What is the backstory to this album? How did you get this opportunity to perform with the Danube Symphony Orchestra?
LT: It’s a slightly long story, but a perfect example of how one opportunity can lead to many others. Last year, I applied for the 2019 International Piano Concerto Festival held in Budapest, Hungary that included the opportunity to compete for a performance with the Danube Symphony Orchestra (DSO). I had never performed with an orchestra in Europe before and thought that this would be a perfect opportunity as all participants were guaranteed to be able to play at least one movement with the orchestra as part of the competition. To my surprise, my Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 was chosen for first prize to be performed in its entirety on the final day of the festival! This performance took place on July 14.
Two months later, I received a frantic call from the Artistic Director of the DSO on September 14 who told me that the pianist that was scheduled to play for their season opening concert on the 20th was injured in a car accident and he wondered if I could step in to perform Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with the orchestra again. Before saying yes, I had to see if I could still play through the concerto which I had not touched since mid-July and miraculously, it was mostly still in my fingers and memory. Under the circumstances of having six days’ notice before performing a concerto with an orchestra on the other side of the world, I am pleased with how the performance went and thrilled that the live recording was released exactly one year after the original performance to commemorate one of the most memorable concerts of my career to date.
Any practice strategies to re-memorize a concerto on such a short notice? How did you make sure you that didn’t hurt yourself from over practicing?
LT: That’s a good question! I think that being able to mentally practice is key (as in, practicing away from the piano with or even without the score) which ties into my response to your second question. It’s incredibly easy to over practice (and then end up injuring yourself) in these kinds of scenarios so you have to be really careful and also to not underestimate the value of slow practicing, especially with trickier passages.
How did your time at U of T help you grow as a musician and reconfirm your belief that you wanted to pursue music?
LT: I came to U of T for graduate studies, so technically I already knew that I wanted to pursue music as a career. What I gained from my mentors was a deeper appreciation and understanding of the different options there are as a musician after graduating with a performance degree. While I was a student at U of T, I took advantage of the many opportunities to not only perform solo repertoire, but also collaborative piano repertoire with instrumentalists and vocalists through my Teaching Assistantships. All of this experience proved to be invaluable in my growth as a well-rounded and versatile musician. An important lesson that I learned while studying at U of T is that in order to have a successful career in music, it’s crucial to know how to create your own opportunities by taking initiative on projects and collaborations whether it’s by yourself or with other musicians.
Any advice to music students as they navigate through this pandemic?
LT: This is a really difficult time for all musicians. However, I hope that music students won’t feel confused or discouraged about whether they should continue to pursue music. Actually, I think that our new reality can and should encourage music students to start thinking earlier about what they would like to be doing with their music degrees. I’ve always thought that these are important conversations to be having all throughout the undergraduate degree. There are so many options out there for music student graduates beyond a solo concertizing career, and I firmly believe that being able to have a variety of opportunities related to both performing and teaching to inspire the next generation of musicians can provide the most rewarding career as an artist.
For more information on Dr. Lisa Tahara’s new album, please visit:
This interview is written by Futian Yao, fourth year Piano Performance student at the Faculty of Music.