William Kapell



Competition Winner

Born: September 20, 1922 (New York, NY)

Died: October 29, 1953 (Airplane Crash coming back to US following a tour in Australia)

William Kapell was one of the most promising American pianists of the post-war generation, producing recordings that have attained legendary status following his untimely passing. He was a versatile pianist of exceptional technique who could also offer graceful performances of Mozart. Kapell was a serious musician from the start, practicing up to 8 hours a day. His style was direct, clear, and energetic; his technique impeccable; and his repertoire eclectic and adventurous. One of his favorite works was Aram Khachaturian's Piano Concerto in D flat major, a work he frequently performed. By the late 1940s he had toured worldwide: the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia.

William Kapell won the Naumburg Piano Award in 1941, also winning the Philadelphia Orchestra's youth competition that same year. Following his Naumburg concert, he was immediately signed to an exclusive recording contract with RCA Victor.

Kapell spent his last summer in Australia, appearing throughout the continent. It was in Geelong that he played his last concert on October 22, 1953 before heading back to the United States. The return plane hit Kings Mountain, south of San Francisco; all of the crew and passengers were killed instantly.

Kapell grew up in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. He studied at Juilliard with Olga Samaroff.

in 1986, the University of Maryland's piano competition was renamed the William Kapell International Piano Competition in Kapell's honor.


1941 Naumburg Competition

First Prize

Commissioned Works

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Naumburg Performances

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Recording Awards

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