Cliburn Confidential: Eric Zuber

Posted Sunday, May. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition • May 24-June 9 • Bass Hall •

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Cliburn confidential

14 of 30

A series of conversations with the Cliburn competitors

Eric Zuber

Nationality: American

Born: Baltimore

Lives: Baltimore

Age: 27

Early musical memories: “When I was 4 or 5, I came back from church one day and played a hymn on the keyboard by ear,” he says. “I must have shown a great interest in music. My parents decided that it would be good for me to begin lessons. That was quite young, considering that neither of my parents are professional musicians. If you come from a family of professional musicians, they understand how important it is to start from a very young age.”

Practice, practice, practice: “I absolutely loved it, but the thing is, no one loves to practice,” he says. “Playing and practicing are two different things. When I was young, I loved to improvise at the piano, in a romantic style. Practicing repertoire is awfully laborious as a kid. You need motivation from your parents and teachers.”

Piano heroes: “Krystian Zimerman is one of the people I go to first if I’m interested in hearing a recording that is going to be fantastic technically and musically,” he says. “And I’ve admired Evgeny Kissin since I was a young kid.”

His hobbies: “These days I’m either practicing, eating or sleeping,” he says. “I’ve had an enormously busy last two months with six different concerti to play with orchestras. We really don’t have time to do much else. I started taking Korean when I was 21 and try to continue to study it on my own. I love the language. Once in a while I’ll play a little pingpong, but probably not enough to call it a hobby.

Has he followed the Cliburn over the years? “I have, especially the last competition. I watched the entire thing from beginning to end on the Internet,” he says “Everyone inspires me, these fantastic competitors and the enormous amount of pressure they’re under, the performances they give. That inspires me to continue working as hard as I can and keep focused.”

On his Fort Worth nerves: “I’m generally nervous when I’m onstage. I have a nervous personality,” he says. “I feel a real responsibility to the music, to the people in the audience, and to myself. I feel like it’s very important to give a good performance. I also know that there is nothing you can control onstage beyond what you can do to prepare. I will try to be as prepared as possible.”

His birthday is June 9, the day they hand out the Cliburn gold medal. That would be a nice birthday present, right? He laughs. “Or not. Either way.”

— Tim Madigan

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