Cliburn Winner and Pianist José Feghali Found Dead in Apparent Suicide

By Jaime Prisco on Dec 15, 2014 05:33 PM EST

Former Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medalist José Feghali died last week of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to the The Dallas Morning News.

Feghali, 53, was a Brazilian native who trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He was only 24 when he won gold at the 1985 Cliburn in Fort Worth, Texas, according to WFAA. The late Van Cliburn introduced him by telling the audience, "He appeared with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra when he was only 8 years old.”

Since 1990, he had been the artist-in-residence at Texas Christian University’s School of Music, more recently serving as its coordinator of Internet technologies.

“We’re in total shock,” said Richard Gipson, director of the School of Music. “He was an extraordinary musician. He could play anything at any time. Not many people understood how phenomenal a teacher he was — very insightful, very good at analyzing student issues, finding creative pathways for them.”

Feghali’s performing career included appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus, London Symphony and virtually all the major American orchestras. He also had extensive credits as a solo recitalist and chamber music performer, including participation in the Mimir Chamber Music Festival at TCU. In addition to his regular teaching at TCU, he was on the faculty of the PianoTexas summer course held there.

Andres Franco, who studied piano with Feghali before pursuing conducting and becoming assistant conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony, said, “He always demanded the utmost respect for the score — and had an amazing ear that would detect the slightest deviation from it — but he also asked to go beyond the printed notes and make music. He had an amazing color palette that I have always admired.”

Feghali's personal assistant found him dead Tuesday afternoon in one of two homes he owned. Fort Worth police are investigating, but believe it was suicide.

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TagsCliburn Winner, pianist, Jose Feghali, Dead, Suicide

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