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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

Khristenko-at-pianoIt’s one thing to win a major international piano competition by a pleasing a panel of jurors, and quite another to go on to make a successful career by enthralling audiences with your playing. Stanislav Khristenko, who took first place in the Cleveland International Piano Competition in 2013, left no doubt in his Carnegie Hall preview recital on Sunday evening, May 11 in CIM’s Kulas Hall that he has all the right stuff to thrive on the international concert circuit.

On Sunday evening, Khristenko was on a mission. While some pianists serve up little hors d’oeuvres — a few Scarlatti sonatas or some pre-prandial Haydn or Mozart just to get the digestive juices flowing — the Ukrainian-born artist plunged headlong into Béla Bartók’s Sonata before even bothering to fasten his seat belt. Rhythmically incisive and explosive with accents, his opening salvos took hold of the crowd and probably nobody did much breathing until the three-movement work ended in a riotous dance. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

C13 Khristenko-StanislavHas winning the 2013 Cleveland International Piano Competition changed Stanislav Khristenko’s life? “It definitely has,” the 29-year-old Khristenko said en-thusiastically during a recent telephone conversation. “At this point I feel very happy that I am able to do what I always wanted to do — and that is to play concerts.”

On Sunday, May 11 beginning at 8:00 pm in Kulas Hall at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Stanislav Khristenko will perform a recital that includes works by Chopin, Prokofiev, Bartók, Liszt, Zemlinsky and Ernst Krenek.

Khristenko points out that Sunday’s program centers around musical topics that are of interest to him. “One of my thematic interests is fantasies, which is also the title of my new CD. Alexander Zemlinsky’s Fantasies on Poems by Richard Dehmel is considered by many to be the composer’s most imposing piano work. Chopin’s Fantasy in F Minor fits into the fantasy theme as well.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Duo-AmalThe career trajectories of piano competition laureates can be a fascinating thing to follow: where will life take them? On Saturday, February 22 in Reinberger Chamber Music Hall at Severance Hall, the Second Prize Winner at the 2007 Cleveland International Piano Competition, Yaron Kohlberg, who along with duo piano partner Bishara Haroni make up Duo Amal, presented a performance that was both technically and musically brilliant. Like concentric circles, from the first note to the last, this dynamic duo played from a common center: articulations, phrasings, tonal colors, crescendos and decrescendos were perfectly matched.

Protégés of Zubin Mehta, Haroni and Kohlberg initially came together as a duo piano team for a peace concert at the Oslo House in Norway in 2011. In a recent interview, Kohlberg said the musical connection between himself and Haroni was “so strong” they felt they needed to continue the musical partnership. And shortly thereafter Duo Amal – Amal being the Arabic word for “hope” — was formed. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Duo-AmalHow quickly life can change. Just ask Israeli pianist Yaron Kohlberg, the second prize winner at the 2007 Cleveland International Piano Competition. After joining forces with Palestinian pianist Bishara Haroni for a peace concert at the Oslo Opera House in 2011, the two pianists chose to redirect their professional energies away from solo careers in favor of pursuing their career paths as a duo piano team.

On Saturday, February 22 beginning at 8:00 pm inReinberger Chamber Music Hall at Severance Hall, the Cleveland International Piano Competition Concert Series presents Duo Amal, Yaron Kohlberg and Bishara Haroni, duo pianos.

The sold-out concert features Schubert’s Fantasy in F Minor, Shostakovich’s Concertino for Two Pianos, Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 1, an arrangement of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1, “Classical” and Avner Dorman’s Karsilama. Beginning at 7:00 pm in Reinberger Hall, Yaron Kohlberg and Bishara Haroni will participate in a discussion led by Charles Michener. The discussion is open to anyone holding a ticket to the concert. Read the rest of this entry »

Pianist Jiayan Sun will play Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Chagrin Falls Studio Orchestra, Stephen A. Eva conducting, on February 14 and 15 at Chagrin Valley Little Theater. Mike Telin spoke with Cleveland International Piano Competition finalist Jiayan Sun last summer in a video interview the day before he played the concerto at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra under Stefan Sanderling (August 9, 2013)

CIPC-ButterflyThe Cleveland International Piano Competition’s Young Artist Competition, begun in 2005 as a one-day contest, will expand in 2015 into something that much resembles CIPC itself. Approximately 25 students aged 12 to 15 and 16 to 18 (Junior and Senior divisions) will take up residence on the campus of Baldwin Wallace University from May 13-22, 2015 to compete in three solo rounds and a final round with the CIPC Orchestra. As in the case of CIPC itself, students in each age divisions will play two rounds before the initial jury vote. Six in each age group will advance to the Semi-Finals and two each to the Finals.

An institute will run alongside the competition including master classes, coaching, guest recitals and symposia.

The Jury includes Paul Schenly (chair, USA), Yoheved Kaplinsky (USA), Dorian Leljak (Serbia), Sean Schulze (USA/South Africa), Alexander Schimpf (Germany), Kyung Sook Lee (South Korea) and Lei Weng, China.

Further details are available on the CIPC Web site.

by Mike Telin

FILJAK-Martina-GreenA return performance is always special,” Croatian pianist Martina Filjak told us by telephone from Colorado Springs. “It was a very good concert and I have to say, the people in Akron are not only good musicians but they are also really nice. We left things on a very positive note and that is why this return is so special.”

The concert Filjak is referring to was her 2011 performance of Rachmaninoff’s second concerto with the Akron Symphony. In her review for this publication Elizabeth Kalanja wrote “What Filjak pulled from the keys was a sensual performance and her stage presence was mesmerizing… The orchestra and Filjak connected in a way that made it seem as if they always performed together and their joint effort resulted in an inspiring performance…”

On Saturday, October 26 at 8:00 pm, Martina Filjak returns to the Thomas Hall stage for a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Akron Symphony under the direction of Christopher Wilkins. The concert also includes the Sibelius tone poems Finlandia and The Swan of Tuonela (featuring Cynthia Warren, English horn) and his Symphony no. 7.

Since winning first prize at the 2009 Cleveland International Piano Competition (CIPC) Martina Filjak has developed a very busy international career. 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

CIPC-ButterflyCleveland — August 10

First Place: Stanislav Khristenko

Second Place: Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev

Third Place: François Dumont

Fourth Place: Jiayan Sun

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).

Mike Telin speaks with Cleveland International Piano Competition finalist François Dumont the day after he played Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra under Stefan Sanderling (August 10, 2013).

by Mike Telin

Jiayan-StanislavWhile waiting to meet with conductor Stefan Sanderling on Thursday to discuss their Saturday evening concertos with The Cleveland Orchestra, finalists Jiayan Sun (23, China) and Stanislav Khristenko (29, Russia) spoke with ClevelandClassical about their experiences with the Cleveland International Piano Competition until now and about the pieces they chose for their final round performances.

Stanislav earned his artist diploma from the Cleveland Institute of Music, while Jiayan did his professional training at the Juilliard School. Like the two finalists we interviewed earlier, Jiayan and Stanislav conversed with each other like friends who hadn’t spoken in a long time. They have some things in common — both live in New York, and both happened to choose the Schumann C Major Fantasie for their semi-final round program (just as our two earlier finalists both chose Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit.) They also agree that CIPC’s policy of allowing every contestant to play two rounds is one of the greatest virtues of this competition, but that waiting to hear from the jury can be nerve-wracking. Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Telin speaks with Cleveland International Piano Competition finalist Stanislav Khristenko the day before he plays Brahms’s First Piano Concerto at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra under Stefan Sanderling (August 9, 2013).

Mike Telin speaks with Cleveland International Piano Competition finalist Jiayan Sun the day before he plays Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra under Stefan Sanderling (August 9, 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 Treutler-AnnikaOn Wednesday, with the moment of decision only hours away, the last four pianists in the semi-final round stepped up to the Hamburg Steinway in Gartner Auditorium to vie for a slot in the final round with The Cleveland Orchestra on Friday and Saturday night.

Annika Treutler (23, Germany) assembled a program of Haydn, Hindemith, Scriabin, Chopin and Liszt for the afternoon’s opening set. Her elegant phrasing, graceful but forceful technique and fine sense of musical line and architecture touched everything she played. Only subtle shadings of color and dynamics differentiated each of Haydn’s f-minor variations from the other. Hindemith’s Suite “1922”, a piece parodying popular dances of the era — which the composer later advised his publisher not to bother to reprint — was far more eventful as Treutler navigated her way through its Marsch, its gloomy, atonal Shimmy, its thick-textured but later sparkling Nachtstück, its waltzy and rhetorical Boston and its uptime Rag, which sported a huge ending. Scriabin’s op. 13 Preludes were by turns rumbling, wistful, ornate and powerful. Treutler played Liszt’s reworkings of Schumann’s songs, Widmung and Frühlingsnacht with grace and agility, and Liszt’s own Hungarian Rhapsody No. 8 with characteristic spirit. The audience enthusiastically applauded after each item in the set. Read the rest of this entry »

by Guytano Parks

Chopin-PortraitThe Art of Chopin, an hour-long documentary film by Gerald Caillat produced by Euroarts Studio and released in August 2010 to commemorate the great Polish composer’s 200th birthday, was the fifth “Festival Event” presented by The Cleveland International Piano Competition at The Cleveland Museum of Art. The CIPC website describes the film as “a thought-provoking and enlightening film paying tribute to the art of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), whose unique and inimitable writing laid the groundwork for twentieth century music and the modern piano.”

Garrick Ohlsson, the first American to win the International Frederic Chopin Competition in 1970, provides much of the dialogue during the documentary. Taken aback as he views a video excerpt from his exciting and historic competition winning performance at the onset of the film, he humbly says, “wow — only a few minutes, but such a big part of my life.” Read the rest of this entry »

CIPC-ButterflyCleveland — August 7

The following four contestants will play in the final rounds with The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall.

Friday Night
Finalist 1: François Dumont (Tchaikovsky #1)
Finalist 2: Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev (Rachmaninoff #2)

Saturday Night:
Finalist 3: Jiayan Sun (Tchaikovsky #1)
Finalist 4: Stanislav Khristenko (Brahms #1)


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 »

by Guytano Parks

TakacsHans von Bülow called them “The New Testament” of music (Bach’s The Well Tempered Clavier being The Old Testament) and was the first to perform all thirty-two in a single concert cycle from memory. Camille Saint-Saëns offered to play any one of the thirty-two from memory as an encore in his public recital debut at the age of ten. Artur Schnabel was the first since von Bülow to play them all from memory in a single concert cycle and was the first to make a complete recording of the monumental collection in 1927. Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas have served as a barometer of musical and scholarly achievement in the piano world since their creation between 1795 and 1822, and continue to fascinate and captivate both musical intellectuals and dilettantes.

Tuesday morning’s Competition Conversation, the fourth CIPC “Festival Event” held in the Recital Hall at The Cleveland Museum of Art was entitled “The Art of Performing Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas”. Featured speaker Peter Takács, Professor of Piano at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, knows his subject intimately as he conquered the mountain as well, having recorded the entire cycle of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas on the CAMBRIA label. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CIPC-ButterflyThe final four contestants rolled around for a second hearing on Monday evening, beginning with a clever program devised and played by Cahill Smith, who followed a beautifully shaped reading of Scarlatti’s K. 466 sonata — in which he pointed up important harmonic details — with Sebastian Currier’s 1996 Scarlatti Cadences, a series of dreamy riffs on snippets of the composer’s works. The competition’s ‘first sighting of Chopin’s Winter Wind etude (op. 25/11) was well organized in Smith’s hands but perhaps not as wild as the composer had in mind. The left-hand themes rang out handsomely. In Brahms’s Vier Klavierstücke, op. 11, Smith created stylistically true performances on a Brahmsian scale that would in some cases have benefited from longer melodic lines. One tiny glitch and one more noticeable memory flub were minor blemishes on the surface of a satisfying set. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CIPC-ButterflyStanislav Khristenko displayed his gentle and expressive side at the opening of Monday afternoon’s session with elegant, characterful playing in Beethoven’s op. 2 sonata. Light, moody and colorful, the sonata was a delight — delicate in the scherzo, impetuous yet graceful in the rondo. His reading of Chopin’s “Torrent” etude (Op. 10/4) was nicely layered; he tossed its ending off with a dismissive musical nod. He ended his set with Montsalvatge’s witty Sonatina para Yvette from 1962, playing the opening toccata moodily, creating an eloquent “beauty and the beast” dialogue in the second movement, and stylishly molding its finale, another toccata, scampery this time, out of which twinkled the surprise of a well-known nursery rhyme (Mozart knew it by its French title). Read the rest of this entry »

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