Pianist’s thrilling ‘Libertango’ takes her to The Piano final, after fleeing Ukraine with toddler

13 May 2024, 17:58

Ukrainian pianist Daria stunned ‘The Piano’ judges Mika and Lang Lang with a solo piano version of Piazzolla’s ‘Libertango’.
Ukrainian pianist Daria stunned ‘The Piano’ judges Mika and Lang Lang with a solo piano version of Piazzolla’s ‘Libertango’. Picture: Channel 4

By Siena Linton

Daria sought solace from the piano after fleeing Ukraine with her two year old. Now, she’s a finalist in series two of ‘The Piano’.

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When Daria Golovchenko was five years old, she began to learn the piano from a keyboard drawn on a piece of A4 paper. She was enrolled in a Ukrainian music school, but her family didn’t own a piano for her to practise on.

Now, years later, she has won a place in the finale of series two of The Piano on Channel 4, after a pulse-raising performance of Astor Piazzolla’s lively Libertango in Edinburgh Waverley train station.

Daria chose the piece for more than just its animated passion. The title is Piazzolla’s own creation, a portmanteau of the Spanish ‘Libertad’, meaning ‘freedom’, and the Argentine tango, of the composer’s home nation.

“Liberty is a freedom, tango – a dance of passion,” Daria told The Piano viewers. “And freedom is very important now for all of us, because you have to be free here, and here,” she said, pointing to her head and heart.

Daria fled her hometown of Kherson with her young daughter after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “War started and all our lives changed completely,” she said. “Just 10 kilometres from my house was the international airport, and it was bombed every single day.”

Read more: Ukraine’s powerful anthem fills Odesa Opera House, as it reopens for first time since Russian invasion

“We didn’t have food and I had a child,” she continued. “No nappies, no medication. To get things that my daughter needed to survive, I [had] to walk through the train station – and on the roof of the train station was a sniper.

“I was thinking: do I want to keep living like this? No. So I have to try to go, to leave.

“It was the most difficult decision of my life. To leave my family, to leave my hometown. To leave Ukraine.”

After arriving in the UK, Daria said it took her time to feel able to return to the piano. “It was like a dancer who didn’t dance for a long time,” she commented.

Daria became emotional as she described how it felt to be separated from her parents and siblings: “I have to start my life again. You’re not with your family, you’re here. You live your life. They’re there. I don’t know when I’ll see them again.

“Before the war, piano was just an instrument to me. But here, it helped me to be myself.”

Read more: Lang Lang surprises 10-year-old superfan on The Piano after sparkling Haydn solo

Ukrainian pianist stuns judges with virtuosic Libertango on The Piano

Throughout her performance, Daria’s lively and vibrant Libertango attracted a large crowd, who clapped, whistled and cheered so loudly that judge Mika remarked, “Listen to the crowd! Ow!” as he removed his earpiece due to the sheer volume.

“It’s such an interesting thing, the tango,” the popstar and pianist said. “The tension, the love and hate. The tango allows you to dance between those emotions – whether you’re dancing or playing it.”

“Don’t let go of that tension!” he commented as Daria effortlessly held the crowd’s attention. “Keep it going, keep it going!”

Read more: 80-year-old pianist with dementia moves ‘The Piano’ viewers with beautiful love theme for his wife

Both Mika and fellow judge, star pianist Lang Lang, were full of praise for Daria’s performance. “She’s definitely one of the most technically evocative,” Mika said, to Lang Lang’s agreement.

“There’s still a little bit of reticence to let us in completely. I think she can do it. And if she can, then that would be magic on stage at the final concert in Manchester.”

Lang Lang agreed, “She will be a virtuoso on stage.”

Daria was overcome with joy after her performance: “It was absolutely bombastic, amazing, brilliant!” she grinned. “I can speak through the piano. I feel powerful, confident, and very happy. Hopeful.”

Daria will perform at the finale of The Piano in Manchester, alongside 10-year-old prodigy Sum from the same episode, in a rare decision from the series’ judges.