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Remembering Celebrated Pianist and CGPS Alumnus William Kapell ’39

This year marks the 100th birthday of notable pianist and CGPS alumnus William “Willy” Kapell ’39. Born and raised on the Upper East Side, Kapell was already winning competitions by the age of ten and went on to attend the Juilliard School after graduating from CGPS. At nineteen, he won the coveted Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Award. The Foundation subsequently sponsored his debut recital at New York’s Town Hall. Shaking the New York music scene with his monumental performance, Kapell signed with RCA Victor shortly after. A few years later, his recording of Aram Khatchaturian’s Piano Concerto in D-flat major with conductor Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra skyrocketed him to fame. It became a jukebox hit, selling over one million copies in 1946, an exceptional feat for a classical record. 

Kapell toured internationally, playing with iconic and celebrated musicians such as Pablo Casals and Rudolf Serkin. Unfortunately, his life was tragically cut short in a plane crash in October of 1953. In the years following Kapell’s untimely death, the popularity of his recordings only increased, and he is now known as one of the pianists who helped set the standard of excellence for today’s musicians. Leon Fleisher, one of the most renowned pianists in the world, stated that Kapell was “the greatest pianistic talent that this country has ever produced.”

Throughout its history, CGPS has had a robust music program. Honoring Kapell’s centennial birthday, the School continues to cultivate musical excellence in our students.

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