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by Daniel Hathaway

CIPC-Four-BowsThe laureates of most international piano competitions vanish into the ether once the medals are bestowed and prizes awarded. Not so with the Cleveland International Piano Competition, whose leadership has sought new ways to keep its prizewinners in the local public eye and ear.

On Saturday afternoon, August 23, CIPC organized a reunion of its four top winners from 2013, one year and two weeks after the final round when they played concertos in Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra. Last year they faced off as competitors, but on Sunday in Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art, they paired up collaboratively to play J.S. Bach double keyboard concertos with Apollo’s Fire and, in the second half of the 4:00 pm concert, swapped partners to play two-piano works by Mozart, Milhaud and Rachmaninoff. A gala dinner for patrons followed the performance in the museum’s Atrium. Read the rest of this entry »


by Daniel Hathaway

CIPC-Severance-SteinwayRoger Mastroianni’s photo captured the mood of expectation as the final four pianists in the Cleveland International Piano Competition waited their turns to perform concertos with Stefan Sanderling and The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall on Friday and Saturday evenings — the last stop on the way to the top.

Two of the contestants chose Tchaikovsky’s first concerto, performances which were wisely distributed between the two evenings. François Dumont was up first on Friday, Jiayan Sun first on Saturday, and if cataloging the differences between their interpretations didn’t amount to comparing apples to oranges, it was at least an exercise in distinguishing between McIntoshes and Galas. Both performers brought abundant technique, fine musicianship and a clear game plan to their tasks. Choosing between them was a matter of taste, and a task we were happy to leave to the jury.

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by Guytano Parks

CIPC-Medalists-081013Everything must gel at that one moment…a culmination and balance of mind, heart and soul.” That bit of wisdom was shared by HaeSun Paik of Korea, one of the jurors of the Cleveland International Piano Competition during the Jury Roundtable Festival Conversation on August 5. All twenty-eight of the extremely talented contestants certainly had their moments, but several stood out from the rest and they were recognized and rewarded for their outstanding performances in the 2013 CIPC on Sunday, August 11 during the Awards Ceremony at Severance Hall.

Serving as host for the event was WCLV’s program director Bill O’Connell who welcomed, greeted and thanked all forces involved in making the 2013 CIPC a splendid and exciting success, in addition to remarks by Piano International Association of Northern Ohio president Teresa Good and Pierre van der Westhuizen, Executive Director of CIPC. Generous individuals and foundations provided special cash awards which ranged from $1,500 to $2,500 and presented them to the pianists who were all present except for one. Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Telin speaks with Cleveland International Piano Competition finalist Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev the day after he played Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra under Stefan Sanderling (August 10, 2013).

by Mike Telin

Francois-ArsenyClevelandClassical had the opportunity to interview all four CIPC finalists in pairs on Thursday in Reinberger Chamber Hall at Severance Hall before the final rounds on Friday and Saturday. We talked first with 28-year-old François Dumont from France and 20-year-old Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev from Russia. Though they had never met before coming to Cleveland, they sounded like long-time friends during our wide-ranging conversation that covered such topics as family background, how they decided on careers in music, their concerto choices and experiences during the Cleveland Competition and where they’re headed next. And of course we talked about food — always a prime topic among musicians.

Both pianists encountered music at an early age. “I don’t come from a musical family,” François noted, “but they always loved music and brought me to concerts and there was always a lot of classical music in the house.” Arseny, on the other hand, has some distinguished performers in his family tree. “We always had a lot of recordings in the house so I listened to them since I was two years old and I just loved it,” he told us. “So around four years old my mom started to teach me in a playful way.” Read the rest of this entry »

Francois-ArsenyMike Telin talks with two of the four Cleveland International Piano Competition finalists. François Dumont (28, France) and Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev (20, Russia) will perform Tchaikovsky’s first concerto and Rachmaninoff’s second concerto with Stefan Sanderling and The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall on Friday evening, August 9, 2013.

by Daniel Hathaway

C13 Huang-RuoyuBefore beginning the Semi-Final Round which would bring eight pianists to the Gartner Auditorium stage in afternoon and evening sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, CIPC executive director Pierre van der Westhuizen invited the audience to treat the one-hour performances as actual concerts and “applaud and cheer” when they felt so moved, an invitation that produced interesting and varied results from the sizeable crowd.

Ruoyu Huang (24, China, left) was first to perform on Tuesday afternoon, beginning with French music — two Debussy Preludes and Ravel’s La Valse — then went on to Schumann’s Davidsbündertänze and Balakirev’s Islamey. Debussy’s Minstrels and Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest presented Huang with the opportunity to paint two different impressionistic scenes that might have been even more vivid had he brought out color and rhythm in the first and played with more sweep and legato in the second. His gloriously virtuosic reading of La Valse was suitably decadent with dramatic ebb and flow and his Schumann visited every emotional level from the dreamy to the passionate. His pianissimo playing was lovely. Festive and characteristic, Huang’s performance of the Balakirev — an unabashed showpiece without a lot of musical content — was a flight of sheer pianism. Read the rest of this entry »

Russian pianist Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev, 20, talks with’s Mike Telin about choosing his required contemporary piece for the Cleveland International Piano Competition, and how his love of jazz prompted him to pick Kapustin’s Concert Etudes (August 4, 2013)

by Daniel Hathaway

CIPC-ButterflySaturday afternoon’s session (the longest of the round with six players) opened with a meditative reading of J.S. Bach’s Prelude in b-flat (WTC I) by Nino Kotrikadze, followed by a deliberate and well-articulated fugue. The rest of her program was devoted to a vivid excursion through the many vicissitudes of Schumann’s Kreisleriana. Both dramatic and poetic moments were given an attractive haze of pedal (the composer would have approved), and Kotrikadze made major events of its climaxes. Her tendency to play big added color and passion to Schumann’s already eventful narrative, though a few outbursts of sound seemed out of scale. She played some furious passagework late in the piece with impressive technique.

Qi Xu is only 18 and small in stature but he plays with mature authority and command. He has an excellent feel for musical architecture and brought clarity of touch and a sure sense of rhythm to his performance, but while his technique is up to the task, his tone at this point in his career seemed a bit underpowered for Brahms’s third sonata, the single work on his second round playlist. Lines sounded thin at the treble end of the keyboard, though his left hand was strong at the bass end. All his performance needed to be completely satisfying was more weight of sound. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CIPC-ButterflyFour contestants played in the second session of the first round of the Cleveland International Piano Competition in Gartner Auditorium of the Cleveland Museum of Art on Wednesday evening, continuing the impressive level of playing we heard from the first five earlier in the day — and raising the proverbial bar even higher.

Qi Xu (18, China) gave a fluent and winning mini-recital of four works to begin the evening. His shapely playing of J.S Bach’s b-minor Prelude and Fugue (WTC II) had a sense of purpose and destination; the fugue subject was beautifully and consistently articulated every time it came around. Chopin’s Etude in C, op. 10/1 was bright and even-handed, but the highlight was a lucid and finely-paced version of Beethoven’s tricky op. 110 sonata, in which Xu created masterful transitions and skillfully sculpted climaxes. His sotto voce sections were lovely. Elliott Carter’s perpetual motion Caténaires (2006) was a deftly-managed toccata with steady rhythm and well-layered secondary themes. Read the rest of this entry »

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