BWW Interviews: 11-Year-Old Daniela Liebman Debuts at Carnegie Hall

BWW Interviews: 11-Year-Old Daniela Liebman Debuts at Carnegie Hall

On October 27th at 2PM, the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony led by its music director David Bernard returns to the Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall for a program of Dvorak, Brahms, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. Featured in the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 is 11 year old Daniela Liebman, making her Carnegie Hall Debut. BWW Classical World sat down with Daniela Liebman to find out more about this incredible young talent.

Classical World: Performing at Carnegie Hall is an extraordinary experience for musicians of any age, but it must be especially thrilling for you to make your debut there at 11 years old. What is going through your mind now in the months leading up to this event?

Daniela Liebman: Excited. I think it's a great honor to be playing there at such a young age and I'm looking forward to it very much. I read that Yo Yo Ma made his debut in the hall when he was twelve; to think that I'm actually a year younger is un-believable to me. Now of course I have to follow the rest of his career upward and that won't be easy, but I'll try my hardest. When I toured Carnegie Hall earlier this year, I saw the spot on the stage where Horowitz liked the piano legs positioned, and it hit me that I can play in the same exact same spot as him, one of my idols and favorites.

CW: Please share with us the circumstances that led to your taking up the piano and your development into an accomplished prodigy.

DL: When I was three my dad bought me a violin and tried to teach me but it didn't work out too well; I was probably too young. I always liked the piano for as long as I can remember. My grandma used to put me on the ledge, where I'd dangle my feet over the keys while she played. Still I never asked for one, my dad just went out and bought it. I remember him telling me that if we didn't get serious when I was five, it would be too late to ever be great someday. So that was it. Every day we sat together for an hour and practiced, he was my first teacher for six months or so. No matter what happened around me or what mood I was in, we practiced. Same as today five years later, except that the hours have increased. Some days we fought, some days we laughed, but every day we worked. Early on my dad saw that I had a real natural sense of rhythm and excellent memory skills; as soon as I knew the notes the piece was memorized. A couple of years later I started studying with my current teacher, Dr. Anatoly Zatin at the Universitario Belles Artes, in Colima, Mexico, and everything just clicked. It was like a light bulb suddenly went on and I started to play really difficult pieces well. Of course I still needed to work hard to perfect everything, but I was playing Chopin etudes and a Mozart sonata in competitions by the time I was eight. Since then I've won first prize in three international competitions: "Night in Madrid", (Madrid 2011) "The Russian Music International Piano Competition", (San Jose California 2012) and the "Lang Lang Telefonica Competition", (Berlin 2012).

CW: Let's talk about your performing experience a bit. Please share with us some of your most memorable experiences.

DL: I made my debut in 2012, with the Aguascalientes Symphony, the Jalisco Philharmonic, the Rachmaninov orchestra of the Kremlin, in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan, and with the Fladamex Orchestra in Dallas performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 8, K. 246. In Kyrgyzstan, just as I was about to go on stage, the concert was suddenly canceled with the audience sitting in their seats. It turns out the orchestra wasn't paid on time and they refused to play. But on the next day, a portion of the musicians, mostly those who flew in from Moscow, decided to go ahead and perform the concert anyway. It turns out that these musicians performed as a fantastic chamber orchestra and the concert was a big success.

This season, the Jalisco Philharmonic invited me back to perform the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 in February. I really enjoyed these performances as the venue, Teatro Degollado in Guadalajara, is where Placido Domingo made his debut many years ago.

CW: That is very impressive, and exciting. What are some of your upcoming performances?

DL: Well, I'm giving a solo recital in Teatro Degollado on July 14th, then I'm performing a string of performances of the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 prior to my appearance with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony--one with the Sinaloa Symphony Orchestra and three with the Jalisco Philharmonic in Colima and Guadalajara.

CW: You are clearly a champion of the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2. Please share with us your thoughts and vision for this work.

DL: Shostakovich's Second Piano Concerto is both fun to play and thoroughly enjoyable to the audience. The first movement begins with an amusing, snappy introduction by the winds. To me it sounds like a parade of ducks quacking, walking in single file around a pond, and when I come in and take the lead, I feel like I'm talking to the ducks. In the first movement cadenza, I like very much to build a sense of intensity and excitement, which really comes from those feelings stirring inside me as I accelerando towards the re-introduction of the orchestra. When the strings enter in the second movement, I have a feeling like I'm above the clouds sitting at a piano, and then I make everyone feel love when I come in with the first theme, which is one of the most gorgeous melodies ever created. The concerto is difficult technically and musically. The more you listen to it, the more terrific ideas and phrases you discover. As I was studying it, it sneaked up on me and really grabbed me for life. For me this concerto is as beautiful to hear as a Mozart or Beethoven concerto.

CW: You have a great deal of performing experience in Mexico. How did that come about?

DL: My mother is Mexican, from Guadalajara, and my father is an American from New York. I was born in Mexico but spent the first three years of my life living in Manhattan and for the past eight years I've been living in Mexico. I enjoy performing in Mexico, and have also spent a lot of time in different cities in the U.S. for concerts, festivals, and competitions.

CW: What else makes your Carnegie Hall debut special?

DL: My grandmother was a concert pianist who studied at Mannes, and I know that seeing me make my debut at Carnegie Hall will be very special for her. And I couldn't answer this question without mentioning the Matzo Ball Soup at Carnegie Deli, which is the best in the world, and quite special to me!

For more information and tickets to this performance: http://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2013/10/27/0200/PM/Park-Avenue-Chamber-Symphony/

For more information about the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony: http://chambersymphony.com/web/home.aspx