ATHENS, Ga. -Richard Zimdars, a faculty member at the University of Georgia since 1984, has been named the first recipient of the newly established Despy Karlas Professorship in Piano.
The professorship was established by friends and admirers of Karlas, who joined the UGA faculty in 1946 and spent more than four decades at the school. She retired as a full professor and has continued to be active in Athens music.
As professor of piano in the School of Music at UGA, Zimdars combines the roles of teacher, performer and scholar. His students have won prizes in national competitions, have been awarded the Fulbright Grant for piano study in Germany and hold college teaching positions in the United States, Brazil and South Korea.
He has performed and broadcast in England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recitalist Grant in 1984, first prize in the Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Artist Competition in Chicago in 1971 and a Fulbright Grant for piano study in Germany in 1969. An active recording artist, his performances have appeared on the Bay Cities, Spectrum, ACA and Albany labels, and have been featured on numerous radio programs, including NPR’s “Performance Today.”
After his debut in Germany, the Cologne Stadt-Anzeiger commented, “Zimdars is the prototype of a sensitive pianist who not only has a dazzling technique at his disposal, but also proved himself a brilliant architect of the musical construction of the individual works.” Reviewing in the New York Times Zimdars’ New York debut, Will Crutchfield wrote, “His recital Monday at Merkin Hall was a likeable affair. . . . The most valuable contribution came after intermission with the First Piano Sonata of Ives. Confident performances of this big and difficult work are not common, and Mr. Zimdars gave one.”
Indiana University Press has published his translations from German of The Piano Master Classes of Hans von Bülow (1993) and The Piano Master Classes of Franz Liszt (1996). Among the most significant sources on piano teaching of the late nineteenth century, these translations have received positive reviews in Britain, Sweden and America. He has lectured on the teaching of Franz Liszt in Hungary, Ireland, Canada and throughout the United States.
Despy Karlas is legendary figure in music circles in Athens and on the UGA campus. She earned a diploma in piano performance at Julliard and degrees at Douglas College in New Jersey and the University of Illinois at Urbana. After completing her studies, she joined Russian pianist Sergei Barsukoff in forming a duo-piano team based in Miami.
On returning to Julliard, Karlas was playing one day when she was overheard by Hugh Hodgson, head of the newly established music department at UGA. Hodgson hired her, and Karlas arrived in Athens in 1946 to begin her career. Even with a demanding teaching schedule and guest performances worldwide, Karlas found time to provide leadership to the Georgia Music Teachers Association.