TCU and the Fort Worth music community said goodbye to pianist José Feghali with a touching tribute that drew a large audience to Ed Landreth Auditorium on Sunday afternoon.
Feghali, winner of the 1985 Van Cliburn Competition, was found dead of a gunshot wound in his Fort Worth home on Dec. 9. The death was ruled a suicide.
He was a longtime resident of Fort Worth, serving as an artist-in-residence at TCU’s School of Music while maintaining a career as an international concert artist.
Ed Landreth Auditorium was an appropriate venue for the “Remembering José Feghali” program — it was the site of his greatest career triumph, when he won the seventh Cliburn Competition, as well as the setting for many other musical events he was involved in.
Two TCU dignitaries paid spoken tribute to Feghali — the Rev. Angela Kaufman, minister to the university, and R. Nowell Donovan, university provost. Both mentioned his musical triumphs as well as his wide-ranging interests.
Donovan recalled once at a TCU faculty and staff function when a large thunderstorm storm blew in. Feghali dashed outside to watch the display. The provost called him a member of “the Storm Spotters’ League.”
He also mentioned Feghali’s technical expertise as he resurrected a clear copy of an apparently hopeless old recording as a favor for a friend.
Most of Sunday’s performers were former students and colleagues of Feghali.
The program opened with an arrangement of the Adagio from Samuel Barber’s String Quartet, Op. 11, by the TCU Cello Ensemble conducted by Jesús Castro-Balbi. Probably Barber’s most famous work, the Adagio is often performed on mournful occasions.
Other Feghali colleagues or students who performed were pianists Ricardo Veiga, John Owings, Adam Golka and Gloria Lin and cellist James Denton. The most recent Cliburn Competition winner, Vadym Kholodenko, played Mozart’s Rondo in A minor, K.511.
The music was mostly pieces by old masters, including Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Bach. But a lovely work by Marlos Nobre was a tribute to a living composer from Brazil, where Feghali was born.
Feghali himself played the final notes. A video put together by friends showed him playing Rachmaninoff, fading away to a still photo of him smiling.