As the Washington Post lauded, Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez "is not to be taken lightly.” Praised for her bold, passionate performing style allied with musicianship of keen sensitivity, Ms. Perez has performed on most of the world’s great concert stages. But her first performance in New York wasn’t in an uptown classical concert hall – it was at the downtown jazz shrine of the Blue Note, where Latin jazz star Arturo Sandoval invited her to perform his “Sureña,” a piece laced with Venezuelan folk melodies. This special ability to move with ease through the classical, folk, and popular music worlds has become her hallmark, and Ms. Perez continues to broaden the definition of the classical pianist.
A first in Perez’ unique career was her role in the concert documentary New Worlds: Cradle of Civilization, created by cellist Jan Vogler and led by Bill Murray. The ensemble toured the world from 2017-19, including stops at most of the world’s most prestigious concert venues, including Carnegie Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Sydney Opera House, Elbphilharmonie, and more. Director Andrew Muscato filmed their performance at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, and this unprecedented feature was officially selected by the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. A live encore performance by the quartet followed the premiere, which received a standing ovation. The film was released in theaters in the United States, on February 2nd, 2022, and made its European, Australian, New Zealand premiere in theaters on March 2022. The concert film features a blend of poetry, literature, popular song and classical music by very diverse artists like Whitman, Gershwin, Shostakovich, Lucille Clifton, and Van Morrison, to name just a few.
One of Ms. Perez’ missions is to stage Latin American music with different ensembles and collaborations. Together with her husband and artistic partner Stephen Buck, arranger/composer for New Worlds and other projects, they have embarked on different journeys to include Latin American works from the classical genre and beyond, including mariachi, boleros, salsa, and more. The programs are inspired by the richness, diversity, and political history of the American continents, and the common human themes that knit them together. Notably, some programs include literature and dance: during the spring of 2021, Ms. Perez and Dr. Buck premiered the Americas program at the Four Arts Society in Palm Beach. Headlined by iconic actor Bill Murray, and featuring violinist Philippe Quint and ondist Suzanne Farrin, it included fascinating juxtapositions of Aztec poetry with Messiaen; Simón Bolívar with Beethoven; Don Quixote with Antonio Soler; and poetry by Jose Marti (which Mr. Murray even sang in Spanish).
Most recently Ms. Perez collaborated with Latin Grammy winner Kristhyan Benítez on A fuego lento for two pianos, a program that combines standard two-piano repertoire with new arrangements by Stephen Buck. Rachmaninov shares the stage with legendary Latin songwriters, including Chilean Violeta Parra, Argentinian Horacio Salgán, Mexican Juan Gabriel, and others; the program premiered in June 2023 at the Sounds of Oradea Festival in Romania. Ms. Perez is also collaborating with the renowned Dalí Quartet on a program that moves from the streets of Panama to the classical concert stage, including music by Latin legends Willie Colón and Simón Díaz, reimagined for piano quintet by Stephen Buck; Miguel del Águila’s CLOCKS; and Clarice Assad’s quintet.
Ms. Perez’s traditional performance highlights have ranged from concerts with the Orquesta de la Juventud Simón Bolívar under Gustavo Dudamel in Caracas, and under Diego Matheuz in Puerto Rico’s Casals Festival, to the Chopin Festival of Majorca, Spain. She also toured Central America with the Orchestra of the Americas under Carlos Miguel Prieto and Jean Philippe Tremblay. She has played with symphony orchestras in the U.S. from Miami to Minnesota to Vermont and in solo recitals from Manhattan to San Diego. In Europe, as soloist, Perez has performed at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, the Montpellier Festival in France, Konzerthaus in Berlin, and the Wigmore Hall in London, among others.
As a recording artist, Perez’ solo album Spain was released by the Steinway & Sons label in 2016. On this atmospheric recording, the pianist performs music by Manuel de Falla, and his friend and mentor Claude Debussy. Critics were suitably beguiled by Spain, with the review in International Piano declaring: “The Venezuelan pianist Vanessa Perez could hardly have given us a more vivacious view of Spain: castanets click, guitars strum and bodies whirl in the true spirit of Andalusian flamenco.” All Music Guide seconded that view, hailing the album as “strong [and] exciting.” Perez’s previous recording, released in 2012 by Telarc, was Chopin: The Complete Preludes – an acclaimed milestone in her discography. The Washington Post reviewed a performance of the preludes, marveling: “Perez dove into the Preludes as if discovering them for the first time, flinging them out into the hall with a kind of wild intensity that was often breathtaking, as if she were forcing these delicate hothouse flowers into the fresh air for the first time.” Perez’s debut solo album, released by VAI in 2005, featured the pianist in Chopin’s four dramatic Ballades, pieces from Isaac Albéniz’s landmark Iberia, and a work by composer Suzanne Farrin. Reviewing her VAI release, International Piano said: “Perez can hold her head up high in the most distinguished company in Chopin’s Ballades. If anything, her Albéniz is even more impressive – impassioned, rich-toned and seductively coquettish where appropriate.” In addition to her solo albums, Perez has been a featured guest on hit recordings by other high-profile artists. Superstar violinist Joshua Bell invited the pianist to record Astor Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” with him for his At Home with Friends album, released by Sony Classical in 2009. She also teamed with Jan Vogler to duet on Piazzolla’s “Le Grand Tango” and more for his 2008 Sony album Tango, and her latest collaboration with actor Bill Murray, cellist Jan Vogler, and violinist Mira Wang titled New Worlds was released in 2017 on Decca Gold.
With her recordings and many concerts, Perez has developed a significant international profile, playing some of the most prestigious venues across the U.S., Latin America and Europe. The pianist has performed with conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, Gustav Meier, James Judd, Ligia Amadio, David Gimenez Carreras, Carlos Izcaray, Diego Matheuz, John Axelrod, Eduardo Marturet, and Carlos Miguel Prieto. Chamber music collaborators include pianists Gabriela Montero, Ingrid Fliter and Kristhyan Benitez; violinists Daniel Hope and Philippe Quint; sopranos Isabel Rey and Heather Buck; and the Dali, American, and Avalon string quartets.
Reviewing Ms. Perez’ performance of Mozart’s D Minor Concerto in Germany with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, the Dortmunder Zeitung called her “a virtuosa with a wild heart and a gentle touch,” combining “spontaneous freshness and poetic expression.” An eclectic performer, Vanessa Perez can be seen in an episode of Amazon’s hit TV series Mozart in the Jungle, performing Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony for inmates at New York’s Rikers Island prison, alongside actor Gael García Bernal, and ondist Suzanne Farrin. She also played Chopin’s mazurkas with the Limón Dance Company in Manhattan’s Bryant Park and the Joyce Theatre in New York City. Perez has been featured performing on such popular radio stations as WQXR New York, WFMT Chicago, Sirius XM, and WGBH Boston, as well as on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” American Public Media’s “Performance Today,” Minnesota Public Radio, and Texas Public Radio. Together with the “New Worlds Project” she was interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning by Jane Pauley, and performed for the Stephen Colbert show in New York in 2017.
Perez was raised to her pre-teen years in Venezuela, where she began her studies with Luminita Duca. At age 11, she was invited to Caracas,Venezuela, to make her concert debut performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the Orquesta Sinfonica Municipal and conductor Carlos Riazuelo for a sold-out 2,500-seat auditorium. In the U.S., she studied with noted Claudio Arrau pupils Ena Bronstein and Rosalina Sackstein; at 17, she won a full scholarship to London’s Royal Academy of Music to study with Christopher Elton. She continued her studies with pianists Lazar Berman and Franco Scala in Italy at the renowned Accademia Pianistica Incontri Col Maestro in Imola; she then completed post-graduate studies with Peter Frankl at Yale University and pianist Daniel Epstein in New York City. A dual citizen of the U.S. and Venezuela, Perez currently resides in Manhattan with her husband and their children.
Vanessa Perez is a Steinway artist.