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by Tom Wachunas

Schimpf

Alexander Schimpf: finals of the 2011 Cleveland International Piano Competition with The Cleveland Orchestra (Photo: Roger Mastroianni)

This work could hardly be called a warm, festive mood-setter. In fact, it’s downright listener-unfriendly unless you’ve acquired some appreciation of Ives’ aesthetic explorations in polytonality, polyrhythms and other departures from traditional symphonic form. Toward that end, Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann prefaced his unusually lengthy introduction of the work by saying that he considered Charles Ives to be “…the most authentic American composers there is.” Read the rest of this entry »

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by Guytano Parks

GriffithThe second Festival Event of The Cleveland International Piano Competition held in the Recital Hall at The Cleveland Museum of Art, “Classical Improvisation and the Cadenza,” featured one of Cleveland’s finest improvisational pianists, Marshall Griffith. Appointed to the preparatory faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1975 and the conservatory faculty in 1982, Mr. Griffith spoke about and demonstrated the art of improvisation in an extremely engaging manner.

This morning’s enlightening conversation began with the simple question, “what is appropriate?” There are many considerations to ponder if one were to improvise a cadenza or add extra notes to the score during a concerto performance in modern-day presentations of concert music. Undoubtedly, a daunting and perhaps terrifying prospect for most, but in Mozart’s time, it was customary and second nature for the performer to not only improvise a cadenza at that special moment in a concerto, but to also add notes throughout the piece, as the solo part was rarely ever completely written down. Soloists of that period had all sorts of tricks and devices up their sleeves — scales, arpeggios, trills, themes, motives, etc. — and the technique and wisdom to know how and when to utilize them. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

GermanSCHIMPF-Alexander pianist Alexander Schimpf performed with a Northeast Ohio orchestra under the baton of Christopher Wilkins for the second time in two years on Saturday evening. His first appearance on August 6, 2011 — with The Cleveland Orchestra in Beethoven’s fourth concerto — won him top prize in the Cleveland International Piano Competition. His second collaboration came as part of that prize package — a series of bookings with orchestras — as he returned to be the featured soloist in Chopin’s first concerto with the Akron Symphony at E.J. Thomas Hall.

It was clear from the contingent of Cleveland fans who drove down to hear Schimpf that the Cleveland Competition continues to support its laureates not only with post-contest bookings but with enthusiastic moral support. On Saturday, both Akron and Cleveland listeners were obviously thrilled by Schimpf’s gorgeously assured performance of a work the pianist has lived with for more than a decade: Chopin No. 1 was the first work he ever played with an orchestra, at the age of 18. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

OnSchimpf-CD February 1, shortly after his appearance with the Akron Symphony this weekend, 2011 Cleveland International Piano Competition winner Alexander Schimpf will release his new CD on the OEHMS Classics label. Simply titled “Ravel, Scriabin, Schubert” and recorded at the Munich studios of Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Radio) not far from Schimpf’s home in Würtzburg, the album is devoted to three works: Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, Scriabin’s Five Preludes, op. 74, and Schubert’s Sonata in B-flat.

Though Schimpf confesses in his thoughtful liner notes that “the only determining idea for this CD” was “recording works that are particularly dear to my heart”, once his program was chosen, he noticed interesting bits of connective tissue between the pieces. They happen to be each composer’s final compositions for the piano, “late works” even for those who, like Schubert, died young. For Scriabin, op. 74 was the last music he wrote. Additionally, Ravel and Scriabin’s pieces date from 1914, “a highly charged period in Central Europe in every respect — socially, artistically and philosophically.” And the “dance-like elements” in Ravel’s suite “also determine large sections of the 3rd and 4th movements of the Schubert Sonata.”  Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hathaway

Cleveland, OH — August 8, 2011

Winners

L-R: Kyu Yeon Kim, Eric Zuber, Alexey Chernov, Alexander Schimpf. Photo by Roger Mastroianni

The Cleveland International Piano Competition awarded $116,000 in prizes and another $26,000 in consolation prizes during the final event of the 2011 Competition in Severance Hall on Sunday afternoon, August 7.

After remarks from host Robert Conrad of WCLV, Dr. James Gibbs, President of the Piano International Association of Northeast Ohio, Karen Knowlton, Executive Director of CIPC, and a nod from jury chair Peter Frankl, who declined to speak (Conrad passed along Frankl’s opinion that he’d talked enough in the last ten days!), the following special prizes were awarded: Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hathaway

Cleveland, OH — August 7, 2011

Schimpf

Alexander Schimpf playing Beethoven's 4th Concerto. Photo by Rober Mastroianni

By the time the Severance Hall concerto finals began on Friday evening, the four finalists in the Cleveland International Piano Competition had each played two hours’ worth of solo repertory in the previous three rounds. Now we had the opportunity to hear how well they played with others, the others of course being The Cleveland Orchestra under the Competition’s new conductor, Christopher Wilkins. There was a lot of cash attached to the outcomes, but winning the opportunity to perform with an orchestra of this stature was a prize all to itself.

Maestro Wilkins might have had to prepare four different concertos, had the results of the semifinals been different, but two finalists chose Brahms’ first concerto. 25-year old Korean pianist Kyu Yeong Kim opened with that work on Friday, while 28-year old Russian pianist Alexey Chernov played it during the first half of Saturday evening’s round. It’s a work with a tortured history, having started out to be Brahms’ first symphony, was then reworked into a piece for two pianos and finally (with new second and third movements) into a concerto for piano and orchestra. Even in its final shape, it shows signs of the composer’s inexperience as an orchestrator.
Read the rest of this entry »

Cleveland, OH — August 6, 2011

The winners of the 2011 Cleveland International Piano Competition were announced tonight following the second concerto round with The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall:

First Prize: Alexander Schimpf (right, 29, Germany)

Second Prize: Alexey Chernov (second from right, 28, Russia)

Third Prize: Eric Zuber (second from left, 26, USA)

Fourth Prize: Kyu Yeon Kim (left, 26, Korea)

The prize ceremony (including the awarding of other prizes and a winners’ recital) will be held on Sunday, August 7 at 3 pm at Severance Hall (live broadcast over WCLV, 104.9 FM).

Our review of the concerto round will be posted here on Sunday afternoon.

by Daniel Hathaway

CIPC Finalists

L-R: Kyu Yeon Kim, Eric Zuber, Alexander Schimpf, Alexey Chernov (photo: DH)

By Wednesday evening, when the Semifinal Round ended, we had gotten to know a lot about the pianistic personalities of twenty-six musicians, but we were eager to learn more about the four Finalists. The Competition kindly provided the opportunity to chat with them in pairs in Reinberger Chamber Music Hall just before their individual séances with conductor Christopher Wilkins at Severance Hall on Thursday, when each would talk through their chosen concerto for the Final Round on Friday and Saturday with The Cleveland Orchestra.

First, we wanted to know how the four came to the piano in the first place, and when the magic moment arrived when each decided to pursue a professional career. For three of the players, there were already professional musicians in the family who facilitated their early discovery of music. Read the rest of this entry »

Cleveland, OH — August 3, 2011


The four finalists, who will play concertos with The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall under maestro Christopher Wilkins, were announced late Wednesday evening at the Cleveland Play House (photos left to right in performance order). The performances will be broadcast live over WCLV, 104.9 FM but will not be available on the Web. For tickets, call the Severance Hall Box Office, 216.231.1111 or order online. The winners will be announced at the end of Saturday’s performance, and the four finalists will give encore performances of solo repertory on Sunday at 3 during the Awards Ceremony in Severance Hall (tickets required).

Friday, August 5 at 8 pm

Kyu Yeon Kim (Brahms, Concerto No. 1)
Eric Zuber (Rachmaninoff, Concerto No. 2)

Saturday, August 6 at 8 pm

Alexey Chernov (Brahms, Concerto No. 1)
Alexander Schimpf (Beethoven, Concerto No. 4)

by Daniel Hathaway

Cleveland, OH — August 3, 2011

Schimpf

Alexander Schimpf

Alexander Schimpf (29, Germany) and Mateusz Borowiak (23, UK/Poland) closed out the Semifinal Round on Wednesday evening at the Cleveland Play House’s Bolton Theater — and marked the end of the Cleveland International Piano Competition’s occupancy there. The buildings have been sold to the Cleveland Clinic, and the Play House is moving to new digs in Playhouse Square.

Mr. Schimpf began with a single Debussy Prelude, moved on to one of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies and concluded with Schubert’s last Sonata. The lone Debussy Prelude (La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune from Book Two) made for a strange opening gesture and was really too brief to make much of an impression. Mr. Schimpf’s Liszt, the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 in c-sharp, was spirited, but not very digitally tidy (lots of nicked notes), and contrasted murky low-lying chords with crystalline Hungarian dance tunes at the treble end of the keyboard. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hathaway

Cleveland, OH — August 1, 2011

The jury has selected eight pianists to advance to the Semi-final round of the Cleveland International Piano Competition. The following names were read from the stage of the Bolton Theater at the Cleveland Play House tonight at 10:45 pm by jury chairman Peter Frankl, following the sixth session of the second round. Each will play one hour recitals during the afternoon and evening sessions on August 2 and 3, and four finalists will play concertos with The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall on August 5 and 6.

Tuesday, August 2 at 1pm*

Ms. Kyu Yeon Kim (25, Korea)

Mr. Yunjie Chen (30, China)

Tuesday, August 2 at 7 pm

Mr. Jae-Weon Huh (24, Korea)

Ms. EunAe Lee (23, Korea)

Wednesday, August 3 at 1pm*

Mr. Eric Zuber (26, USA)

Mr. Alexey Chernov (28, Russia)

Wednesday, August 3 at 7 pm

Mr. Alexander Schimpf (29, Germany)

Mr. Mateusz Borowiak (23, UK/Poland)

* please note the corrected start time.

By Mike Telin

Cleveland, OH — August 1, 2011

Steinway Piano model d

Five pianists played in the penultimate session of the second round on Monday afternoon.

Marina Baranova (30, Ukraine/Germany) gave sensitive and stylish readings of Scarlatti’s Sonatas in C Major (K.159) and f minor (k.466). Her discrete use of pedal and clear articulations, combined with some nice ornamentation, made for pleasurable listening. Continuing with two works of Schumann, the ABEGG Variations, Op. 1 and Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26 Ms. Baranova once again showed her technical command of the instrument, and made easy  and clean work of the numerous rapid scale passages in both pieces. In general she approached the ABEGG Variations from an introspective point of view,  creating some beautiful phrasing and lovely articulations. These fine qualities also featured in her performance of  Faschingsschwank aus Wien, along with grand fortissimos. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Cleveland, OH — July 29, 2011

Steinway Piano model d

Friday afternoon brought new faces and some fresh repertory to the penultimate session of the first round.

Ms. Marina Baranova (30, Ukraine/Germany) began the session with the first Beethoven “Waldstein” Sonata to appear in the playlist thus far, closely followed (with hardly any pauses) by Ligeti and Chopin. She took a businesslike approach to the first movement of the Beethoven. There were some tangles in scalar passages and an infelicitous plunge into the recapitulation. She paid more attention to voicing in the slow, second movement, with fine results. She did an intereresting thing at the beginning of the finale — starting it very slowly and softly as though the main theme were emerging from a haze, then making a huge crescendo into the restatement of the tune. Throughout, dynamics seemed to hover at both extremes with not much middle ground, but her soft playing was lovely. In her Ligeti, Fanfares (Etudes: Book 1, No. 4), she stylishly played sassy chords against a nonstop running line that alternated between hands. In her Chopin, the “Winter Wind” Etude, she demonstrated some sensitive phrasing, especially in the transitions. Read the rest of this entry »

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