The Piano Man

PHOTO: Richard Danielpour, standing, rehearses with Blair School of Music Dean Mark Wait at the piano prior to the debut of Danielpour’s Dec. 4 premiere of 12 new piano études. PHOTO BY JOHN RUSSELL


What are the odds a conversation about 12 new piano études will veer off to baseball, the poetry of Maya Angelou, or a joyful memory of buying Abbey Road by The Beatles?

Pretty good odds if you’re talking with Richard Danielpour. One of the most honored composers of his generation, he’s also very much a man of his times who freely acknowledges influences like The Beatles and Rolling Stones, poetry, visual art and even baseball in his compositions.

“Modern classical music is very akin to baseball,” he explains, citing the 1964 World Series Champion Cardinals as a favorite. “Everything done in the present day is compared to past players.”

Danielpour’s Twelve Études for Piano debuted at Vanderbilt on Dec. 4 at the Blair School of Music’s Martha Rivers Ingram Center for the Performing Arts in a free concert open to the public.

The piano étude, written as both a technical exercise for the pianist and a complete musical work on its own terms, is an old tradition. Danielpour, influenced by Debussy and Chopin, presents challenges in his études, such as playing with the left hand on the keys and plucking strings inside the piano with the right hand.

In this world premiere, Blair pianists Mark Wait, Amy Dorfman and Craig Nies each had an étude dedicated to them by the composer.

“I dedicated my ‘C Major Étude’ to [Blair School Dean] Mark Wait,” says Danielpour. “I think it represents Mark’s tremendously organized mind and expressive passion for music.”


Read a review of Richard Danielpour’s Twelve Études for Piano »


Pianist Soheil Nasseri plays preludes one and two of Three Preludes, written by Danielpour for Nasseri, in solo recital at Konzerthaus Berlin on May 5, 2009.


Composer Richard Danielpour discusses his new work, Toward a Season of Peace, commissioned by Pacific Symphony for its 2012 American Composers Festival celebrating Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. The piece was premiered in March of this year.

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