… both my own season, and the much harder working pianists who participated in the Cliburn competition. Over and done. I’ll be back for next season. The Cliburn doesn’t return for four years.

Meanwhile, I was happy to see the results of the Cliburn, even if I hate seeing anyone lose at all, and I really don’t care for competition. I wish I could have seen the awards ceremony, even if I have read it wasn’t run terribly well. I just love watching the faces of winners. Maybe it’ll eventually be up at the webcast site. I wonder.

Here are the results, copied directly from the Cliburn site:

Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Gold Medalists (tie for first): Mr. Nobuyuki Tsujii, 20 (Japan) and Mr. Haochen Zhang, 19 (China)

Silver Medalist: Ms. Yeol Eum Son, 23 (South Korea)

Finalists (in alphabetical order):
Mr. Evgeni Bozhanov, 25 (Bulgaria)
Ms. Mariangela Vacatello, 27 (Italy)
Ms. Di Wu, 24 (China)

The 2009 Competition was streamed live in its entirety from May 22 to June 7 at www.cliburn.tv. Pianist and arts advocate Jade Simmons hosted the webcast for the duration of the competition.

Twenty-nine pianists competed in the Preliminary Round; twelve competed in the Semifinal Round; and six vyed for top honors in the Final Round. All six finalists are receiving a prize package offering three years of managed concert tours at over $1,000,000 total value. Cliburn winners perform in hundreds of venues across the United States and abroad.

All pianists participating in the competition receive extraordinary media exposure on television, radio, and Internet broadcasts, as well as through commercial recordings and DVDs.

Me? I don’t have one rehearsal or performance scheduled until I work with Merola at the end of July and beginning of August. I’m hoping that between now and then I get some things accomplished around the house and in the studio.

● I’d like to work on our yard. Really. I just know it’s time to get to it; it doesn’t get done if no one works on it!

● I want to get reeds going for Cosi so that I’ll not have too much to worry about when the rehearsals start (famous last words, since the climate in SF is so different than here!).

● I plan to paint the living room, and at least the ceiling of our hallway.

So we’ll see how the plans go. One never knows ….

07. June 2009 · Comments Off on Cliburn & Evgeni Bozhanov · Categories: Cliburn Competition, Links

Bozhanov, who has studied music in Germany for eight years, is not fond of questions. Until he became a finalist, he put off reporters with a brisk “Not now, not now.” And this week, even when he agreed to an interview, he refused to give revealing answers.

Bozhanov, on how he prepares for a competition: “You know, I don’t like to tell about music. It’s a big experience; it’s not to explain with words. It’s impossible to tell you.”

On why he entered the Cliburn: “Don’t ask me about the competition. I’m here because I’m here, you know? I’m here to make music. I love to make music. For the competition, I’m just here.”

On the pressures of performing for a jury: “I don’t like this question.”

On whether it felt natural the first time he played the piano: “I don’t like this question.”

On his other interests: “I don’t have time for nothing, all the time piano playing, so if you’re asking me, I don’t have any hobbies, no.”


Um … what can one say?

A Selection from his Final Recital:

07. June 2009 · Comments Off on Cliburn & Yeol Eum Son · Categories: Cliburn Competition, Links

An hour later, Son reflected on the radical physical metamorphosis she achieves from practice session to performance: “I really love becoming that quite different person on the stage — complete with a different outfit — from who I am off, in a rehearsal for instance,” Son said. Still another contrast that Son acknowledges is how much she revels in the Prokofiev work’s qualities of tragedy and happiness. She likes to call them the “ironies” of the work.

“I like to play the crying and screaming of the piece, but I also know there is real joy as well,” said Son, who nurses a sore right index finger after her orchestra rehearsal. “For the Prokofiev in particular, I must say that when I first played it, I said to myself that I must marry the person who wrote it — it affected me so much.”

Despite Son’s Herculean physicality in approaching such an imposing work as Prokofiev’s Second Concerto, she sheepishly admits to not being particularly athletic in her daily life. She doesn’t swim or ride a bike, nor often seek out a gym for a quick workout.

What Son does do is a vigorous jump-rope session for 15 minutes, under a live oak tree in her host family’s front yard in Fort Worth. That bit of heart-pumping exercise, and not coffee, seemingly energizes Son for her most productive practice sessions — between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.

“We fall asleep to her playing the piano, it is so nice. We are really getting spoiled by her,” said Becky Brooks, Son’s host mom.


… with all these articles you do start to see the different personalities, yes?

A Selection from her Final Recital:

07. June 2009 · Comments Off on Cliburn and Nobuyuki Tsujii · Categories: Cliburn Competition, Links

He had only played with a chamber music group once before, recently in Japan, after learning it would be required should he advance to the Cliburn semifinals. He previously performed with symphony orchestras in Paris, Berlin and Tokyo, and he followed the conductor’s breathing, he said.

But Tsujii said his blindness has not limited his playing opportunities and that he doesn’t want to be known as the pianist who cannot see.

“The most important objective as I’m performing is that the audience is going to be moved,” Tsujii said through an interpreter.

RTWT (Maybe, the link doesn’t always work for me.)

His final recital hasn’t been performed yet, so this semifinal will stay up until then:

07. June 2009 · Comments Off on Cliburn & Di Wu · Categories: Cliburn Competition, Links

“For the first time in my life, there I was, this whole country and just me,” Wu said Sunday. “I have no relatives here. I used to have a boyfriend, but now I don’t. Nobody is checking on me anymore. I had nothing to grab onto. It felt like a free fall.

“I can’t forget that moment,” she said. “I’m just crossing a street. I’m at a red light in New York, and I thought, ‘If I walk now and am hit by a car, how long would it take for my parents to know? Three days?’?”


I read some of these stories and am thankful I haven’t had the kind of lonely life some of these players appear to have. Is it all worth it? I suppose so. But I do love my family and friends, and I’m doubtful I could handle the sort of life these young players have lead.

I still don’t see her final recital clip at YouTube. I’ll update this if I find it.

07. June 2009 · Comments Off on Cliburn & Haochen Zhang · Categories: Cliburn Competition, Videos

Another, this time about the youngest contestant. (He turned 19 last week.)

Nancy Liu said she wanted her son to study in the United States so he could have a normal high school education instead of just an intensive musical regimen, which would have been the case in China. Zhang graduated last year from a Catholic high school, which he attended in the morning while taking Curtis classes in the afternoon.

Many interests

Over the years, Zhang’s interests have gone in different directions. At one point, he informed his mother that he’d rather become a novelist and a poet. There was the Chinese pop song-writing phase. And after becoming proficient at pool, Zhang announced that his true ambition was to become a professional snooker player.

Liu, who has no serious musical background but has developed a discerning ear, said she reeled him back to the keyboard while trying hard not to dampen his natural curiosity or have him burn out. To avoid the latter, “I made sure he got a complete education. So if he feels at the bottom of heart he wants to walk away from music, I am sure he would succeed at what he chooses,” she said in a combination of English and Chinese, which was translated by her cousin June Xiao.

Right now, the 5-foot, 8-inch Zhang has shelved ideas of becoming the consummate Renaissance man, concentrating on perfecting his music skills “while I am still young enough to learn.”

I love this. He isn’t all music, only music, can’t do anything else no matter what. Because if it all was taken away — and while I’d never wish this on anyone, things go wrong (ears, for instance, although I’m managing to deal) — life goes on. Besides, I think having other interests actually helps with one’s music. Maybe I’m all wet (extremely possible!), but there you have my little opinion.

Final Recital hasn’t been posted to YouTube yet. This is the semifinal. I’ll update later:

07. June 2009 · Comments Off on Cliburn & Mariangela Vacatello · Categories: Cliburn Competition, Links

There are numerous articles about the six finalists, as one would expect. I’ll post some quotes and links as I find ones that interest me.

Here is something about Mariangela Vacatello:

“I like to smile, but I never smile when I’m onstage,” Vacatello said Friday. “I’m surprised, too. My first time on stage, for three or four minutes when I was 5 years old, I never smiled. People are always talking about me, saying, ‘You have to smile.’ They know me. I am like this, [smiling broadly] but when I’m up there, there is something serious. I have fun when I play, but there is something serious. Sometimes I really try [to smile onstage], but I just can’t do it.”

But the smile always returns the moment she steps from the stage lights, as does the graciousness with backstage workers, film crews, journalists and fans.

“I’m serious when I’m in front of the music, but then I can laugh and talk,” she said.


I’m not at her level — wouldn’t dare suggest it — but yes, when we are working, we are working. Even light happy music requires concentration and work. I grow quite weary of people who suggest we should always be smiling.

Selection from her Final Recital:

07. June 2009 · Comments Off on Sunday Morning Music · Categories: Sunday Morning Music

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina: Nunc Dimittis