Meet the artist: Daniel Lebhardt

New signing Daniel Lebhardt talks to us about where his love of music began, memorable performances, favourite food and more.

Where did it all begin? Why music?

My mum took me out to concerts when I was a kid and my dad enjoyed listening to lots of rock, so there was never really silence in the house or in the car. I remember being totally moved as a 4/5 year old hearing a symphony orchestra, then we would go home and I would be jumping on the couch to some Metallica. My grandparents had an upright piano in their apartment and I must have been six when I asked my parents to find me a piano teacher. It took some nagging before they gave in as they thought I didn’t have much musical talent; I could not sing at all! They thought I had very bad ears, and was too hyper for practising. I kept nagging though and bless them, they supported me so much through my childhood and teenage years, sacrificing lots so I could enjoy playing music.

Was there a big ‘lightbulb’ moment?

There probably was, although it never felt like one. I tried writing a few short pieces when I was seven and had to ask my mum to help me notate it. Very simple kids’ stuff, probably worthless, but it was fun for me at the time. Then I remember being nine years old spending hours figuring out Rachmaninov C sharp minor prelude. There are plenty of memories with some pieces when time would fly by and I would just forget about everything else.

What do you love most about your career?

I would never have dreamt growing up in Hungary that I would get to perform on most continents. Besides the experience of travelling, through music I have met my closest friends in one way or another, and these people mean the world to me.

I also love the fact that my job is to never stop learning from composers through their music. They were some of the most incredible geniuses who walked the planet and being in a constant intellectual and spiritual connection with them is the biggest gift in my life.

Best musical advice received?

Be yourself, and forget about yourself. Never force anything.

Most memorable live music experience as a performer?

Mahler Second Symphony. I was singing in the choir (with some other pianist volunteer friends) and some of my friends were in the Royal Academy of Music student orchestra, conducted by Paul Braugh. It was a most powerful and deeply emotional, joyous experience.

Last thing you listened to?

Poulenc Stabat Mater, some Pink Floyd, Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Darkthrone.

Most underrated classical work?

Not sure whether its underrated or not but it surely is rarely performed outside Hungary – Cantata Profana by Bartòk. I really love this piece and wish more people knew it.

Who would you invite to your ideal dinner party, living or dead?

My friends… I’m perfectly happy with them and it would be most ideal!

Musical heroes?

It’s hard not to give a long list! I would say Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Bartók from the composers, performers Zoltán Kocsis, Iván Fischer, Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Sofronitsky, Alfred Cortot, Wilhelm Kempff, Christian Ferras, Ginette Neveu… the list could go on. Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison should be on this list too.

Favourite book?

George Orwell 1984.

Favourite city?

I visited Tallinn for the first time this year, and it made a beautiful impression on me. I try to feel good everywhere I go but it’s hard for me to have a real strong connection with any city. I prefer nature.

Favourite food?

As long as there is a good balance of flavours it could be anything. I love a good stew and I am quite fond of fish n chips. I’d say the simpler the better, although I had an astonishing Thai peanut butter noodle soup once at Heathrow airport in one of the lounges. I tried to cook it at home, but it turned out to be quite a nasty disaster. I’ll skip the details…

Favourite venue?

Wigmore Hall.

Which other talent would you most like to have?

Better business skills maybe. Also, I have a horrible facial memory and it’s so awkward that I forget I already met a person before, and can’t remember their name.

Three things you couldn’t live without?

Beer, friends, and the ability to listen.

Career plan B?

I would try to do something for NASA; working in space would be awesome.

And finally, how do you relax when not working?

Usually just catching up with friends, watching a football game, playing some snooker… it’s the one thing that I still find enjoyable despite being far from good at it. I love going on long walks at night also. And sometimes it’s nice to just eat pizza and watch TV. Nothing fancy.

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