With a career on the rise and an “avalanche of work”, Cape Town audiences are delighted that Romanian pianist Daniel Ciobanu is coming to Cape Town, says PETA STEWART:

Daniel Ciobanu interview

Daniel Ciobanu will give two concerts on this tour; he will perform the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 2 in F with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra on Thursday, 11 April 2019 at the City Hall, followed two days later, on Saturday, 13 April 2019 with a recital for the Cape Town Concert Series at the Baxter Concert Hall.

In the CPO concert, Bernhard Gueller will be on the podium and will conduct Wagner’s Flying Dutchman overture and the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz.  For the Concert Series, Ciobanu will perform Scarlatti, Beethoven. Prokofiev, Scriabin, Stravinsky and Romanian composer Paul Constantinescu.

Daniel Ciobanu: All in the family

Ciobanu, who won the UNISA International Piano Competition in 2016, says his interest in music was formed by his grandfather, “an old-timer organist. He insisted on having a family band with a quintet of two violins, two accordions and a sort of keyboard which he built himself by cutting up an old Bosendorfer grand piano that didn’t fit anywhere in the house.  This really spiced my father’s childhood up in a very positive way, and in turn he was inspired to expose me to as much music as possible,” says Ciobanu.

By the age of four, Ciobanu had won his first trophy – at a singing competition in his hometown of Piatra Neamt  in Romania.  By the time he was seven in kindergarten, “given my years of experience”, he was made conductor by his teachers for of the end-of-year concerts with his schoolmates.

At that same age, a local musical dignitary took note of the young Daniel, struck  by “so much pathos as if it was the last performance he could ever give,” he told the boy’s parents.

Daniel explains further: “He immediately advised them to consult a music school to maintain my fire.  But being too young to generate a Pavarotti scenario, the school suggested I first learn an instrument to master notation and theory and until my voice was stable enough to polish it.  I had two choices: piano or violin. The choice was easy … the violin felt like a tool for exorcism in my hands, quite unlike the music I was hearing on recordings.”

So perfect was the match that he never did separate himself from the piano.

“My voice sounded to me like a broken dishwasher, and it was a sign that tickling the ivories would be the main dish of my career.”

Big competitions

Life began to move quite quickly as he took top prizes …

“UNISA was for me the biggest competition at the time, so to end up with the gold medal and some special prizes was beyond my wildest dreams. This gave me huge confidence. I knew then that I had what it takes to become a wild stallion and survive the many rounds and stress of the big competitions. I immediately entered the BNDES in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil next. This was again a bulls-eye victory – the gold and all the special prizes. So naturally I had to go to one of the top five international competitions and I entered the Rubinstein in Israel. To my utmost pleasure I realised I was very close to the top of the pyramid.”

He won the silver medal there and decided to look for more competitions – but of course success breeds success and soon he had so many engagements there was no time to continue to “do battle”. He doesn’t complain, of course!

Daniel Ciobanu interview

“Winning the Rubinstein gave me the global visibility artists crucially need and combined with the prizes I had already won at UNISA, in Brazil and at the Morocco International, this became a strong key that opened many doors,” says Ciobanu.

‘The wizard of the piano’

The latest door opened was at Carnegie Hall last October, which brought excellent reviews and opened other doors. “It stirred the curiosity of promoters and conductors leading to a forthcoming American tour and more engagements.  It was literally a dream come true: when I was 14, a local newspaper called me  ‘the wizard of the piano’ so I told the paper that I wished I could abracadabra myself into Carnegie Hall then!” he laughs.

Although Ciobanu says home is wherever he is in front of a piano and a coffee machine, he does one have a real one. He has been living in Berlin for the past three years, a place he loves for its “fizzy musical scene and the infusion of all sorts of artists forging their artwork in this very fertile scene, blending the city’s musical aura with their own.”

In his busy life, he still finds time to paint, “one of the few drops of Zen I can afford to infuse in my schedule that really puts the piano brain on hold, while still feeding my creative beast inside”.

Ciobanu comes to Cape Town having just made his debut in the Konzerthaus in Berlin (on 5 April), “ a nice juicy concert  with a lot of masterworks and some heavy lifting  – Mussorgsky, Prokofiev , Scriabin and Stravinsky, that hopefully shook the tectonic plates of the cultural scene in Berlin, helping me make new musical friends and some lovely enemies too,” he reckons.

After his concerts in Cape Town, he is off on a three-day safari  and will indulge in a few solid massages, finish some paintings “and dive right back into the pools of my piano wonderland for the upcoming guillotine sessions”.

Who:  Daniel Ciobanu with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra /  Cape Town Concert Series / Kirstenbosch

Where: Cape Town City Hall / Baxter Concert Hall / Kirstenbosch Gardens

When:  11 April  8pm / 13 April 7.30pm


Computicket or Artscape Dial-A-Seat 021 421 7695 for CPO

Webtickets for Concert Series