Kumaran Arul


Pianist Kumaran Arul has performed widely throughout the United States and abroad to acclaim.  He has been described as a “formidable…superbly intelligent and sensitive musician” with a “gripping” presence (San Francisco Classical Voice, Classical Sonoma).  “I was fascinated to encounter a Chopin pianist with the courage to venture so far from everyone else’s beaten path” (SF Examiner).  Solo performances have taken him to New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, as well as overseas to England, Canada and Europe.  Recent engagements have been with the Mendocino Music Festival, Post Classical Ensemble, Absolute Music (Santa Rosa), Shenson Recital series, Telluride Chamber Music Festival, Russian Chamber Orchestra, AV Symphony, Ensemble Millefleurs. 

Arul is also actively involved with research in performance practice and has been an avid collector of historical recordings.  At Stanford University, where he has taught piano and performance practice since 2003, he is co-director with colleague George Barth, of the Reactions to the Record series that highlights new directions in performance and scholarship.  These have included international symposia, concerts, seminars, workshops, and scholarly publications that seek to draw attention to the study of performance history.  In 2014, he spearheaded a major initiative at Stanford, the Player Piano Project, which aims to create a comprehensive online database of important historical piano roll recordings.  The project, in conjunction with the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound, has amassed over 12,000 rolls and 15 player instruments in this multi-year effort to preserve and bring wider awareness to this important historical medium. 

His research areas have been on nineteenth and early twentieth century performances of Beethoven sonatas and “conservative” performing traditions in the nineteenth century.  Other work has been on the performance aesthetics of Heinrich Schenker as evidenced in his reviews and criticism.  His scholarly work has been presented at conferences of the Association of Recorded Sound Collections, Cambridge University’s CMPCP, Performa Conference, Portugal, Interpreting Liszt, Georgetown University, among others.  Arul has been the recipient of grants for his research and was awarded the Edison Fellowship in 2009 to work at the British Library’s sound archive in London.  His studies have been at the Manhattan School of Music, the University of Michigan School of Music, and Trinity College, Cambridge.  He resides in Santa Cruz, California with his wife and three children where he also enjoys pursuing his avid interest in birds and bird song. 



JUNE 16, 2016

10:00 AM

Lecture/Panel:  Introduction to The Golden Age

JUNE 17, 2016


Lecture/Demo: Piano Roll Recordings

Kumaran Arul will shed light on the important historical medium of piano roll recordings that have been a source of controversy and misunderstanding. He will show that they are critical sources for revealing the Golden Age and nineteenth century pianism. Arul will describe the ambitious project on rolls at Stanford University and will bring a roll player to the festival to demonstrate how they work.