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Mozart Can Tell the Difference

For the first time in the history of The Cliburn Competition, semifinalists were required to perform a Mozart concerto. This was not only based on the fact that the Cliburn Foundation’s CEO Jacques Marquis is a classical concerto fan, but rather from the aim of judging how competitors show musical maturity and the delicate world of the Austrian master.

Sunwoo-Yekwon-plays-Mozart

As Dallas News writer Scott Cantrell puts it: “Mozart concertos aren’t pianistic showpieces. But they’re like microscopes focusing on fine details: rhythmic steadiness and spring, shapely phrasing, a keen ear for coordinating with the orchestra and a sense for when the piano is a foreground soloist, and when it’s texture filling.”

As the final round includes the bombasms of the great romantic concertos of composers such as Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, the Mozart aspect along with the chamber music (Piano Quartet) momentum allows the jury to get a much more diversified picture of each finalist.

During the semifinals the 2017 Cliburn winner, 28-year-old Sunwoo Yekwon had chosen the Mozart concerto No. 21 in C major K. 467, and was praised for his “bold, vividly characterized” interpretation which included the quality of “taking liberties with unaccompanied passages, but he always worked back into the orchestra’s tempo”. The performance held a strong personal stamp.

Sunwoo Yekwon honored his late teacher, Seymour Lipkin, by performing a cadenza that his teacher wrote. He had asked permission years earlier to play the cadenza and said he was glad he was able to play it during the Cliburn competition.

“People seemed to enjoy it, I’m not sure about the jury members but the audience members enjoyed it and that matters a lot”, said Sunwoo after his performance with Nicholas McGegan conducting the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

Given a choice of nine concertos, the 12 semifinalists had just chosen four; Nos. 20, 21, 23 and 25, all composed during Mozart’s so-called Don Giovanni period.

Hear Sunwoo Yekwon perform Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto in C major K. 467:


/patrick

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What’s New in The Cliburn 2017?

The final round of quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition kicked off on Monday. This year, there have been a few changes in the competition. There was and will be, of course, plenty of aggressive and loud playing. There will be technical brilliance and a certain flair. One might hope that there would also be some introspective greatness, too, but “lots of notes” win competitions, not emotional development. In other words, there is a ton of Liszt and not much Schubert. One of the new developments this year was the addition of a quarterfinal round. In previous years, there were just the preliminaries, the semifinals, and the finals.

The competition has moved into the 21st century. There are simulcasts on the competition’s website and the French classical music website medici.tv. The proceedings are translated into French, Russian, and Mandarin, and the live coverage reaches into previously unexplored corners of Asia. Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe host the festivities.

cliburn2017

In the past, the contest was terrifically grueling and seemed to reward sheer stamina rather than musicianship or eloquence. This new lineup looked better all the way around for the competitors.The CEO of the Cliburn Foundation, Jacques Marquis, said he is a big fan of classical concertos. Particularly with Mozart, there is no place to hide, he maintained. Beethoven concertos were judged to be romantic rather than classical, so they were limited to the final rounds. When it comes to the chamber music, its small and intimate collection of partnerships showcase a competitor’s musical maturity beyond sheer bombast. Besides, the “big guns” will invariably come out in the Finals. The usual suspects of Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Prokofiev are bound to be showcased. Another change from previous years is that the judges were almost all new. In the past, the judges would be nearly the same as the last time. Only Joseph Kalichstein remained from the 2013 panel. A fresh perspective led the competition in exciting directions where others had feared to tread. This year’s jury includes: Joseph Kalichstein, Marc-André Hamelin, Amaldo Cohen, Anne-Marie McDermott, Alexander Toradze, Christopher Elton, Mari Kodama and Erik T. Tawaststjerna. These judges encompass the world because their homelands range from Japan to Finland. It is of significance that Yoheved Kaplinsky was not on this year’s panel. Her students have won multiple prizes in Cliburn competitions past, which gave rise to whispers about conspiracies worthy of Russian figure-skating judges. Although nothing was ever proven, this year’s organizers wanted no appearance of impropriety.

New Exposures

The medal winners receive something greater than a mere monetary prizes. Each of the top three will have access to career management services for three years. They will also have concerts booked for them, and for the first time, their performances will be released on CDs produced by Universal Music Group. The second and third-place winners will go on American tours while the grand prize winner will also tour Europe and Asia.

Finalists:

Georgy Tchaidze (Russia)
Kenneth Broberg (United States)
Daniel Hsu (United States)
Rachel Cheung (Hong Kong)
Yury Favorin (Russia)
Yekwon Sunwoo (South Korea)

cliburn finalists 2017

Here’s a breakdown of the new 2017 Cliburn:

Preliminary Round (May 25-28):

• 45-minute recital from each competitor
• Must include a newly commissioned work by composer Marc-André Hamelin
• 20 quarterfinalists chosen

Quarterfinal Round (May 29 and 30):

• Second 45-minute recital
• No piece requirements
• 12 semifinalists chosen

Semifinal Round (June 1-5):

• 60-minute recital
• Mozart concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas McGegan.
• Piano quintet no longer required

Final Round (June 7-10):

• Piano quartet with the Brentano String Quartet
• Any piano concerto of the competitor’s choice
• Fort Worth Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin this time

Live Webcast

Enjoy the Replay Archive

Further reading:
Leonard Slatkin: Should music be a competition?
Meet The Cliburn CEO, Jacques Marquis


/patrick

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Wigmore Hall As Schiff’s Magic Laboratory

Sir András Schiff’s eloquence as a teacher and profound insights as a thinker about music make his Masterclass sessions irresistible to participants and audiences alike. Through the course of this event an outstanding young musician, chosen by Sir András himself, will explore some of the repertoire featured in the previous evening’s concert. Los Angeles Times recently hailed Schiff for his “impeccable technique”, “intense concentration” and “acute sense of being”.

Janáček: “In the Mists” (Jean-Sélim Abdelmoula)
Schumann: Fantasy Op. 17 (Julia Hamos)

All Masterclasses productions are filmed and documented by Wigmore Hall and Medici.tv. Available on Medici.tv until August 3, the Schiff May 3rd Masterclass features Leoš Janáček’s “In the Mists” and Robert Schumann’s C major Fantasy Op. 17 with young and upcoming pianists Jean-Sélim Abdelmoula, Switzerland and Julia Hamos, Hungary/U.S.A.


/patrick

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International Piano – May/June Issue

A new issue of the magazine International Piano is out!

Beatrice Rana, one of the brightest lights in a new generation of young stars, speaks to International Piano about her love of Bach’s Goldberg Variations; Bechstein’s new CEO brings energy and investment to the German piano-maker; our repertoire guide to Liszt’s otherworldly Bénédiction on disc; and Maurizio Pollini at 75.

Plus, transformative technology for pianophiles; learn to play seamless thirds; Alessio Bax takes the helm at Tuscany’s Incontri in Terra di Siena festival; Angela Brownridge on recording the classics; enigmatic jazz master Alan Broadbent; celebrating pianists who dress for attention; and free sheet music of Schumann’s Faschingsschwank aus Wien from Wiener Urtext Edition.


Piano Street Gold members have instant online access to the digital version of the magazine.


/nilsjohan

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What Does a Pianist See?

In this video, eye-tracking glasses are used to show exactly where the gaze of a pianist is directed while playing. A professional concert pianist and his student take turns using the glasses, revealing interesting facts about how experience makes a great difference in terms of effective eye movement, both when playing from memory and from a piano score.


/nilsjohan

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