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The World of Piano Competitions – issue 2 2021

As a collaborating partner Piano Street is proud to present the sixth issue of The World of Piano Competitions, a magazine initiated by PIANIST Magazine (Netherlands and Germany) and its Editor-in-Chief Eric Schoones. Here we get a rich insight into the world of international piano competitions through the eyes of its producers and participants.

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Contributing Editors: Gustav Alink (Alink-Argerich Foundation), Gerrit Glaner (Steinway), Patrick Jovell (Piano Street), Florian Riem (WFIMC).

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Piano Street is happy to share the sixth issue of WOPC with our readers free of charge: The-World-of-Piano-Competitions-issue-2-2021.pdf


Alexander Gadjiev | Chopin and the ungraspable
Anton Gerzenberg | Balancing act
Sa Chen | Opening to the future
Garrick Ohlsson | Working with a millipede

Competition Report
18th Chopin Competition Warsaw
Liszt Competition Budapest
MozART in Aachen

In Profile
Telekom Beethoven Competition Bonn
10th Intern. Franz Liszt Piano Competition Weimar – Bayreuth
Geneva International Music Competition
Kayserburg International Youth Piano Competition
Internationaler Schimmel Klavierwettbewerb
Memorijal Jurica Murai & Murai Grand Prix
International Brahms Piano Competition Detmold
International Schubert Competition
International Paderewski Piano Competition
International Keyboard Odyssiad & Festival | U.S.A.
XII Darmstadt International Chopin Piano Competition
Schumann Competition 2021 Düsseldorf

Behind the Scenes
WFIMC | Agenda and News
Géza Anda 1921–1976 | All honour to the music
Victoria Hall
The Concert Technician | Backbone of a Piano Competition
The Paderewski Music Association

The Piano
Fazioli’s 40th Anniversary
The Kayserburg Étoile Collection of Exotic Woods
Pianists and Piano Brands | Mutual Love, Admiration and Fascination
The Chris Maene Straight-Strung Concert Grand Piano


The piano enjoys a tremendous popularity worldwide and has the universal quality to be able to communicate through cultures, history and geographical borders. The value of piano competitions cannot be overestimated in terms of focus on the piano as an instrument and piano playing. The competition industry engages a multiplicity of concerns including hi-end piano manufacturing, media coverage and broadcast, repertoire spotlight and pedagogy, concert and lecture production and not least, career opportunity and exposure for laureates and non-laureates. All this contributes to a richer cultural life and can powerfully promote the aim we all share: to spread the joy and riches of the art of piano playing.

”Piano music, especially live, is incomparable and can be a great source of joy for players and listeners. We all should strive to allow as many people benefit from it as possible. For that, this edition of The World of Piano Competition is an excellent form of encouragement. I hope its message spreads widely! I wish everyone much joy reading it and, later on, attending a concert!”
— Guido Zimmermann, President Steinway & Sons Europe

is published twice a year by PIANIST, as a part of the regular edition, and also worldwide as a separate magazine.

PIANIST (regular edition) is published four times a year in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands and Belgium.


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Chopin Competition Aftermath: Breakfast with Tony Yang

The world has during October enjoyed almost one entire month of excellent Chopin performances at the 18th International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Taking place every five years, the 2020 edition was postponed one year, in order to make a live competition possible for both contestants and live audiences. Many have enjoyed the performances live and via streaming and the “now factor” has been very well provided for. But what about after-Warsaw? From this perspective Piano Street will publish some articles and interviews dealing with laureates and their life after the Grand Competition. During his visit to Warsaw, Patrick Jovell had a breakfast talk with laureate 2015 Tony Yang, the youngest prize winner ever – in the history of the competition.

Patick Jovell: You were the 5th prize laureate back in 2015 and also, at 16 the youngest ever. What have you been up to since then and what did the prize mean to your personal and professional life?

Tony Yang: My prize at the 2015 Chopin Competition came at a rather unexpected time for me. I was in my final year of high school at the time, and I had originally planned to participate in the competition with the mindset of trying to garner as much experience as possible so that I could have my aims a bit higher for the 2020/21 edition of the competition. Without a doubt, the prize from Chopin was my stepping stone into the classical music industry, and for me, this prize will always remain humbly in my heart as a symbolic figure of new beginnings in both my personal and professional life.

Since the competition, I’ve worked a lot on expanding my repertoire, I’ve performed quite a bit, and I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot of interesting musicians along the way –– some of which have become my closest friends & dearest mentors. At the age of 16, I felt that there was still so much more pianistic, artistic, and personality searching to do that most of my time with music since the competition has been spent on precisely that –– exploring different schools of technique, of music-making, and of temperament.

On the other hand, I have also been very fortunate since the competition to have had the chance to pursue my undergraduate education at Harvard University. However, my major there was not music, but instead I focused on Economics and Psychology. After taking some time off school during the pandemic, I am on my way to completing my final semester there in the spring of 2022. I must say though, despite having chosen to lead a double life in university, music is and has always been the dearest love and passion for me.

PJ: You are now studying at Harvard. What can you tell me about your other interests in life besides the piano?

TY: At Harvard, my classes have been mainly centered around Economics and Psychology, though I’ve also been fortunate to have also had the chance to enroll in a wide selection of other classes such as Spanish, Incan History, Film Studies, Planetary Science, and even music improvisation since the course quantity requirements for Econ and Psych at Harvard are rather light.

In general, I’ve always seemed to enjoy exploring a wide variety of interests, and as I look back, I think it’s been quite beneficial for me personally to sometimes explore those interests. Living a diverse and (hopefully) open-minded life has, in a way, helped me develop a greater appreciation and understanding of the human life. Exploring my other interests has been helpful in enhancing the way I feel music and deepening my relationship to the art that we aim to live.

PJ: Some Chopin Competition laureates find themselves labeled as being solely Chopin pianists. Which repertoire besides Chopin interests you?

TY: It’s always changing, and I guess it really depends on the state of my mind at the moment. Each musician goes through different phases at different times, and I think it’s absolutely wonderful that there is such a significant catalogue of beautiful and profound piano repertoire that we can always find ourselves satisfied with and grateful for.

As of now, I have a deep fascination with the music of J. S. Bach. In particular, his Art of Fugue collection as well as his infamous Goldberg Variations have been staples of my classical music listening, though I have yet to play either of the two pieces. Russian piano music has also been of great interest to me — anything from Prokofiev’s eighth sonata to Shostakovich’s second sonata to Feinberg’s twelfth sonata. I recently worked on Rachmaninoff’s second piano sonata, and I recall it as being one of the most enjoyable pieces I’ve ever performed in public.

And of course, the music of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms each also have their own, special places in my heart.

PJ: What would you say characterises excellent Chopin playing?

TY: If I had to give a succinct answer, I would probably narrow it down to four key points:

1. Nobility: the understanding that Chopin was an aristocrat and led a noble, maestoso life. No gimmicks, abrupt surprises for the sake of creating contrast, or caricatures should be made of his music.

2. Nostalgia: the reason why I think Chopin’s music is so timeless (in addition to his jaw-droppingly beautiful melodies) is because it carries so much history, so many memories. In my opinion, his music is built on a perfectly balanced encounter of his current experiences at the time of writing, and his past memories/experiences, as if there was no boundary between the two. As Chopin lived in France for longer and longer, he was infamously homesick for Poland, and we must understand this especially as we interpret his later works. To me, it’s almost as if his music was a traditionally Polish dish (albeit extremely personalized) enhanced by some subtle but traditionally French flavourings.

3. Drama: just because Chopin was small in physical stature and could not produce a particularly loud sound didn’t mean his heart or his will was any smaller than anyone else. His works such as Fantasy, the Second & Third Sonatas, the Preludes, and the Revolutionary Etude are, in my opinion, among a few of piano literature’s most dramatic and passionate works, and while it is important to never have a bangy sound, one should never hold back in sections which require this kind of insurmountable energy. In other words, it’s important to let free sometimes and to not be too careful.

4. Simplicity: as they say, simplicity is the final achievement. By this, it’s important not to perceive it as a passive behavior, but rather, think of it as a blanket term for honest & sincere playing. Narrative playing that comes straight from the heart without any mental or physical barriers. No effects for the sake of having effects and creating contrasts. All rubato, phrasings… natural, subtle, and never overdone.

If the Chopin playing at hand is able to find a tasteful balance of these four points, it would be excellent Chopin playing in my opinion.

Hear Tony Yang’s performance of the Barcarolle in F sharp major Op. 60 during the 2015 Prize-winners’ Concert:

PJ: You are also an Artist-in-Residence at Ingesund Piano Center in Arvika, Sweden, which offers young world-class pianists the support to cultivate international, sustainable and high-profile performing careers. What can you tell me about your experiences there?

TY: The Ingesund Piano Center in Arvika, Sweden has been a home base of mine since September of 2020. Led by the incomparably amazing Prof. Julia Mustonen-Dahlkvist, the Ingesund Piano Center provides all of its Artists-in-Residence with top-class training, practice facilities, and most importantly, an incredibly supportive, open-minded, and generous environment in which we have the total freedom to explore and be ourselves.

Having been a city person for the vast majority of my life, relocating to a small town void of traffic lights in the middle of the Swedish forest has definitely been a huge change for me, but the fact that it is this place in the middle of nowhere has also helped me find greater peace and focus in my life. But despite it being a smaller place, we are constantly given many opportunities to perform for the surrounding community, take part in recording projects, and much more that serves as great ground for adventure, pumping out new repertoire, and preparing for major events.

PJ: What advice would you give to those thinking about entering the Chopin Competition in Warsaw?

TY: The Chopin Competition is certainly unlike any other competition out there. Most obviously, everyone is more or less playing the same repertoire. The level of exposure one gets from taking part in this competition is also quite incomparable. But because everyone is playing the same repertoire, I feel like the Chopin Competition is so much more about artistry or interpretation than any other competition. I’ve been to some other competitions where I’ve heard people told off just because of their repertoire choice. For example, “you shouldn’t have programmed so many unknown pieces” or “you would have been more impressive have you programmed that instead of the piece that you did”. At Chopin, there isn’t really much choice to the diversity of repertoire one can select, so things like the aforementioned don’t really matter. One doesn’t have to worry about their Beethoven concerto being uncompetitive to someone else’s Rach 3 just because of the piece itself. So in this way, the focus on tasteful music making and sheer artistry tends to be so much clearer at the Chopin Competition, so it would be good to keep that in mind when making preparations.

But in general, I’d say that as with participation in any competition, it’s important always to be able to step back sometimes from the heat of competing and view things from a grander perspective. The purpose of competing at any competition should be so much greater than just that competition alone. I truly believe that love and passion are the greatest guiders in life, and if you truly love the music that you’re playing and the work that you’re doing, it’s so important to hold those feelings and thoughts dear to you, and to not get too lost in the competitive mindset/environment. If the true purpose and intentions of your music-making are pure & clear, it will shine unavoidably bright and beautifully in your playing.


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Cremona Musica’s 2021 Edition

The annual music exhibition Cremona Musica opened up again after its digital 2020 edition. A rich program utilizing the new worldwide digital reality to enhance the experience of the physical event. Clearly, the pandemic has not only led to thriving business for traditional instrument makers but also increased the music world’s knowledge about technological solutions and its products. A “Remote in-sync concert”, a recital presented partly live and on video, roundtables with remotely participating speakers and a Disclavier composers contest with the composer on screen in front of a live jury are examples of Cremona Musica’s new creative measures.

The 2021 edition of Cremona Musica set a firm base for the future and marked an important take-off momentum from the various realities of the worldwide Covid-19 period. Moving ahead from the forced 2020 but excellently produced and innovative 2020 digital version, people could now – under precautions and smooth handling – get together again physically enjoying a rich and varied program of concerts, lectures, manufacturers exhibits, round-table discussions, project presentations and prize ceremonies, along with lovely touristic venues in ever beautiful late summer Cremona. The increased worldwide interest in the piano as an instrument during Covid-19, resulted in a massive representation of piano manufacturers and brands, including concert series with outstanding Italian and international performers presented.

Piano Experience – with eyes on hybrid solutions

Cremona Musica’s piano section Piano Experience was created and developed in response to instrument makers, distributors, buyers and musicians, as a meeting point to exchange ideas and thus develop new business and forums for discussion and development. It is now the only exhibition in Europe dedicated to pianos and keyboards. Visitors have a chance to try out a vast selection of high quality instruments, and in cooperation with the exhibitors a large number of musical performances are offered with Italian and international artists. The ”new” digital reality was clearly represented with screen presentations, presenters’ participation and a remotely synced performance. This year and on the occasion of the 18th International Piano Competition in Warsaw, pianists Aristo Sham, Alexander Gadjiev and Leonardo Pierdomenico performed parts of their competition repertoire at the Fazioli Piano Festival to the joy of the audiences.

The Media Lounge of Cremona Musica: still alive and kicking

The International Media Lounge in which Piano Street is a member, hosts 31 Italian and foreign journalists, representing both specialized and general outlets. These journalists, writers, disseminators, covering Cremona Musica, guarantees an international media coverage for artists and exhibitors, and will also be protagonists of two round-tables, to talk about the present and future of music. The topics are of current common interest: ”New formats and perceptive processes in classical concerts”, ”Live streaming and online music platforms: new perspectives and opportunities” and ”Hybrid Music Teaching: new perspectives”. All roundtables were streamed on Cremona Musica’s FaceBook channel. Coverage of the whole event is also carried out by Rai – Radiotelevisione Italiana.

Stay tuned for more reports from Cremona. Interviews will follow with, among others; pianists Alexander Gadjiev and Aristo Sham, pianist Roberto Prosseda on his new Morricone CD release and ”Remote in Sync Concert” and its Italian/Swedish software, Fazioli: 40 years anniversary and book release and the Disclavier Composer’s Contest.


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Watch the Chopin Competition With Us!

With the 18th International Chopin Competition entering its Second Stage, Piano Street presents a new version of its popular tool (first presented during the 2010 Competition) for navigating the hundreds of great performances taking place during the event. Use our list of pieces and pianists to find and compare your personal favorites among this year’s 160 contestants.

Thanks to the competition’s streaming in professional 4K quality, the event truly has a global reach. The most watched 4-hour session of the First Stage has soon reached half a million views. Obviously, there are countless Chopin lovers in many corners of the world who would never miss the chance to listen to Chopin’s music in this context, played by some of today’s most talented young performers – with the added excitement of trying to discern who could be a worthy winner of this the most prestigious of competitions.

At Piano Street, we wanted to contribute something that could make it even more fun and interesting to navigate among the pieces performed in the competition. If you watched a few Stage I performances, you’ll have noticed that some pieces are extremely popular among the contestants. Most popular of all were the Ballade in F minor, and the Etude Op. 25 No. 6 – each of them was played as many as 18 times!

We created a page where we will continually publish a list of all performances, with links to the videos on the Chopin Institute’s Youtube page, as well as links to Chopin’s scores on Piano Street. The list can be sorted according to piece, opus number, performer, in what stage and even on what instrument it was performed (the contestants have six different concert grands to chose from). Using this tool, you can quickly find the pieces or pianists that interest you the most and just go on from there!

You find the Chopin Competition tool here >>


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New Book: The Piano – A History in 100 Pieces

Pianist Susan Tomes’ praised book “The Piano – A History in 100 Pieces”, charts the development of the piano from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Tomes takes the reader with her on a personal journey through 100 pieces including solo works, chamber music, concertos, and jazz. Her choices include composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Gershwin, and Philip Glass. Looking at this history from a modern performer’s perspective, she acknowledges neglected women composers and players including Fanny Mendelssohn, Maria Szymanowska, Clara Schumann, and Amy Beach. Piano Street talked to Susan Tomes about her book.

Piano Street: There is a multitude of different ways how we perceive history. One solid path is to go chronologically through important events and happenings and subsequently conclude what was to evolve from this. Susan, you are an active – and prize winning – pianist and your book has adopted a performer’s view, reading the map through 100 works, beginning in the late 18th century to today. This is a captivating and rich read touching many areas in music. Can you tell us how you chose these particular pieces?

Susan Tomes: When I was commissioned to write the book I realised I had a chance to include some works which might not be chosen by everyone faced with the task of selecting a hundred pieces to represent the timeline of piano music. A musicologist might have their own reasons for choosing works which seemed significant to them, perhaps for structural or historical reasons; a concerto soloist might focus entirely on solo pieces – of which there are so many wonderful examples! But considering that the piano plays such an important role in collaborative music, I wanted to take a broad approach to its repertoire.

I have always loved chamber music, and over the years I have come to feel that some composers have given us their best music in the form of chamber music – duos with other instruments, piano duets, piano trios, piano quartets and quintets. There is a quality of intimacy, of give-and-take, of idealistic conversation in this type of music which holds an enduring fascination. So I included lots of chamber music beside the solo works which one would naturally expect to find. Then I wanted to include jazz, which has produced some outstanding pianists and musical thinkers. Overall, my choice is influenced by my own experience of playing, performing, listening and teaching. I admit it’s a kind of ‘insider’s view’, but I also felt it was a golden opportunity to contribute a performer’s choice to the literature. I had to set aside many pieces which would have been interesting to write about – but I also knew that the discipline of keeping to 100 pieces was important. I didn’t want to overwhelm the reader with a tsunami of information!

PS: The piano, with its unique range and tonal colours, is perhaps the most important tool for any composer. Therefor the piano has been destined to sound, or rather imitate other instruments, not least in orchestral thinking and composition. We can think of the piano as a piano but also as an orchestra. How can we elaborate on repertoire with this fact in mind?

ST: When I practise, and also when I teach, I spend a lot of time thinking about and drawing attention to the tone colours of other instruments which one could imagine being involved in the piece – for example, an inner line which would sound just right on the bassoon, staccato notes for the left hand which remind one of a double bass playing pizzicato, or a high melody which would be marvellous in the hands of a skilled violinist. ‘Orchestrating’ a piano piece can be fun and informative.

Not only orchestral instruments are relevant, of course; the human voice often seems to hover nearby as well. There are many piano pieces which seem to suggest opera scenes, with different lines playing different characters. None of this suggests that I find the piano insufficient on its own! I just find that it enlarges one’s conception of sound, colour and texture to imagine the participation of other instruments or voices. These imaginative exercises do affect the way we play.

I think it works the other way around as well: composing at the piano has influenced the way that composers write for orchestra. There are many symphonies (by Brahms, for example) which transcribe very naturally into piano duets and make one realise that their composers probably thought in terms of the piano – or at least were influenced by the way the hands move on the piano – when writing for orchestra.

PS: You are an active performer. How did you cope during the pandemic and what are your plans now when the music scene is opening up again?

ST: I am in my 60s, so obviously I am surrounded by people who have retired, or are planning to do so. However, I never wanted to retire. When I approached my 60th birthday I looked around and realised that I had quite a few colleagues who, for various reasons, had already been forced to stop playing or performing. And I have some close colleagues who are no longer with us. I have been lucky (touch wood!) : I have not experienced problems with my playing. My appetite for music is as good as ever. I somehow felt that I owed it to ‘the gods’ to continue in my profession as long as I was playing well and enjoying it. After all, pianists are well known for keeping going into their old age!

Then the pandemic arrived and all my concerts were cancelled. Like many musicians, I experienced this as a shock and a loss. I felt as if I had been suddenly flung into deep retirement, a feeling I never wanted to have. At the beginning of lockdown I promised myself that I would keep playing the piano every day, so that whenever the pandemic came to an end I would be ready to play in public. I played each day and was glad I had done so when – a year later – I was invited to do some ‘streaming’ concerts and then some live concerts for small audiences. These occasions have provided points of light in the tunnel.

Most classical musicians worry that the pandemic will have a lasting effect on the arts and their audiences. For example, I have many music-loving friends who have not yet ventured back into the concert hall because they worry about the risk of infection. Yet those who have dared to go to concerts have found live music to be a moving experience. Musicians too have found it quite emotional. We can all benefit from learning to experience live music freshly and feeling its health-giving effect. I believe it is still too soon to predict what will happen to the music scene, but I am sure there will be lots of new ideas about how to bring music into the community so that more people can experience it, try it for themselves, and make it a part of their lives.



Get the book from yale.edu


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