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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 »


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)

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 »

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 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 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 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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