Musicians and music lovers paid tribute Sunday to José Feghali, the internationally acclaimed Brazilian-born pianist who made Fort Worth his home for the last 30 years.
Feghali, an artist-in-residence at TCU’s School of Music since 1985, committed suicide last month.
This is one of José Feghali’s favorite pieces from German composer Robert Schumann.
Award-winning pianist Adam Golka performed this and Johannes Brahms’ Fourth Ballade to honor the man he calls his “beloved teacher” and “best friend.”
“Jose was the most pivotal figure in my life,” Golka said. “He really shaped so much of who I am as a person and as a musician.”
Now 27, Golka was a student of Feghali’s from the age of 13 to 20, driving up every weekend from Houston to Fort Worth to study with Feghali at TCU.
“Every note I play, everything I express with an instrument, every sound I make, somehow has something to do with him,” he said.
That’s why Golka traveled from New York, where he now lives and performs, to pay tribute to his former teacher, who was found dead in his Fort Worth home last month. Police ruled it a suicide.
“I was one of the lucky people who got to hear him in a small room,” Golka said. “I’m so sorry for all those people who didn’t get to hear that because that was magic.”
The auditorium at TCU’s School of Music was packed with admirers of Feghali, including music lover Debbie Vernon. She met Feghali while volunteering at a Chamber Music Festival event. She says the 1985 Van Cliburn Gold Medalist was full of life.
“To counter the electricity and the energy in our lives we all have darker, quieter sides,” she said. “And it’s just tragic that that side could overpower all that was wonderful about him, and all of the gifts he had to bring.”
Vernon said he was a joyous, voraciously curious individual who loved all things beautiful in life, and especially the arts.
“FUNNY, WITTY, AND VERY BRIGHT.”
“All arts,” she said. “It wasn’t unusual for me to see him in the Kimbell or the Modern Art Museum enjoying that, or out laughing with friends, having a glass of wine. He was just a joyous experience.”
Throughout the remembrance, friends and colleagues described him as a man of rare gifts, a practical visionary, a magnificent human being, and masterful teacher.
“He was extremely funny, witty, and very bright.”
Greg Davis is a former board member of the Van Cliburn Foundation.
“And would go from right brain to left brain.”
Davis said many people didn’t know that the pianist was also an expert in internet technologies, and also a storm chaser.
“He loved being in Texas because of the great weather we have, tornadoes and such,” Davis said. “He was just a complicated artist, multi-layered, and that infectious smile.”
Days before his death, Feghali was still talking to colleagues about upcoming concerts and projects, including a CD of his works for his 30th anniversary season.
He was 53.
WATCH THE CONCERT HERE: