Claudia Knafo, piano
Grammy Award-nominated pianist Claudia Knafo has captivated audiences here and abroad with her distinctive programming and her passionate artistry. A winner of the 1993–1994 Artists International Competition, she was presented in her New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in 1995. She has received critical acclaim for her “fiery and passionate approach to the piano” and “for her luscious sonority and definitive execution of technical complexities.” She is in high demand as an educator and expert in Latin American music.
In the fall of 2019, she was invited as Artist-in-Residence to Ecuador’s Universidad de las Artes in Guayaquil. She performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the combined forces of the University’s orchestra and the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil de la Prefectura del Guayas. She also taught students from the University as well presenting master classes.
In 2018, she was featured at the 10th World Piano Conference in Novi Sad, Serbia, where she performed, taught master classes and lectured on Latin American music. She also performed in the tri-State area with French artists Gilles Lefèvre, violin, and Lys Nordet, soprano, in recitals entitled: “Echoes of Nationalism and Folk Music in Concert Works of Eastern Europe and Latin America.” Included were the US premieres of works by Ecuadorian composers Gerardo Guevara, Humberto Salgado and Enrique Espín Yepez.
In 2017 she was invited to Guayaquil and Cuenca, Ecuador, to perform Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Cuenca and with the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil de la Prefectura del Guayas. She was also a featured soloist and chamber musician at Guayaquil’s Centro Ecuatoriano Norteamericano, in a program of music from South and North America.
The summer prior, she was also invited to tour Ecuador to perform and lecture on South American music. Highlights include world premiere of Astor Piazzolla’s Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) arranged for piano and orchestra, with the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil de Guayaquil, solo recitals and lectures at Guayaquil’s Centro Cívico, and lectures, recitals, master classes and lessons under the auspices of Ambato’s Cedemúsica at the Salón de la Ciudad de Ambato.
Past highlights as soloist with orchestra include two performances with the Danbury Symphony under the baton of Ariel Rudiakov: a repeat performance of the Piazzolla as well as the Grieg Piano Concerto, and Mendelssohn’s rarely heard Piano Concerto in D Minor with the Manhattanville Orchestra, under the baton of Elliot Magaziner. She has toured with the Manchester Festival Orchestra performing, among others, Bach’s F Minor Concerto and Bloch’s Concerto Grosso for Piano and Orchestra. She premiered Binette Lipper’s Circles of Light with the North/South Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Max Lifchitz, a work later recorded for commercial release and nominated for the 2010 Grammy Awards in the category of best soloist with orchestra. In 2003, Ms. Knafo was selected as one of the twenty-one pianists to perform at the American premieres of Daniele Lombardi’s Sinfonia I, Sinfonia II and Threnodia for twenty-one pianos, an event held in New York City’s World Financial Center to commemorate the victims of the attacks of September 11.
Constantly in search for unexplored and exceptional repertoire, Ms. Knafo gave the debut performance of Janaček’s Piano Sonata 15.X.1905 at Carnegie Hall to critical acclaim. Her provocative interpretations of South American music prompted an invitation to perform in solo recital and conduct master classes in Campinas and São Paulo, Brazil, in 1996. In October of 1998, Ms. Knafo returned to Brazil to present the opening recital at the Paulo Giovanini National Piano Competition and to participate as a member of the Jury.
Ms. Knafo has appeared on concert series at the Caramoor Music Festival, the Goethe Institut, Merkin Concert Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Wave Hill, Steinway Hall, University of Campinas (Brazil), Carnegie Mellon University, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and Manhattanville and Assumption Colleges, among others. In 1998 she was Artist-in-Residence at Northwestern State University in Louisiana, where she performed, lectured and presented master classes on South American Music.
Active as a pedagogue, she is on the faculties of Hunter College, Queensborough Community College and Manhattan School of Music Precollege. In May of 2015, she created a three-day conference focusing on the state of piano pedagogy. Nearly 100 participants attended workshops by luminaries who presented on topics as varied as technology in the teaching studio, music for beginners of the last 100 years, healthy technique, and rethinking the approach to beginners. Dr. Knafo lectured on music from Latin America, presenting alternatives to the standard canon. She was also broadcast on WWFM.ORG internet radio in interview with Rachel Katz regarding the conference. The second opus of the conference took place in December 2015 to continue discussions and explorations from the inaugural sessions.
She has garnered an impressive list of awards and honors including first prize in the Baltimore Music Teachers Association Competition, the Arlington Symphony Competition, the Julia Gontrum Hill Award, and the Rosenberg Prize.
A native of New York, she began piano lessons with her mother at age five and continued her studies with Rosetta Goodkind at the Manhattan School of Music. She was awarded a Masters of Music from the University of Michigan and a Doctorate from Boston University, where she held a Director’s Award Scholarship. She has studied and coached with Anthony di Bonaventura, Patricia Zander, and Gary Steigerwalt. Currently, Ms. Knafo is on the faculty of Hunter College and Manhattan School of Music Precollege. She was former department chair of the Diller-Quaile school of Music and also has taught at Manhattanville College and at the Hoff-Barthelson School of Music.