15. June 2022 · Comments Off on Competitions · Categories: Cliburn Competition, Competitions

I don’t like competitions. I used to say I’m not competitive, but I have learned, from playing Scrabble with my daughter, that in fact I truly AM competitive. And I want to win. Always. I was reminded of this, too, because our older son pulled out the Scrabble game that used to live here and score sheets had been saved. How many times did I write, “Patty wins. AGAIN!!”? Or “Patty allowed Dan to win this time,”? Sadly, many, many times (especially the former, since I grew up on Scrabble and he didn’t)! So yeah, I’m competitive. I admit it.

But I still don’t like competitions. Sort of like my not liking auditions.

I’m not talking (or writing) about competitions or auditions that include me: I don’t do either. I’m talking about the ones I watch.


Because I always feel sorry for the people who don’t win. They are all such fine musicians. On a different day a different person might come in first. That’s how it goes.

Still, I must admit I’m rather hooked on watching the Cliburn competition. The pianists are just so astounding!

So I might not like competitions, but I still do watch them. It’s encouraging to see younger musicians out there with talent that far surpasses mine. It’s wonderful to hear their musicality at such young ages. I look forward to seeing where these amazing Cliburn contestants will go with their talents.

The Cliburn competition is nearly over, but you can catch a bit more live, and you can always check out the past performances on the Cliburn YouTube page.

04. June 2019 · Comments Off on At the Cliburn Competition · Categories: Cliburn Competition, Competitions

I’m currently watching the Cliburn Junior Piano Competition. I am not a huge fan of competitions — I believe I’ve mentioned that before — but I love watching and hearing these young music makers so much. They are pretty amazing. It’s not just that they play the notes … they play music!

Music is so much more than the notes. It’s the story one is telling. It’s line. It’s color. Without expression I couldn’t care less. These young players make me care.

What will be quite telling is the finalists, who perform with an orchestra. That can really be a challenge Making music on one’s own is different than working with an ensemble. (But hey, they don’t have to think about intonation or reeds!)

If you start with the link below you’ll hear all in the preliminary round, as it goes through the full playlist:

And here is the start of the quarterfinals:

08. June 2013 · Comments Off on Can The Cliburn Competition Be Fair? · Categories: Cliburn Competition

Orchestra auditions try to be fair. Really. We have screens so the jury can’t see who is playing. Whether people know or not is another question. Some people are convinced they can name a player just by hearing him or her. I sat on a jury side once, many years ago, when I was librarian. The panel was rather devastated because they “knew” the player they were hoping for wasn’t the one they were going to choose. Lo and behold, when the winner was brought in it was the player they were hoping for. I liked this in some ways: they went with the best player rather than the one they wanted (even while, in reality, they turned out to be one and the same). I disliked it in others: that they were trying to figure out who was playing was troubling. I’m sure this goes on a lot, though. I can sometimes tell gender due to breathing (women, keep that breathing deeper … or maybe men breathe higher?). I want to be as fair as possible, and the most recent audition I participated in was one at which I can safely say I chose who I thought was best. Later I found out that another contestant had informed everyone that it was fixed. Sigh. (I even knew who it was that spread the information and it took great strength on my part to continue to have that person on the hire list, but I did manage to get past my anger. I wish I’d had the guts to talk to the person. Unfortunately I’m a major wimp!)

So now … I’m sitting here listening to the Cliburns and I wondered “Can they really be fair?” so I googled just that question.

When Fei-Fei Dong takes the Bass Hall stage tonight in the Cliburn semifinals, her teacher won’t be offstage to offer a last word of encouragement, or in the crowd watching anxiously during her chamber music performance. Yoheved “Veda” Kaplinsky, who has spent hours helping Dong perfect her Schumann piano quintet, will be sitting silently in the Cliburn’s jury box as her 12 fellow esteemed jurors assess every note.

Kaplinsky, chairwoman of the Juilliard School in New York, isn’t the only Cliburn juror who has a student in the semifinals. Two of juror Arie Vardi’s students, Claire Huangci and Beatrice Rana, performed Saturday. Jury member Dmitri Alexeev’s student Nikita Abrosimov played Saturday, too.

In all, nine of the 30 competitors who started the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition were current or former students of the individuals adjudicating it. Four of the jurors’ students advanced to the semifinal round, which started Saturday.


After listening I would say there is one finalist that doesn’t belong. Is that player in because of a teacher? I can’t help but wonder. I do hope not. I hope I’m just a bad judge of good pianists. I certainly am not a pianist, so what do I know?

06. June 2013 · Comments Off on Beatrice Rana · Categories: Cliburn Competition, Read Online

The most difficult thing about staying away from home at Hannover is that there is very many crazy people,” she said. “They think just of music and don’t think of life. This is very, very bad. How can we play music if we don’t know life?

“There is this atmosphere in the school where people come in at 7 in the morning and they don’t go out until midnight,” she said. “These two weeks I have been focused on the piano, but usually it’s not like that. I have a social life. Even with the move to Germany, I speak to my family every day. We talk about concerts, and musical ideas, and food and sports, about everything.’


The young woman has a good attitude, it seems. I really enjoyed her playing when I heard her semi-final round recital at The Cliburn Competition.

28. May 2013 · Comments Off on Van Cliburn Competition · Categories: Cliburn Competition

I hadn’t realized that the Van Cliburn competition was happening. Oops! I enjoy watching and listening via their website by going here. You can see their schedule on this page. I’ll be checking things out tomorrow since it’s too late for anything today. I’m not sure if they are broadcasting the preliminary round or just the semifinals and finals.

… 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.