Pianist Henry Kramer is developing a reputation as a pianist of rare sensitivity who combines versatile programming and “astonishingly confident technique” with insightful interpretation. In 2016 he garnered international recognition when he won 2nd prize in Belgium’s Queen Elisabeth Competition, one of the world’s foremost musical events. Kramer did not begin his piano studies until the relatively late age of 11, when his family moved from Boston to Cape Elizabeth, Maine. That was the year he found himself entranced by a friend as she played film scores on the piano. He worked for hours at a time at his family’s old upright, teaching himself to play a haunting James Horner theme. His parents enrolled him in lessons, and within weeks he was playing Chopin and Mozart.
Critics praise Kramer’s technique, masterful pacing, and depth of expression. He started winning competitions in 2010 with the National Chopin Competition. He followed that up with wins in the Montreal International Competition in 2011 and the China Shanghai International Piano Competition in 2012. He emerged a winner in 2014 in Astral’s National Audition, which selects around a half-dozen rising stars among strings, piano, woodwinds and voice candidates; he also received the 2014 Arthur W. Foote Award from the Harvard Musical Association. Kramer went on to take a top prize in the 2015 Honens International Piano Competition. Most recently, he was the recipient of the 2019 Avery Fisher Career Grant awarded by Lincoln Center – the most coveted honor bestowed on young American musicians.
In his young career, Kramer has had a number of important solo recital debuts, most notably at Alice Tully Hall as a result of winning the Juilliard School’s William Petschek Award as well as at Amsterdam’s famed Concertgebouw. Upon his “stunning” Philadelphia recital debut, Peter Dobrin of the Philadelphia Inquirer remarked, “the 31-year-old pianist personalized interpretations to such a degree that works emerged anew. He is a big personality.”
A versatile performer, Kramer has also distinguished himself in important orchestral engagements. He has soloed with the National Orchestra of Belgium, Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, among many others, collaborating with such conductors as Marin Alsop, Gerard Schwarz, Stéphane Denève, Jan Pascal Tortelier and Hans Graf. Upcoming performances in the 2019-20 season include a return engagement with the National Orchestra of Belgium in Beethoven’s Concerto No. 4 as well as debuts with the Columbus and Hartford Symphony Orchestras performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3.
His engagement with the chamber music repertoire began early in his studies as a young teenager. A sought after collaborator, he has appeared in recital at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Mainly Mozart Festival, Mostly Mozart Festival, and La Jolla Music Society’s Summerfest. His recording with violinist Jiyoon Lee on the Champs Hill label received four stars from BBC Music Magazine. Additionally, Gramophone UK praised Kramer’s performance on his most recent recording collaboration with duo-partner violist Matthew Lipman (Cedille) for “exemplary flexible partnership.” He has performed alongside top performers including Emmanuel Pahud, the Calidore and Pacifica Quartets, Miriam Fried, as well as members of the Berlin Philharmonic and Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
Teaching ranks among his greatest joys. Since 2018, Kramer has held the L. Rexford Distinguished Chair in Piano at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. Throughout his multifaceted career, he has also held positions at Smith College and the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory of Dance and Music.
Kramer graduated from the Juilliard School where he worked with Julian Martin and Robert McDonald. In 2019 he received his Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Yale School of Music under the guidance of Boris Berman. His teachers trace him to a pedagogical lineage that extends back to Beethoven, Chopin and Busoni. Kramer is a Steinway Artist.