I’m reluctant to compare the rise of younger and younger athletes to Olympiad performance levels with pyrotechnic displays of pianistic virtuosity at the Cliburn International Junior Competition, but we’re witnessing an era of precocious technical development in our piano playing universe. Just perusing a set of filmed profiles that are featured lead-in’s to 23 Preliminary Round teen performers between 13 and 17, it’s apparent that most began studies at 3 or 4 years old, forming an essential physical bond to the piano that was furthered by strong “musical” mentoring. As a collective, these adolescent phenoms have CV’s that encompass first place showings in numerous world competitions.
Representing 11 countries including Hong Kong, Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Russia, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Canada, and the USA, (with three dual representations), entrants have displayed individuality in their interpretations of works from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary eras, even as numerous repetitions of the same compositions are a bi-product of pre-designated Cliburn posted repertoire. (Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante; Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 10, No.3, and Preludes/Fugues from J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier have enjoyed diversely expressive renderings.) Of note, all players have demonstrated signature poise, concentration, and total immersion through their performances–a testimony to their remarkable artistic maturity.
According to the official Cliburn website posting, The Junior Competition will consist of four rounds that will take place at Southern Methodist University, Dallas Texas. (May 31, 2019–June 8, 2019)
“A PRELIMINARY ROUND—23 pianists, each performing a 20-minute recital to include a virtuosic étude and one three- or four-voice Bach Prelude and Fugue.
“A QUARTERFINAL ROUND—14 pianists, each performing a 30-minute recital to include the first or last movement of a Classical sonata (some restrictions will apply).
“A SEMIFINAL ROUND—6 pianists, each performing a 40-minute recital (to include one large work of at least 18 minutes in length and a contemporary work) and one concerto movement with piano accompaniment (movement to be selected by the Cliburn).
“FINAL ROUND—3 pianists, each performing one complete concerto with orchestra.
“The first-prize winner will receive a cash award of $15,000; second prize is $10,000; and third prize is $5,000. All three top prizes will also include scholarships, and community residency and mentorship opportunities with the Cliburn. Other special prizes will be announced in 2019.”
At SMU’s acoustically reverberant concert hall, 6 Semifinalists will share their 40 minute recitals BEAMED LIVE on the Web at http://www.cliburn.org starting Wednesday, June 5, at 2:20 p.m. (Central Daylight Time)
Finally, as enticement to the upcoming array of performances, I’ve selected three favorite recitals that were presented during the Quarterfinal Round.
Shunta Morimoto Age 14, Japan (A memorable performance throughout with a tour de force Mephisto Waltz finale!)
J J Jun Li Bui Age 14, Canada (A particular treat: Liszt’s Gnomenreigen–at 13:16)
Eva Gevorgyan Age 15, Russia/Armenia
(All recitals are recorded and posted on You Tube for easy access.)