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85-year-old piano legend Menaham Pressler will preside over a master class on Saturday morning, October 10, and play a Mozart Concerto with the Canton Symphony under Gerhardt Zimmerman that night at 8, all thanks to Canton’s executive director Steve Wogaman, who was a doctoral student of Pressler’s at Indiana University.

Wogaman noted that “Pressler has a command of the physiology of piano playing without equal. The really amazing thing is that he teaches a sensibility for the deep understanding behind every single note. He misses nothing! We were lucky to snap him up the moment the Beaux Arts Trio disbanded and before he signed with Columbia Artists Management. I suggested that he play a certain Mozart concerto. He said ‘that sounds great, but if you have a really fine oboist, we can do No. 17’. Canton does in Terry Orcutt, and so we will!”

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Advertisement notes with sadness the passing of pianist Alicia de Larrocha. An exceptional musician, we enjoyed hearing her live on many occasions. Her recordings of Catalonian composers Enrique Granados and Isaac Albeniz are among our personal library favorites.

This New York Times article from 1995 provides a snapshot of the diminutive pianist with the big talent : AT HOME WITH: Alicia de Larrocha; A Pianissimo Star

If you have a personal remembrance of Alicia, we invite you to share. Her passing is a great loss to the classical music world.

Has musicianship gone the way of twitter, instant messaging, sound bites? In this day and age, is an audience’s attention held by a performance punctuated with exaggerated emotionalism? In a scathing review of pianist Lang Lang’s August 30 performance of Chopin’s F minor piano concerto with the Dresden Staatskapelle in Lucerne, Michael Kimmelman suggests Mr. Lang’s playing has everything to do with our high-speed information age mind-set.

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What’s wrong with piano competitions? Michael Johnson, writing for Facts & Arts, thinks there are too many, they limit artistic development, and, perhaps most damning, the judging process is terribly flawed.

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CIPCArchivePageWe’ve compiled a thirty-page pdf archive of all of our coverage of the 2009 Cleveland International Piano Competition, including interviews with the four finalists. Download it and enjoy!

Piano Competition Blog Archives

This week’s issue of features Dan Hathaway’s wrap up of the final days of the Cleveland International Piano Competition. He includes a glimpse of Friday’s Master Classes with jurors Peter Frankl and Dina Yoffe:

If you wanted insights into what the jury was looking for or found wanting — at least as expressed by two of the eight pairs of ears — here was your opportunity.

Read the article here.

SH2903Inevitable comparisons: in a competition, you want to listen to every performance as if you’re hearing both the piece and the performer for the first time, but with two versions of Rachmaninoff’s second concerto scheduled on two adjacent nights, what’s a listener to do but think about each of them in relation to the other. Both are still ringing in the ears.

Croatian pianist Martina Filjak made an immediate impression with her carefully wrought crescendo and intensifying coloration of the famous opening chords and bass punctuation that begin Rach 2. Same conductor, same orchestra, but when the other hundred or so musicians on the stage joined Filjak in her musical odessey through this engaging score, it was clear that the soloist was seeing it through a different lens.

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The winners of the 2009 Cleveland International Piano Competition:

Fourth Prize – Evgeny Brakhman

Third Prize – William Youn

Second Prize – Dmitri Levkovich

First Prize – Martina Filjak

Other prizes will be announced at the ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

UPDATED 8/9/09

Junior Jury Prize –  Martina Filjak

Audience Prize – Dmitri Levkovich

Baroque Prize – Hoang Pham

Beethoven Prize – Martina Filjak

Cairns Family American Prize – Sean Chen

Chopin Prize – Soo Yeon Ham

Contemporary Prizes – Evgeny Brakhman and Martina Filjak

Mozart Prize – Evgeny Brakhman

Finalists Martina Filjak and William Youn - Photo Sam Hubish

Finalists Martina Filjak and William Youn - photo Sam Hubish

You’ll find Dan Hathaway’s interview with tonight’s finalists, Martina Filjak and William Youn on Cleveland


It’s a dream come true for Rachmaninoff fans: three concertos (well, two different ones) performed on two adjacent evenings at Severance Hall — followed by a Brahms chaser.

Dmitri Levkovich (30, Canada) and Evgeny Brakhman (28, Russia) both speak Russian not only linguistically but musically. The first round of the CIPC Finals gave these fine young pianists the opportunity to show off their interpretive skills in collaboration with Jahja Ling and the Cleveland Orchestra.

In the orchestral hierarchy, concertos don’t get much rehearsal time compared to symphonic works. In this case, there was even less time to be had: each of the two soloists spent about an hour with the orchestra earlier in the day, after a seance with Maestro Ling on Thursday to talk things through. Every detail can’t have been worked out under those circumstances, but there are hundreds of recordings in circulation that have nothing on what we heard from these two pianists, who were obviously pumped for the occasion. It was quite an evening.

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Evgeny Brakhman and Dmitri Levkovich

Evgeny Brakhman and Dmitri Levkovich - photo Sam Hubish

Yesterday CPIC kindly made the four finalists available for a photo op and interviews. We conversed in pairs to get to know the off-stage personalities of these gifted pianists. You will find Dan Hathaway’s interview with tonight’s finalists, Dmitri Levkovich and Evgeny Brakhman, on, here.

We had a delightful encounter with the finalists at an arranged media op on their off day–we’ll bring you more on that later– suffice it to say the mood was lighthearted, with a touch of nervous energy! As the finalists prepare for their weekend concerti with the Cleveland Orchestra, we’re delighting in their success. How about you? What will you be looking for this weekend? This thread’s open for final round discussion, have at it!

William Youn and Soo-Yeon Ham played the last notes in the Semi-finals on Wednesday evening — lots of them — and contrasts abounded.

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Stay tuned! Following tonight’s session the four finalists will be announced from the stage of the Bolton Theatre by CIPC Executive Director Karen Knowlton. We’re here and will post the results immediately! The announcement will be carried live on WCLV, 104.9 FM.

After tonight’s performance and before the announcement please feel free to weigh in here and share your final four with us.

UPDATED The Finalists:

Dmitri Levkovich
Evgeny Brakhman
Martina Filjak
William Youn

A random draw and a jury decision has produced the statistical improbability that two Chinese pianists are playing in the Semi-finals this afternoon, and two Koreans this evening.

Wednesday afternoon’s session could be called the Triumph of Pianism. Yunquing Zhou and Kuok-Wai Lio are both 20 years old, both study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and both display astonishing technical skill. Playing thousands of notes in the right places is not a problem for either of them. The maturity to plumb the depths of the music they play so skillfully may still be a few years out.

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Tuesday afternoon with Levkovich and Brakhman was a guy’s session featuring two very fine, comparable performances. Tuesday evening was the women’s turn, but what a contrast between the equally excellent pianists Pallavi Mahidhara (USA/India) and Martina Filjak (Croatia).

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The field is getting smaller, the audiences are getting larger and the performances are getting longer this week at the Bolton Theatre as we move into the four semi-final rounds.

In this leg of the competition, the requirements become simpler, with only two imperatives. Competitors must include a work or group of works by a French impressionist composer and a Romantic composer, then they can choose to play any other work of their choice. The French requirement is a vestige of CIPC’s ancestor, the Casadesus Competition, and it brings an entirely new challenge into play.

As the original order of the draw is being preserved in the Semi-finals, Dmitri Levkovich of Canada and Evgeny Brakhman of Russia were the featured acts on Tuesday afternoon. Each player crammed as much music as possible into his 55-60 minute allotment.

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The pause between rounds today gives us a moment to reflect on a week of extraordinary talent, and speculate on the excitement to come.

After the 8 semi-finalists were announced last night, was surprised to be mostly in accord with the jury’s choices. We’re taken with Dmitri Levkovich, fresh off the heels of winning the Iturbi (Los Angeles), he’s pumped for a second win this year in a major competition. Four of the eight semi-finalists came from group 3–no surprise there. This group was a happy coincidence of the draw for listeners, a real treat! We’ll admit surprise that Japanese contestant Kyoko Soejima did not advance, and that Korean William Youn did, though we’re eager to hear him perform (and prove us wrong) in the next round.

Share your thoughts: Surprises? Disappointments? Who’s moved you so far? What will you be listening for this week? Do tell, let’s use this thread for discussion.

UPDATED Here’s a little more food for thought… Daniel Hathaway’s round up of CIPC Rounds 1 & 2 on

cipcTuesday, August 4

Session 1
1:00 pm – Dmitri Levkovich

Haydn: Sonata in C Major, Hob. XVI: 48
Debussy: Pour le piano
Rachmaninoff:  Preludes, Op. 32, (Nos. 4, 13, 5); Sonata No. 2 in B flat Minor, Op. 36 (with elements from 1913 and 1931)
2:15 pm – Evgeny Brakhman
Messiaen: Cloches d’angoisse et larmes d’adieu (Préludes, No. 6) lle de feu I (Quatre études de rythme, No. 1)
Debussy: Pour les arpèges composés (Douze études, Book II: 11) L’Isle joyeuse
Rachmaninoff: Études-tableaux, Op. 33, Nos. 8, 2, 3; Op. 39, Nos. 1, 2, 9; Sonata No. 2 in B flat Minor, Op. 36 (1931)

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The first and last of the final five competitors to be heard for the second time on Sunday evening thoughtfully chose very interesting repertory, a boon for ears that were about to get a bit weary.

Marina Radiushina (USA) began with a bravura performance of Leighton’s impassioned ‘Fantasia Contrappuntistica (Homage to Bach)’, went on to a beautiful and shamelessly pianistic reading of Handel’s Chaconne in G and ended with a finely paced version of Schumann’s austere Variations on a Theme of Clara Wieck. Elegant, graceful and demonstrating an excellent sense of style and technique, Radiushina made a fine impression.

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Tonight, following the conclusion of Round 2, the CIPC jury will vote, selecting 8 contestants to advance to the semi-final round. The announcement is expected around 11:00 pm Eastern. Check back later for the decision and the semi-final round schedule.

UPDATED The Semi-Finalists in performance order:

Dmitri Levkovich
Evgeny Brakhman
Pallavi Mahidhara
Martina Filjak
Yunqing Zhou
Kuok-Wai Lio
William Youn
Soo-Yeon Ham

Sangyoung Kim, Kristhyan Benitez, Martin Labazevitch, Anna Bulkina & Edward Neeman returned to the Bolton Theatre stage on Sunday afternoon for a second hearing. Although we can’t say that we learned anything radically new about these five highly competent pianists, many of our first impressions were confirmed by hearing them in fresh repertory.

Sangyoung Kim (Korea) impressed us on Thursday afternoon with her Dutilleaux Sonata. She presented only two works on Sunday: a Prelude & Fugue from Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier (f-sharp, Book II) and Schumann’s Carnaval. Her Bach was nicely shaped, building to its harmonic climax with a long crescendo and announcing harmonic arrivals. As in the Dutilleaux, Kim brought fine colors out of the Hamburg Steinway, taming its bright treble register and producing a performance of stylish beauty, reactive to quick changes of mood and bright with humor. She caught the grandeur of Schumann’s piano writing in a way that has eluded previous contestants and brought the first set of the afternoon to a highly agreeable conclusion. Never mind a few klinkers.

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