Dag Achatz


Born: 1942
Dag Achatz is widely admired not only for his keyboard virtuosity but for his amazing eclecticism in both repertory and performance practices. The Swedish-born virtuoso is at home in the solo works of Schumann and Liszt; in the glittery, jazzier pieces of Gershwin and Bernstein; in the piano concertos of little-known composers like Pierné and Boldemann; and in a wide variety of the two-piano repertory, especially transcriptions and arrangements of well-known classical orchestral works. Achatz has made some of those transcriptions himself, including a highly praised rendition of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Achatz has also fashioned a piano version of the Bernstein ballet Fancy Free, as well as a suite of numbers from West Side Story. He has often appeared in concert and on recordings in two-piano repertory with Japanese virtuoso Yukie Nagai. Achatz has made most of his nearly 30 recordings for the Swedish label BIS. A small number of earlier efforts was issued on EMI, Melodiya, and Americus Records.

Dag Achatz was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1942. His parents were musicians who early on relocated the family to Switzerland. Achatz was a child prodigy, divulging so extraordinary a keyboard talent as to allow him to enter the Geneva Conservatory at the age of eight.

After graduation, the gifted teenager returned to Stockholm for studies with Greta Erickson. Later teachers included an iconic pair of keyboard giants: Alfred Cortot and Vlado Perlemuter.

Achatz won the Lausanne-based Rudolf Ganz Competition in 1960 and the 1964 Maria Callas Competition in Barcelona. His reputation steadily grew, as his interest in transcribing also took wing. His 1981 BIS recording of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring was a sensation, and throughout the decade he turned out several additional important recordings, including a CD of the complete works of George Gershwin (1989).

After hearing the Stravinsky Rite, Bernstein asked Achatz to do the transcription of Fancy Free, which was issued on an all-Bernstein CD in 1986.

By 2000 Achatz had appeared in many of the major concert venues in Europe, the United States, and the Far East. He has regularly conducted master classes (Umea Conservatory, Sweden; Osaka Conservatory, Japan). While Achatz has remained busy in the new century both concertizing and teaching, he has been less active in the recording studio. Among his later CDs is the 1999 BIS release of Wagner transcriptions (two-piano arrangements by Max Reger) with Yukie Nagai.