The worldwide search for the 30 pianists who will compete in the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth this May has begun.
Cliburn Foundation interim Executive Director Jacques Marquis and the screening jury of five esteemed music professionals heard the first pianists in Hong Kong last weekend. They then traveled to Hannover, Germany, where auditions are taking place through Saturday. Next up: Moscow.
Marquis is blogging about their experiences screening 133 pianists, so fans and patrons of the competition can follow along, at www.cliburn.org.
Here are excerpts of his blog posts from Hong Kong. Follow our blog, Notes from the Cliburn, at www.dfw.com/cliburn.
Screening auditions: Hong Kong
An international competition is known by the quality of its winners. You can produce the best organized competition and have the best orchestra and the best conductor, but if your winners are not top level, then your competition will not have a high standard of recognition. Radu Lupu, 1966 Cliburn gold medalist who will be in concert in Fort Worth at Bass Hall on Jan. 28, ... is one of the most prestigious pianists in the world and since the '60s has carried the name of the Cliburn Competition everywhere. His standard of excellence and his accomplishments in the music world are still a target to reach for every pianist competing in the Cliburn.
One of the unique qualities of the Cliburn is its international screening auditions. There is not a competition in the world that does such a significant talent search as this. Most competitions evaluate applicants on CD or DVD. The problems with this method are big but not unsolvable. Bad recordings, bad hall, bad pianos, etc. A candidate could also redo and redo his piece until it's perfect. When he or she comes live, that's another story. ... The biggest advantage of live auditions is listening. No second take, no second try. Because the Cliburn brings five jury members who are eminent personalities of the piano world to each audition, the final judgment is fair for every candidate. Also, the Cliburn makes sure that the candidates are playing in nice recital halls on nice pianos.
Organizing a successful competition means providing the candidates the best and, most importantly, the same conditions. The evaluation will be more accurate and fair for everyone.
As the screening jury does its job well, the cream will rise to the top at the end of the process.
There is much to tell about the competition and how we're discovering the best musicians in the world. I'll be back ...
Souvenir de voyage: Hong Kong is everything you see in movies, with high buildings and lots of lights and people. I found a nice Starbucks near the Victoria Harbor, and I go take my coffee there in the morning. Nice and quiet view of the harbor. I cannot be here and not think about the James Clavell book I read when I was young: Tai-Pan. Since I am here, I am looking for the church at the top of Victoria Peak.
Travel tips: If your baggage gets lost (these things happen), Hong Kong is the best place to shop, with a lot of choices and a lot of good buys. I bought new clothes yesterday. ...
Screening auditions: Hong Kong (Part 2!)
The auditions in China are finished, but we will come back for the next competition! My former colleague from Jeunesses Musicales China was telling us a few years ago that more than 15 million young Chinese were studying the piano. Since the wide recognition of artists like Lang Lang and Yundi in the classical music field, the study of piano is booming in China.
When we talk about globalization in the business world, I believe the same applies in the music world.
The best teachers are invited to share their knowledge in China by giving master classes or accepting new positions in conservatories after many years in Europe or the USA.
The students from China (and everywhere) are studying in the USA and Europe, the piano expertise is spreading around the world, and now young musicians develop fantastic technical tools because of this evolution in teaching.
International competitions are also booming in Asia, and the students from there are important delegations in any competition in the world. All three medalists from the 2009 Cliburn Competition hail from Asian countries.
On our way to Hannover now.
Souvenir de voyage: We cannot think of China without thinking about Chinese food! We had great food in Hong Kong; next time I will try the shark!