FORT WORTH -- Twenty-five pianists representing a wide variety of professions and nationalities were named to the semifinals of the sixth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs on Wednesday night.
The list includes some strong performers, but a few well-known contestants were passed over by the judges. Notably, Debra Saylor, who provided one of the contest's most moving moments in 2000, failed to make the semis this time.
Another strong entrant who did not make the cut was Vincent Letourmy, who impressed with a crisp performance of music by Bach and some wild but secure Liszt.
On the positive side, racing-car designer Dominic Piers Smith advanced after a super (and subtle) performance of music by Debussy and Rachmaninoff.
The competition included plenty of familiar pieces, but the audience also heard some unusual music.
One competitor, John DeRuntz Jr., played his own compositions. He is unabashedly old-fashioned, composing in a sort of neo-Chopin style that was kind of charming. A couple of his melodies lingered in memory.
Another competitor, James Raphael, played his Theme and Variations From Katikua in Memory of Holocaust Victims, a set that had its beauties but that, in keeping with his subject, shaded into wild aggressiveness.
Technology played a role in the event. Two contestants, Seth Darst and Yvonne Liu, played from music displayed on iPads rather than paper scores. Darst had a mechanism that allowed him to turn pages with a foot. Are page-turners, long a standby at musical programs, a threatened species?
Two players had to pull out of the competition, reducing the field to 70. Victor Buckman's flight fell victim to bad weather. Mark Graham of Denton had a minor hand injury.