Well, OK—finally, a pianist who will open up and talk…about barbecue.
“I almost died and went to heaven,” says American pianist Eric Zuber, 28, about the barbecue he ate at a restaurant near San Marcos last summer. He was there to play a concert at the Texas State University International Piano Festival. Zuber says he hopes to have the chance to repeat the BBQ experience while he’s in Fort Worth—and get “some good Tex-Mex too!”
Zuber is a Maryland native who made his orchestral debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at age 12. He is pursuing a doctoral degree at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he also earned a bachelor’s degree and his Artist Diploma. He has a Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music and a master’s degree from The Juilliard School—which awarded him their Arthur Rubinstein Prize for outstanding achievement.
Zuber has been a finalist or prizewinner in nine international piano competitions, taking first prize at Hilton Head (2007), at Juilliard’s Gina Bachauer competition (2009 and 2010), and at the Bosendorfer International Piano Competition this year. In 2011, Zuber was the third-prize winner at the Cleveland International Piano Competition. He’s played concert dates with orchestras from Phoenix to Calgary, Sydney to Tel Aviv.
Growing up in Maryland, Zuber says he has a lot of great, happy memories from his life as a very young musician.
“I think my most carefree and enjoyable times were when I was just improvising at my family’s home. I used to love it—and while practicing repertoire could sometimes be a chore, improvising provided me with hours of easy entertainment!”
He has a few “likes” among non-classical performers: “Eagles, Rush, Eminem, An Endless Sporadic are just a few [Sporadic is a Texas-based progressive rock band, in fact], but I can’t say I’m an aficionado of pop music at all,” he tells us. “I think through my practicing, I listen to music so much during the course of the day that when I’m not practicing I find the silence very pleasant.”
As for classical music favorites, he says: “I am particularly drawn to the early German Romantics these days—Schubert, Schumann, Brahms. I’ve always liked Romantic music—the lush harmonies, the drama, the poignancy of the sentiment—not to mention the fantastic explosion of piano music and the advancement of the piano-writing craft during this period. All of it, I love.”
Zuber is a veteran competitor, certainly, but says he hasn’t developed any rituals or traditions around his playing. He just sticks to the basics.
“I’ve been really fortunate,” he says. “I just try to work as hard as I can and to keep a positive mental attitude, and hope something good will come.”
◊ Here is a video of Eric Zuber playing Schumann’s Kinderscenen (“Scenes from Childhood”) at 2011’s Arthur Rubinstein competition:
Eric Zuber's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Repertoire:
Preliminary Recital, Phase I
MOZART Rondo in A Minor, K. 511
CHOPIN 12 Etudes, op. 10
Preliminary Recital, Phase II
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, op. 111
RACHMANINOV Prelude in B Minor, op. 32, no. 10
RACHMANINOV Prelude in G-sharp Minor, op. 32, no. 12
RACHMANINOV Prelude in G Major, op. 32, no. 5
RACHMANINOV Prelude in B-flat Major, op. 23, no. 2
SCHUMANN Kinderszenen, op. 15
LISZT Sonata in B Minor
DVOŘÁK Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 81
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, op. 30
◊ To see a slideshow of all of the competitors, with bios and links to our profiles of them, click here.