A debut recital in New York and Washington, D.C., at the age of almost sixty!  And by a man whom Marguérite Long, the internationally renowned interpreter of Debussy and Ravel, described over thirty years ago as destined to be un très grand pianiste.  Why the delay? Willem Ibes' love of teaching is undoubtedly a great part of the answer.  For, although he has given many solo-recitals and concerts with chamber music ensembles and orchestras in this country as well as abroad, since 1957, he has been a dedicated professor of piano, music history, form analysis and piano literature at Saint John's University, a small Benedictine liberal arts college in Collegeville, Minnesota. Indeed, instead of a brilliant concert career as envisioned by his teacher, his professional life seems to have been well attuned to a monastic tradition that goes back almost two millennia, offering a pattern of living that is quiet, unglamorous and, on the outside at least, uneventful, but with opportunity for reflection, inner growth and development.

Willem Ibes was born in 1930 in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.  After finishing the Gymnasium in his hometown, he spent a scholarship year at Saint John's in Minnesota, and another three years at the Amsterdam Conservatory.  He then went to Paris for three years as the student of Marguérite Long; after two more years of study in psychology and philosophy at Nijmegen University, he accepted the invitation to return to Saint John's University. Often, during the university's January Term, Mr. Ibes may be found in the California desert, leading a group of students in Zen meditation, a discipline he himself pursues assiduously both at home and abroad.  Last spring during a tour of Japan, he combined concretizing in several major cities with a retreat at Hosshinji in Obama, an experience he describes as "every bit as grueling as I had expected it to be, and worth every slow-moving second of it." Mr. Ibes has performed a large part of the concerto repertoire with a variety of orchestras, such as the St. Paul Chamber, the Minneapolis Civic, the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Pueblo Symphony.  Later this season he will again be soloist with the Civic Orchestra of Minneapolis in Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto. The second half of the program, devoted largely to Fauré and Ravel, merits a comment of its own, since during his years in Paris Willem Ibes showed neither (in his words) "an affinity nor any real fondness for French music."  But the spirits that lingered in the suite of 43, rue Molitor where he went for his weekly cours must have been powerful and possessed of the longue patience which Rodin deemed indispensable to an artist.  These programs are, in part, a testimony to their and Mr. Ibes' perseverance.