When she isn’t performing or practicing, American pianist Sara Daneshpour, 26, says she and her friends simply like “being in nature.”
Given that she lives and studies in the middle of Manhattan—she’s working toward her master’s degree at Juilliard—she gets that nature “fix” in the usual Gotham City way.
“We walk around the city, through Central Park or along the Hudson River, and just talk about stuff,” she says, adding apologetically: “It’s not too interesting, but it’s the truth!”
Raised in the Washington D.C. area, Daneshpour was in her mid-teens when she made her debut in a recital at the Phillips Collection in that city. Since that time, she has performed on some of the great stages of the world: at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, the Salle Cortot in Paris, and the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. In 2007, she took first prize at the International Russian Music Piano Competition, and second place at the William Kapell International Piano Competition. And in 2012, she was in Morocco, where she won first prize at the 12th Concours International de Musique de Maroc.
“The people are so lovely and generous in Morocco,” she tells us. “And they are so appreciative of art and music. I had such a wonderful time, and hope I can go back again.”
Favorite composers are Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, says Daneshpour.
“With Rachmaninoff, the raw, direct emotion he creates always impacts me. There is so much depth and nobility in his music. And with Prokofiev, there is so much imagination present in his music, and that is wonderful as a performer. You have great freedom to create images, atmospheres and different worlds with the sound.”
She’s a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and has been studying at The Juilliard School since 2011. Somewhere in the time between those two schools, she spent a summer involved with the National Orchestral Institute and Festival at the University of Maryland. As a guest pianist, Daneshpour worked with young orchestral musicians not just as “the soloist,” she told a University of Maryland interviewer, but as one member of an artistic whole. And she sounds like she had fun.
“I really enjoy performing with them,” she said at the time. “We’ll try so many ways of playing a phrase, and they’re so open and thirsty, constantly sending ideas everywhere. There’s none of the arrogance that can come with age, and it’s not like I’m the soloist and they’re the orchestra. It’s about the music, and we’re all in this together.”
That desire for a musical “community” seems to be one of Daneshpour’s gently stated goals for her performances at the Cliburn as well.
“I really look forward to connecting with the audiences in Fort Worth,” she says, “and hopefully saying something meaningful with the music—something that they can take home.”
◊ Here is Sara Daneshpour playing a Haydn sonata at the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow:
Sara Daneshpour's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Repertoire:
Preliminary Recital, Phase I
SCHUMANN Variations on the Name "Abegg", op. 1
CHOPIN Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, op. 54
RACHMANINOV Etude-tableau in C Minor, op. 39, no. 1
RACHMANINOV Etude-tableau in A Minor, op. 39, no. 2
RACHMANINOV Etude-tableau in F-sharp Minor, op. 39, no. 3
RACHMANINOV Etude-tableau in E-flat Minor, op. 33, no. 6
RACHMANINOV Etude-tableau in A Minor, op. 39, no. 6
Preliminary Recital, Phase II
HAYDN Sonata in F Major, Hob. XVI:23
GRANADOS El Amor y La Muerte (from Goyescas)
PROKOFIEV Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, op. 83
SCARLATTI Sonata in B Minor, K. 27
SCARLATTI Sonata in A Major, K. 212
RACHMANINOV Variations on a Theme of Corelli, op. 42
FRANCK Prelude, Chorale and Fugue
PROKOFIEV Toccata, op. 11
SCHUMANN Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, op. 44
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, op. 11
◊ To see a slideshow of all of the competitors, with bios and links to our profiles of them, click here.