A Lifetime of Music: Sara Daneshpour stops by Kalamazoo on her path to acclaim

Sara Daneshpour may be one of tomorrow’s stars.

The Gilmore Rising Stars Series brings young and exceptional artists like the Iranian-American Daneshpour to Kalamazoo every year. First presented in 1999, the series features acclaimed pianists like Lang Lang, Jonathan Biss and Kirill Gerstein before they hit it big.

Daneshpour is soft-spoken, but her presence at the keys is at turns effusive and electrifying. Described by the New York Concert Review, “She exhibits all the requisites for a high-voltage career and more: blazing technique, expressivity, imagination and a lovely stage presence.” 

The Curtis Institute of Music and Juilliard graduate is the winner of several international awards and has appeared on stage at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. Her performance at the Moscow Conservatory was particularly defining for the young artist. 

“As I was walking on that stage, I thought of all the greats that have played there and have studied at the conservatory. For me, it was very memorable,” she said. 

The program Daneshpour has assembled features the work of two French composers: Pierre Boulez and Maurice Ravel. 

“Even though these two composers are both from a certain geographic area, I like to explore the different worlds they created through their work,” she said. 

The program includes selections from Bach’s Art of the Fugue, which presents its own complexity against the striking work of Boulez. 

“In my programs, I try to find pieces that would be interesting to the listener — to expose audiences to pieces that are not performed often but are masterpieces in their own right,” Daneshpour said.  

Daneshpour will close the program with Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 8 in B-flat-Major, Op. 84. Of all the music in her substantial repertoire, Daneshpour has an undeniable prowess when it comes to music by Russian composers. 

“Over the years, my teachers have often been Russian,” she said. “I entered the (2007 International Russian Music Piano) Competition under the direction of my former teacher Oleg Volkov. I absolutely adore performing music of Russian heritage.” 

Under the guidance of her current teacher, Armenian-American concert pianist Sergei Babayan, Daneshpour is exploring the meaning and direction behind sounds in order to heighten her development. Listening to recordings of her favorite piano players, including Alfred Cortot, Vladimir Horowitz and Emil Gilels, is also important at this point in her burgeoning career. 

“The more you listen, the more your mind extends in terms of potential,” she says. 

Daneshpour has found much success in the competition circuit as the First Prize winner of the XII Concours International de Musique du Maroc in 2012, the 2007 International Russian Music Piano Competition and the 2003 Beethoven Society of America Competition. However, she is working toward balance in her career. 

“One could say it’s good to be exposed, because when you perform at competitions you might be invited to perform in other places,” she said. “But you also have to be careful in terms of your repertoire, and give yourself the opportunity to constantly learn and not get stuck in the same material.”

With this outlook on her future as a concert pianist, Daneshpour mirrors the sentiment behind one of her favorite quotes by Russian pianist, composer and conductor Sergei Rachmaninoff: “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.” 

Sara Daneshpour
Wellspring Theater
359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo
April 2, 4 p.m., $6-$25
thegilmore.org, (269) 359-7311