Sabine Liebner
Full Biography
Sabine Liebner is primarily active as an interpreter of New Music. Critics praise her interpretations as exemplary and visionary, and are fascinated by her sophisticated tone which she uses to create magical soundscapes, by her dramaturgical creativity and the deeply emotional intensity with which she creates intriguing and contemplative moments, as well as by her new, even radical interpretations.

Sabine Liebner’s playing is perceived as consistently intentional. Meret Fortser of BR Klassik says that Liebner’s playing lets the music breathe, and Hans Christian von Dadelsen in Klassik Heute that this is a characteristic of a most brilliant and outstanding interpretation. Volker Hagedorn of DIE ZEIT writes that one has the impression of being able to pick up the sounds and feel them like beautiful stones.
Marco Frei noted in the Neue Züricher Zeitung that Liebner once again performed as a sensitive explorer in the realm of sound. Wolf Loeckle from the Neue Musikzeitschrift added that listening to the outstanding sound textures Liebner created was a profound experience. In Positionen, Dominik Pensel praised Sabine Liebner as a true monolith among the interpreters of New Music.

Impressive is also her unfaltering decision to only play music to which she feels an inner affinity. Music making is for Liebner the exploration of unknown terrain, combined with a retreat into introspection – solitude in the most positive sense. Sabine Liebner tries to listen to a score with no preconceptions, discover its innate musical language, and then to make this audible in a gentle yet energetic way.

Sabine Liebner has played many premieres of works by composers such as Pauline Oliveros, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff, Cornelius Cardew, Jörg Widmann, Olga Neuwirth, Franco Donatoni, Tom Johnson, and other contemporary composers. She is also involved with the development of very innovative and high-profile programs and festivals. In April 2011, at the Deutschlandfunk’s festival Forum Neuer Musik in Cologne, Liebner’s performance of the four books of John Cage’s Etudes Australes over the course of four successive evenings was a great success; this was only the fourth time the entire cycle had ever been played. The recordings of these extraordinary performances were broadcast by Deutschlandfunk on five consecutive Saturdays in July 2011. At the festivals Klangspuren Schwaz and Transart, she became the first performer ever to play a complete version of the piece within 26 hours, with portions of the work performed in different locations such as the Timmelsjoch Mountain Pass Museum. Maria Tanner of the Tiroler Tageszeitung wrote that the sounds of Liebner’s sublime interpretation seemed to come directly from heaven. On the occasion of her 2012 concert at rbb in Berlin, Andreas Göbel presented her in the rbb Kulturradio program 09/2012 as the currently most important interpreter of John Cage’s piano works.

At the Munich Gasteig in 2007 as well as at the festival Klangspuren Schwaz in 2017, Sabine Liebner gave a spectacular performance of the complete sonatas for piano by Galina Ustvolskaya. In Munich, she played a two-hour concert of John Cage’s Music for Piano. Reinhard Schulz wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that her performance of Morton Feldman’s Triadic Memories was the discovery of a completely new Feldman: "Quite surprisingly, Liebner’s interpretation opened up new dimensions."

As a soloist and chamber musician, Sabine Liebner has performed at the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, the Kasseler Musiktage, the Klangspuren Schwaz and Transart, the Forum Neuer Musik Köln, the Berliner Festspiele/MaerzMusik, the klub katarakt Festival in Hamburg, the Munich Biennale, the Münchner Klaviersommer, the Akademie der Künste in Hamburg, the Szene Leipzig, the Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin, the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen Mannheim, the Festival Klang-Aktionen Munich, the Opening Festival Trier and the Bauhaus in Dessau. She has played chamber music with members of the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and the Munich Chamber Orchestra, and has performed with Jörg Widmann, Muriel Cantoreggi, Christian Hommel, and David Moss, among many others. Liebner has also collaborated with visual artists such as Jan Kopp (Paris) and Brunner/Ritz (Munich). From 1991 until 2007, Sabine Liebner also worked as a performance pianist. In 1999, Liebner founded the concert series "Morton Feldman & Friends" in Munich, which according to Reinhard Schulz (neue musikzeitung) "attained cult-like status". In these concerts, in addition to Morton Feldman’s works for piano solo, Liebner also performed his highly complex chamber music works For Philip Guston, Patterns in a Chromatic Field, Piano and String Quartet, For Christian Wolff, For John Cage, Trio, and Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello.

Numerous live as well as studio recordings for broadcasting institutions such as BR, WDR, HR, DLF, SR, and NDR document the versatility of Sabine Liebner’s artistic work; she has also taken part in film productions for WDR/SWF, BR, and NMZ Media. She has been featured in broadcasts and magazines such as DLF’s Atelier Neuer Musik, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (3/2009, 01/2012), PianoNEWS (3/2010) as well as in Positionen 2015.

Liebner’s discography includes internationally and highly praised CDs for WERGO, NEOS, Oehms Classics, and other labels. Her recording of John Cage’s Etudes Australes was voted CD of the Year by the listener in January 2012, awarded the WIRE REWIND 2012, praised by Eleonore Büning (FAS) as a "fantastically sonorous new complete recording" and by Max Nyffeler (FAZ) as a "brilliant complete recording." Marco Frei of the nzz said "her playing captivates with a rare sense of intuition." The recording of John Cage’s Music for Piano received the "ffff” from TÉLÉRAMA, the "Discos excepcionales" from scherzo, and five stars at FonoForum. Liebner’s CD with Feldman’s Triadic Memories also received the "Discos excepcionales" from scherzo, five stars at FonoForum, and was recommended by Kultur Spiegel; Palais de Mari received the highest rating from Klassik heute. In GRAMOPHONE, Philip Clarke wrote of her recording of the complete piano music of Galina Ustvolskaya "Sabine Liebner moved Ustvolskaya interpretation to new heights." In PianoNEWS, the recording was voted CD of the months of January/February 2010. Her recording of Christian Wolff’s piano works makes the music "breathe deeply….and leap and dance", according to Dirk Wieschollek in neue zeitschrift für musik. "Liebner is virtuosically sensitive", Philip Clark reviewed in GRAMOPHONE the John Cage CDs ASLSP and ONE. In March 2012, WERGO released the CD Abstract Sound Objects with music by Earle Brown. In the BR Klassik CD feature, Helmut Rohm was fascinated by Liebner’s unparalleled and masterful touch. Karsten Zimalle wrote in westzeit about her recording of Morton Feldman’s early piano pieces "Feldman at its best", and Jed Distler called them "points of reference" in classicstoday. The recording also received the "Discos excepcionales" from scherzo. In September 2013, Liebner’s discography was complemented by the CD recordings of John Cage’s Solo for Piano, released by WERGO. In the Österreichische Musikzeitschrift, Stefan Drees said Liebner "effortlessly confirms her position as the most important and uncompromising Cage interpreter of our time." Her recording of John Cage’s ONE 7, FOUR 6 appeared in February 2014. Dirk Wiescholiek described it in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik as "a perfect example of concentrated and imaginative interpretation", and Rainer Aschemeier wrote in incoda "Sabine Liebner has once again presented a veritable stroke of genius."

In March 2015, WERGO released a new CD with recordings of the suites for piano Ka & Ttai by Giacinto Scelsi which was the "album of the week" of the major US radio station WQXR in August 2015. Reinhard Ermen featured the CD in SWR2: "Sabine Liebner is the perfect interpreter for this kind of art." Helmut Rohm said in BR Klassik "she knows how to open new doors with her sophisticated and masterful touch…", and Marco Frei wrote in Piano News "an incredible and spellbinding power – Liebner at her best, just like we know her from her live performances." In November 2015, WERGO published her recording "amiable conversation" with music by Henry Cowells and John Cage. Stefan Drees recommended it in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik "what sometimes is played etude-like or … tends to sound rather dry, her hands turn into a poetical and quite playful listening experience …" In October 2017, WERGO released "mimetics" with music by Mauricio Kagel. In Klassikcom, Stefan Drees wrote that "Liebner skillfully dedicated her performance to musical refraction – simply terrific", and Reinhard Brembeck (Süddeutsche Zeitung) added that he had already become addicted to Kagel & Liebner.

In April 2018, WERGO will release a double CD with piano works by Karlheinz Stockhausen, interpreted by Sabine Liebner.

Sabine Liebner studied at the University of Music and Theatre in Munich with Karl-Hermann Mrongovius and took master classes with Leonhard Hokanson, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Peter Feuchtwanger, Maurizio Pollini, and George Crumb.

Her repertoire includes works by John Adams, Luciano Berio, Earle Brown, John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Henry Cowell, George Crumb, Franco Donatoni, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Toshio Hosokawa, Nicolaus A. Huber, Tom Johnson, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtag, Helmut Lachenmann, Olivier Messiaen, Federico Mompou, Olga Neuwirth, Pauline Oliveros, Giacinto Scelsi, Alfred Schnittke, Charlotte Seither, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Galina Ustvolskaja, and Christian Wolff.

In 1998, Liebner received the city of Munich’s Music Prize and in 2005 a Munich music scholarship; in 2007 she was chosen as one of the German pianists recommended by the Goethe Institute and again awarded the Munich Music Prize.

Liebner’s WERGO recording of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke I–XI was praised by critics around the world in publications such as Diapason, Gramophone, Fono Forum, and Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. It was named one of the best recordings of 2018 by The New York Times, The Guardian, The Times/Sunday Times, allmusic, and Culture Spot LA, and was nominated for the German Record Critics’ Award 2018 and the OPUS Klassik 2019.    
In October 2020, WERGO released a new CD with recordinge of the suite 8 Bot–Ba and suite 11 for piano by Giacinto Scelsi , Suite 11 in its final version, the first authentic recording of the work with its original sequence of movements.

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