, including the opening night Pension Fund Concert with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, as well as playing a recital on the Great Performers Series at Lincoln Center. He received the Handel Medallion from the City of New York (its highest award) for his outstanding contribution to America's cultural life. He is one of the few pianists of his generation to have a biographical entry in the New Groves Dictionary of Music.
In 1966, Mr. Davis made his debut in London at Queen Elizabeth Hall to extraordinary critical and public acclaim. Edward Greenfield wrote in the Guardian, "He brought one back – or forward – to a golden age of pianism." Davis was immediately engaged and re-engaged with all the major orchestras of Britain, in addition to recording concerti by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Liszt with the Royal Philharmonic (Decca-London label) and appearances with the London Philharmonic at New York's Carnegie Hall and Philadelphia's Academy of Music. He has also recorded best-selling solo albums of Chopin, virtuoso showpieces and the award-winning "Great Galloping Gottschalk" for the above label.
Since 1966 Ivan Davis has also received great acclaim as artist-teacher and pianist-in-residence at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where his solo recitals are performed to standing room only audiences. Davis also instituted marathon recital series on which he appeared with his students in the complete piano works of Chopin, Brahms, Schumann and the 32 Beethoven sonatas. These have become the highlight of the school's musical calendar. His reputation as a distinguished pedagogue resulted in his being a visiting Professor at Indiana University, as well as presenting Master Classes throughout the United States. Davis serves regularly on the juries of several prestigious international piano competitions.
Because of his vast knowledge and great love for opera, Davis became a frequent and popular panelist and lecturer on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. He appeared in joint recitals with the legendary soprano Magda Olivero at Carnegie Hall and later with the Met’s reigning prima donna Renata Scotto in Paris (recorded on Etcetera Records). His recording for Audiofon of music by Liszt and Schumann was called "the greatest piano recording ever made" by Byron Belt, the late Critic-at-Large for the Newhouse News Service. Also released on that label are an all-Grieg recital and a 2-cd album (Souvenirs) comprising his London debut recital and live encores.
On February 12, 1984, Ivan Davis performed the Rhapsody in Blue in New York City on the 60th anniversary recreation of the famous Paul Whiteman concert that featured the world premiere of George Gershwin performing his masterpiece. The anniversary concert with Maurice Peress conducting the Paul Whiteman Band has been recorded on the Musicmasters label. Davis had previously recorded the Rhapsody in Blue with Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra for London. By popular demand, the anniversary concert was repeated in New York City as well as presented at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Rome (Italy). Mr. Davis also performed the Gershwin Concerto in F with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1986, as well as in Italy and Singapore. The Paul Whiteman concert has been presented in over 70 cities throughout North America.
Mr. Davis has performed at festivals in Bergamo-Brescia, Sorrento and L'Aquila, Italy during the summers of 1988-89 as well as giving master classes in both piano and voice in Salzburg, Austria. He received a signal honor in being asked to play the final concert on the illustrious Zelzer series in Chicago which began in 1930 with a recital by Gigli. He appeared with the three orchestras of South Florida in 1993, performing Gershwin with the New World Symphony, Mozart and Mendessohn with the Miami Chamber Orchestra and Beethoven with the Florida Philharmonic. On February 2, 1997, he gave an enormously successful recital, celebrating both his birthday and his 30 years at the University of Miami. The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel said: "The most imaginative, interesting and insightful pianist around – much more than just technical assurance – he knows how to make a piano sing – a thoroughly enriching concert." The Miami Herald noted: "The pianist sounded like his old, or rather young, self. Davis the virtuoso is back."
When not practicing, performing or teaching, Ivan Davis can usually be found cooking and entertaining in his spacious custom-designed kitchen in Miami or he might be watching football or showing movies (over 8,000 in his collection) in his private audio-video theater.