This month’s Q&A was with award-winning Australian pianist, Daniel de Borah. Solo and collaborative performer, Daniel is developing an international name, performing in many major festivals and venues around the world. This interview comes ahead of his performance at the City Recital Hall with the Omega Ensemble, September 17th at 7:30pm.
Having studied at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, the St Petersburg Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Music in London, what was your most enjoyable place to study? (Why?)
I was at very different stages in my life when I lived in each of those great European cities so my experiences differed greatly. In Budapest I was a child on an adventure taking three years out of school to be immersed in music full time, learning from brilliant teachers and surrounded by gifted peers. I thrived on that, thoroughly got the music bug and that experience set the tone for the years of study which were to follow. After completing my HSC in Canberra I headed to St Petersburg aged seventeen. The six years I studied there were I think the most formative for me as a pianist, and the city provided a wondrous setting for growth and self discovery both as a musician and further afield. By the time I arrived in London as a postgraduate student I was keen not only to further my studies but also to find my feet in the professional world, so I began to learn about the realities of life as a concert performer – something of a pragmatic countersubject to the romantic and at times surreal student life I had led in St Petersburg!
What was the best advice ever given to you by a teacher? (Who was it from and when).
Various iterations of “Don’t rush”, which must be the most spoken words in music classrooms around the world! My favourite came from my teacher in Budapest, Zsuzsa Esztó: “You are a time millionaire!”
It is often a difficult profession being a performing artist – what keeps you going? What motivates you?
There is a virtually limitless pool of beautiful music to explore and I am forever meeting amazing players with whom I’d like to make music, so motivation is not a problem at all!
Do you have any funny stories about a performance or rehearsal? Or any ‘close shaves’?
One of my funnier experiences came during rehearsal of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with a semi-professional orchestra in the UK not long after I had arrived there. I played the opening flourishes and the orchestra launched into their lengthy tutti. Some minutes later at my re-entry I ran up the chromatic scale and arrived on what should have been a unison E flat major chord with the orchestra, but it sounded absolutely horrible! That was when it became apparent that the orchestra had gradually migrated from the original pitch during the tutti (the piano had of course stayed put…) We all had a good laugh and carried on with rehearsal, then later that night the exact same thing happened in the performance!
Do you believe collaboration with other musicians is important?
Certainly, in much the same way that conversation and the exchange of ideas is important for cultivating broader understanding and a healthy perspective. Putting yourself in a position where you are obliged to consider another person’s point of view can only be beneficial.
In this program, what do you think audiences can expect? Is there anything they should ‘listen out for’?
As a flexible chamber ensemble that is able to draw on an impressive wealth of Sydney’s instrumental talent the Omega Ensemble is able to offer something a little off the beaten track with its programming, and this concert will be no different. The program is made up of larger chamber ensembles of different instrumental combinations so that by the end of the evening the audience will have heard all the core instruments of the string and woodwind families in addition to the harp, trumpet, horn and piano. That’s quite a feast and no mean feat for a chamber music program!
In your opinion, what specific things does this repertoire offer that earlier works may not?
Well, I wouldn’t say this is a program of particularly modern works – the Hummel Septet was written two hundred years ago and the most recent work in the program, Martinů’s “La Revue de Cuisine”, was written in 1927. I’d say the program offers an appetising and illuminating cross-section of works for larger chamber ensembles over that period.
What do you enjoy about performing in one of Sydney’s top performance venues – the City Recital Hall?
I am lucky to have had the chance to perform in all manner of venues – after all where there is a piano there can be a piano recital! Those less ideal venues help you to appreciate what it is that makes a great venue great – the acoustics of course, but also the design, lighting and general ambience of the hall, slick backstage operations, a comfortable dressing room etc. And of course a great piano on stage!
What advice would you give to any upcoming pianists wanting to embark on a ‘music career’?
Don’t be in a hurry! Embrace music to the full, lose yourself in it. If you find what you are looking for there, persevere.