"A unique blend of musicianship
A captivating presence both on and offstage, critically acclaimed Steinway Concert Artist Lara Downes is redefining the solo recital format with visionary, cutting-edge performances at prestigious concert venues worldwide. Lauded by NPR as "a delightful artist with a unique blend of musicianship and showmanship" and praised by the Washington Post for her stunning performances "rendered with drama and nuance," Lara presents the piano repertoire - from iconic favorites to newly commissioned works - in new ways that bridge musical tastes, genres and audiences.
Lara’s unique performance style, called "a voyage of discovery and fun" (Sacramento Bee), combines dazzling interpretations of both traditional and less familiar works with engaging, insightful and sometimes humorous narratives that weave musical and historical context around the music she plays. Often accompanied by multimedia visual and spoken-word components, Lara’s enthralling performances construct multi-sensory landscapes that explore the conditions and inspirations that brought the music to life, creating a continuum from composer to performer to listener.
Lara’s performance works, which have received support from prominent organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts’ American Masterpieces program, the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, and American Public Media’s Classical Music Initiative, currently include:
EXILES' CAFE: an exquisite collection of 19th and 20th century solo piano works
written by composers in exile, reflecting the longing of exile around
the world and across generations. Far from home but close to the heart,
this music tells the story of the transformative journey of exile, from
what is left behind to what is discovered ahead-
13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE GOLDBERG: a set of 13 new variations re-imagining Bach’s magnificent Goldberg Variations, composed by some of America’s brightest living composers-
THE AMERICANS: "...an American musical-vernacular celebration, delivered with finesse" (Seattle Times)-
LONG TIME COMING:
a multimedia homage to the legacy of Duke Ellington and the impact of
music on our history as Americans, including film, spoken word and a new
work for piano and small jazz ensemble by composer David Sanford-
As she continues to move the solo piano recital in exciting new directions, Lara’s interpretations bring her acclaim as one of the most exciting, communicative young pianists of today's generation. Since making concert debuts at Queen Elizabeth Hall London, the Vienna Konzerthaus and the Salle Gaveau Paris, she has won over audiences at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, the American Academy Rome, San Francisco Performances, Portland Piano International, the University of Vermont Lane Series, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, the El Paso Pro Musica Festival, and the University of Washington World Series, among many others.
Lara has been heard on NPR's Performance Today, WNYC's New Sounds, All Classical FM, WFMT Chicago, Minnesota Public Radio, Capital Public Radio's
, and WBGO's Jazz Set, among others.
Ms. Downes’ chamber music appearances include collaborations with other noted soloists and ensembles, including violinists Rachel Barton Pine and Lara St. John, cellists Zuill Bailey and Denis Brott, the Miami and Alexander String Quartets, and the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet. Commissions and premieres of new works for Lara have come from composers Aaron Jay Kernis, David Sanford, Benny Golson, Eve Beglarian and Dan Coleman. She has worked across disciplines with collaborators including former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, choreographer David Grenke, video artist Glenda Drew and director/choreographer Mindy Cooper.
In addition to the excitement Lara brings to the concert stage, her commercial recordings have met with tremendous critical and popular acclaim. Her debut CD, Invitation to the Dance, was called "a magical recording" by NPR, and her second release, American Ballads, was ranked by Amazon.com among the four best recordings of American music ever made. Her most recent recording, Dream of Me, was praised for "exquisite sensitivity" by American Record Guide.
13 Ways of Looking at the Goldberg: Bach Reimagined,
was called "addicting" by the Huffington Post, and hailed as "something magnificent and different" by Sequenza 21.
Lara's busy performance career is strongly impacted by her commitment to expanding and developing new audiences for the arts. She is the Founder and President of the 88 KEYS® Foundation, a non-profit organization that fosters opportunities for music experiences and learning in America's public schools, and she regularly works and performs with the next generation of talented young musicians as Curator of the Young Artists program at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis, where she serves as Artist in Residence and host and co-curator of the Studio Classics series. She serves on the Recording Academy Classical Music Outreach Committee. She is the Artistic Director of Music Programming at Opus 40 in Saugerties NY.
Lara Downes is a Steinway Artist.