by Mike Telin

CIPC-ButterflyThe 2013 Cleveland International Piano Competition officially kicks off on Tuesday, July 30 with a 6pm opening ceremony in Gartner Auditorium of the Cleveland Museum of Art. After the performance of a Mozart concerto by 2011 winner Alexander Schimpf and CityMusic Cleveland, piano fans will meet and greet this year’s 28 contestants in person for the first time.

CIPC has kindly arranged for ClevelandClassical to follow some of the contestants during the competition, and four pianists have graciously agreed to be interviewed by Mike Telin from time to time. Our initial conversations were conducted the last week in June and the first week in July via Skype video, when we got to know more about the personalities of four of these interesting and engaging musicians, who range in age from 18 to 30. Each spoke about how they began playing and talked about their personal interests and activities. Many thanks to the competition and the four contestants for making these conversations possible.


18-year old Qi Xu, from China, was born in Shenzhen and currently resides in the United States where he studies in the Columbia-Juilliard exchange program in New York City. In 2008, at the age of 15, Xu won prizes at all four international competitions he entered, including a first in the 9th Krainev Competition’s Junior Group. He has played or competed in a number of countries including his recent debut with the Cracow Philharmonic in Poland, where he will return for performances in November. He appears in Television Spain’s “Young Soloist” which has been rebroadcast internationally. We reached him in New York City.


Polish pianist Julia Kociuban, 21, is currently living in Austria, where she studies at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Kociuban, who frequently performs with her brothers as the “Family Trio” and “DUOKociuban”, began the piano at the age of five and went on to study at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music. She has performed in over a dozen countries, including a recent three-week tour of the United States and has won prizes in many competitions. We reached her in Köln, Germany.


Konstantin Shamray, 28, from Russia, currently resides in Germany where he studies at the Hochschula für Musik in Freiburg. As the first pianist to win both first and People’s Choice awards in the 2008 Sydney Commpetition, Shamray played 27 concerts on a tour of all six Australian states. He has appeared with such orchestras as the Prague, Belgrade and Moscow Philharmonics, the Russian National Orchestra, Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lyon and the Sydney Symphony and his festival appearances include Bochum and Kissingen Sommer in Germany and the Stars of the White Nights in St. Petersburg. We reached him in Freiburg.


American pianist Ben Kim, 30, born in Portland, Oregon, currently lives in Germany, where he studies at the Berlin University of Arts. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory, he has appeared in orchestral and solo work at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, the Berlin Philharmonie and at the Aspen, Ravinia, Ruhr and Salzburg festivals. From 2005-2007, he attended Italy’s Lake Como Piano Academy. Kim has frequently appeared on television, including the PBS television series Frontline/World, and on German, Polish, Czech and Korean networks, and he has recorded for Sony Classical, Sony Japan and Decca Universal. We reached him in Berlin.

Published on July 26, 2013

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