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The Preliminary Round of the Chopin XVIII International Piano Competition in Poland

Every five years, Chopin’s Polish homeland hosts an International Competition in Warsaw that includes many illustrious names in its roster of winners: Martha Argerich, Garrick Ohlsson, Alexei Sultanov, Krystian Zimerman, among others. The event was first initiated in 1927.

This year Maestra Argerich is one of the judges on a panel that will hear entrants reaching beyond the competition preliminaries. (There are two juries, one set aside for the early proceedings–with some overlap of members in the second group)

For more information on the Competition schedule, the link is listed: (Yes it is the 2021 event!)

https://chopin2020.pl/en/calendar (Preliminary Calendar July 12-23, 2021) All Competition events can be revisited on video at the hosting website. Forthcoming rounds, finalists, etc. will be announced as the competition unfolds.

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Among the reams of pianists I have heard thus far, there are for me, two stand-outs: Jiana Peng and Yi Yi, both representing China. Peng, age 25, has been studying at the Cleveland Institute for the past six years, and is acquiring an Artist Diploma at the Oberlin Conservatory. Yi Yi, age 32, is a graduate of Meisterklasse of the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Munich. She studied in China Conservatory of Music. Of note, there are 17, 18 and 19 year olds sprinkled among the lot of entrants: “The Competition is open to every pianist representing a professional level of performance, who was born between 1990 and 2004.”

Jiana Peng illuminates her journey of impeccable phrasing, tasteful rubato, and tone color variation through all her selections:

Program

  • – Etude in G sharp minor Op. 25 no 6
  • – Etude in F major Op. 10 no 8
  • – Nocturne in C sharp minor Op. 27 no 1
  • – Mazurka in B minor Op. 30 no 2
  • – Mazurka in D flat major Op. 30 no 3
  • – Ballade in F major Op. 38
  • Fast forward to 3:37:33 on the track below:

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Yi Yi is a poetic pianist with an ethereal legato through lyrical sections, and a fluidity of motion through bravura passages. Like Jiana Peng, she has a wide palette of color in her playing, along with a rubato that is natural to her phrasing contours

Fast forward to 1:15:20 on the track below.

Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2 | Etude in C major, Op. 10 No. 7 | Etude in F major, Op. 10 No. 8 | Mazurka in A minor, Op. 59 No. 1 | Mazurka in F sharp minor, Op. 59 No. 3 | Ballade in F minor, Op. 52

Almost interwoven into this competition but separated in time and location is a Masterclass conducted by Murray Perahia at the Jerusalem Music Center. I link to the session featuring mostly Chopin works, many of which were performed at the Chopin XVIII Competition Preliminaries. The youngsters nurtured along by Perahia, are between 15 and 18 years old.

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