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October 16, 2014

UMS Artists in “Residence”: Meet Nicholas Gable

By Gabrielle Carels

UMS launched a new Artists in “Residence” program during the 2014-2015 season. Five residents from across disciplines will take residence at our performances throughout our season. We’ll profile each resident here on UMS Lobby.

UMS: Tell us a little about yourself and your background in the Arts.

Nick GableNicholas Gable: I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, and started taking piano lessons at age 6 from Maria Barna, a local teacher who had studied with Heinrich Neuhaus at the Moscow Conservatory. After Ms. Barna passed away, I began studying with Waleed Howrani, who had studied with Emil Gilels, a student of Neuhaus. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to give several concerts while completing a History and Law degree, including an all-Liszt recital in 2011, and I will be playing Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with the Grosse Pointe Symphony Orchestra on October 26, 2014.

GC: Can you tell us a little about your creative process? Where can we find you working on your art?

NG: Pianists are at the mercy of their instrument, which means that most of my work takes place in one room at home. Of course, studying scores away from the piano can also be useful. When I learn a new piece, I start by (re)reading a biography of the composer, because I think it is important to understand the composer and his time. In approaching the score itself, I think it’s important, as Rachmaninoff put it, “to look behind every corner.” Every detail is important, but the structure of the piece also needs to be considered. For a piece like the Rachmaninoff concerto, I also like to learn the orchestration thoroughly.

GC: What inspires your art? Can you tell us about something you came across lately that we should check out too?

NG: All of the great pianists of the 19th and 20th century recognized the importance of a broad cultural education. It is impossible to create art at the piano without any understanding of literature, poetry, and visual art. The pianist Claudio Arrau, for example, in Conversations with Arrau, discusses the Greek myth of Hero and Leander as the basis for Franz Liszt’s B Minor Ballade, and Goethe’s Faust as the inspiration for Liszt’s great B Minor Sonata. When I was in my last year at the University of Michigan, I taught a class on literary inspiration in Liszt’s music to freshmen enrolled in the Honors Program . Rachmaninoff is another good example. It is difficult to appreciate fully the Isle of the Dead or the B Minor Prelude without looking at the respective paintings by Arnold Bocklin that inspired them.

GC: Are you engaged with the local arts community? Tell us about groups or events that we should know about.

NG: I would love to become more engaged with the local arts community. I follow the events at the Kerrytown Concert House, and have played chamber music with local musicians. In June, I played the Franck Violin Sonata with Priscilla Johnson at Kerrytown in a benefit concert for Tracy Van den Bergh, who is running for Washtenaw County Probate Judge. My goal is to become more involved with local artists in all disciplines.

GC: Which performances are you most excited about this season and why?

NG: This season’s schedule is especially rich. I can’t wait for both San Francisco Symphony concerts. I have heard the Mariinsky Orchestra at Hill Auditorium several times, and I’m looking forward to its two concerts in January. Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto 3, featured in the first concert, is an all-time favorite. Denis Matsuev, who is playing in the second Mariinsky concert, is a wonderful pianist. Finally, I am looking forward to the Rotterdam Philharmonic, who’ll perform with pianist Hélène Grimaud.

GC: Anything else you’d like to say?

NG: Thank you for such a wonderful opportunity!

Interested in more? Watch for more artist profiles on UMS Lobby throughout this week.


Gabrielle joins UMS as a student in the Ross Master of Management Program. Prior to Ross, she earned her BA in Digital Environments Studies here at U of M through the Individual Major Program (IMP). Gabrielle's early background in the arts include piano, bassoon, and flute performance. More recently, she is pursuing her interests in photography and visual design. Gabrielle encourages students to sample a variety of UMS performances; they might discover something really memorable and inspiring! With an academic focus on the complexities of the digital sector and deep-rooted passion for the arts, she is excited to work as a digital media intern within the marketing department.