Theodora Serbanescu-Martin


Theodora is a first-year graduate student in the musicology program and an active pianist whose interdisciplinary research covers topics from nineteenth-century pianism to critical theory to sixteenth-century literary culture. She engages with various pianistic themes such as Brahms, the history of virtuosity, piano schools and pedagogies in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, and her interest in performance studies extends into carnal musicology, disability studies, affect theory and gender studies. More specifically, she focuses on tracing the reception of “difficult” music and female virtuosas; the influence of new technologies and media on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century piano music, pianists, and pianistic bodies; and the idea of “lateness” as a style and its ethical and aesthetic underpinnings in Beethoven and composers of the fin-de-siècle. She is also interested in German aesthetics, the relationship between text and music, especially in English poetry at the Tudor court, and in the process of literary translation.

Theodora holds a B.A. in Music and English from the University of California, Berkeley, where she completed an honors thesis for each major. Her music thesis, “Brahms’s Piano Exercise Mode and the Politics of Friendship,” which won a Charlene Conrad Liebau Library Prize for Undergraduate Research, drew its inspiration from a previously unexplored Brahms souvenir from the Berkeley Jean Hargrove Library (a fragmented piano exercise Brahms sent to his friend and soprano Laura Garbe around 1862), and sought to reclassify Brahms's paradoxical virtuosity in relation to his engagement with dialogic music-making. Her English thesis, “A Poetics of Performance: Agency, Voices and the “I” in Wyatt’s Poetry,” traced the intertwining textual and performative agencies in Thomas Wyatt’s poetry in order to reveal the relations and fissures between the speaker, or the “I” of the lyric, and “the text.”

Theodora’s piano repertoire is wide-ranging, but at present she is focused on completing and recording the late Beethoven sonatas and gradually performing most of the Brahms solo and chamber works. She is currently studying with Xak Bjerken, and her previous mentors include Martha Wasley, Hans Boepple, and Carmen Enescu. She is also interested in continuing her studies of historically informed performance with Malcolm Bilson. Her performance awards include first place in the Pacific Musical Society, American Fine Arts Festival, Young Pianists’ Beethoven and MTAC Concerto competitions, and the 2016 Eisner Prize in the Creative Arts from UC Berkeley. She has attended numerous summer festivals throughout Europe such as the International Piano Academy in Freiburg and the Dublin International Festival, and participated in master classes with professors such as John O’Connor, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Seymour Lipkin, Katarzyna Popowa-Zydron and Jura Margulis. Theodora has performed numerous standard and non-standard concertos in the U.S. and abroad, including Brahms’s Second, Beethoven’s Fourth, Prokofiev’s Second and Scharwenka’s Fourth; some of the orchestras she has worked with include the UCBSO, Saratoga Symphony, Kostroma Symphony Orchestra and the Lublin Chamber Orchestra.