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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 1:10 pm 
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Hi Everyone! I was going to write a detailed report about my time yesterday but I have no time right now. :roll: :) I'm getting ready to head back into the city to hear today's contestants play. Regarding my playing yesterday - I made a few mistakes but I got to the end of my pieces. :D I have a lot of mixed feelings, but in general I have never been more relieved in my life!!
I have so much to tell you - bunches of interesting little tidbits to report, but like I said - no time. I'm keeping notes, though, so I'll write more later.

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my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 5:49 pm 
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I am so thrilled for you, Monica! We knew you could do it. :D I'll look forward to the extended report later, but have fun listening to the others now!

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Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing, and carries us so far away from town, country, earth, and all worldly things, that it is truly a blessed gift of God.

Felix Mendelssohn


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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:44 pm 
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Hi again, Everybody.

Well, for better or for for worse, here is my report on the competition. Sorry it's kind of long, but I wanted to get most things down before I start forgetting.

So now it's Monday, the competition is over, and the first thing I will say is that I had the best time and I will definitely do it again!! I heard so much great music, made many new friends (as well as observed some 'interesting' characters :wink: :lol: ), and learned so many things that will help me next time around.

The piano was 7'6" Fazioli 228. Beautiful piano! I am so spoiled now!! It sounded and played like a dream piano - smooth, full and rich tone, keys weighted just right, the una corda pedal was especially something that was so incredible to me - the way it changed the tone of the piano but in such a subtle way. Just gorgeous - I can't say enough about how wonderful that piano is and boy do I wish I could have one! Here is a photo of me with it.


Image


And here is a funny sign outside the recital hall that I took a picture of, which shows why I probably never will have one!


Image


So anyway, the first round consisted of 60 players. As you already know, my turn to play was on Thursday at 11:36. They gave us a practice room for two hours prior to our playing time and so I practiced a little during that time, but was too antsy to stay in there for long periods. I periodically walked out and into the recital hall to listen to other competitors, but that made me even more nervous so then I'd have to just go out into the hallways and pace around for a while. Finally it got close to my time and they directed me to the green room (waiting room behind the stage), which really is green - a terribly awful color green - yuck - probably aided in making me feel nauseous. Three or four people were in there - the announcer, the recording technician, and a woman - a rather plump woman whose job was I think to make sure that contestants actually got onto the stage. In my case, as I sat in there and the announcer-man was asking me how to pronounce my name, another man was asking me if I needed a page-turner and things like that, I literally was so scared and almost ran out of the room. But that woman kept trying to calm me and giving me pep talks, and then when I heard my name being called I think she may have actually gently shoved me out the door so that I had no choice but to go forward with my turn to play. :lol:

Okay, so now I am standing there at the piano and do my little bow, and then sit down at the Fazioli. Minutes before I went on stage I arranged for the page-turner man to turn my pages. Since I saw that many other competitors were using music, I felt that it was fine. I didn't look at the music, though, except for one time when I stumbled - it was in the Chopin mazurka and funny that it wasn't in the place that I feared, but a different spot. I'm so glad I had the music up there, because I would have been pretty screwed otherwise. As to my playing in general - remember I took beta-blockers - I started off pretty well but out of the blue one hand completely forgot what it was supposed to do and stopped playing. In other words, a pretty big slip. It lasted about two or three measures. However, the other hand kept playing and then all of a sudden the 'weird' hand started up again and everything was fine again. I think it happed twice - each during different pieces. But I really think that the beta-blockers saved me, because I know how I freak out when something like this happens - both hands usually stop playing and I'd basically freeze. And also even though I had those couple of mishaps, I was actually enjoying sitting there and playing! My mind was telling me how much fun I was having, how nice that I was getting to play on such a fine instrument, how beautiful the music sounded, etc. That's never happened to me before! It really was just so surreal. When I was done and walked off the stage, that nice woman was there and gave me a big hug - like what I real mom would do. She did that with everybody.

It's weird, but now I can't even remember how I played. I know I made those two mess-ups, but I can't recall how my actual playing was, like technique and stuff like that. They recorded everything and I'm supposed to be able to get to hear it all once they finish the processing. Not sure I want to hear myself, but you know of course I really do. :wink: :lol: What's nice is the judges (five of them) all made comments on everybody and we were given those comments (except I can't read most of their handwritings). I'm going to try to decipher them later.

Some of the things I learned is that competitors can change their repertoire right at the last second - right before they go play if they want to. Several of them did that. Also, I was a little concerned that perhaps I had chosen pieces considered too easy for a competition, but other people had pieces in a similar vein; some were harder than mine, but some even easier than mine. One of my pieces was Chopin's Mazurka in A-flat op. 59, no. 2 and three other competitors also played it.

So after two days of preliminaries, the judges narrowed the field down to 12. That was very interesting and surprising - some of us felt that certain players should not have advanced and other players should have. Saturday afternoon was then the semi-finals and I sat through most of it and enjoyed listening to all the great music; most of which I knew, but some I did not. Really interesting to actually see firsthand all the different techniques utilized by so many different players!

Yesterday (Sunday) was the finals - again more surprises regarding the selection of the finalists. Sunday morning was a brunch at a nearby building where the Fazioli piano store is located, which also holds another recital hall. Competitors who did not make it into the finals were allowed to sign up to play in a sort of impromptu recital. Originally there were about ten slots available and players could play anything for about ten minutes. But turned out that about 20 people signed up to play. I signed up to play and almost regretted it later because the group at the brunch/recital were all top-players and sort of 'famous' in the world of amateur pianists. For me it was a little more nerve-wracking than playing for the judges! But I did it anyway - only played one piece - Granados' Spanish Dance no. 5. It actually went well and I received some nice comments from the others. (by the way - it was another Fazioli piano :D ) Something funny was that several of these people are really big piano hogs! You can't get them off the piano! Everywhere we went there were of course pianos and these people were practically fighting each other to sit down at the bench. Also, it amazed me that lots of them have so much repertoire in their heads - that they can just sit down and play pieces by memory whenever they have a piano at their disposal. And I'm talking 'big' pieces!

Anyway, after the brunch came the afternoon Finals concert. The five finalists played for a half-hour each. Afterwards, while the judges deliberated, the competition organizers allowed the rest of the competitors sitting in the audience to use the time (about 45 minutes) by taking turns going up to the piano and playing something. I did not raise my hand for this one. But funny again, because the same piano hogs went to the piano and wouldn't stop until somebody practically dragged them off so that another person could have a chance to play.

Regarding the outcome of the Finals - the pieces that they played were Chopin Sonata no. 3, Liszt B-minor Sonata, Boulez Sonata no. 2, Prokofiev Sonata no. 7, Haydn Sonata no. 55, and Schumann Phantasiebilder Op. 26. The best part is that a 71-year-old grandmother won first place!! Yay!!! The other finalists were nearly half her age. And Wow - the playing all around was amazing - such top-notch playing from so many people!

Afterwards we all went to a restaurant for a party. And now today - I am starting to come down from all the excitement and feel a little like I have just come home from summer camp. I enjoyed so much conversing with such interesting and talented people, and most of us said we'd all meet with each other again at the next competition. The Chicago organizers are currently debating whether to have the next competition in two or three years. Whenever it is, I will be there! I really wish very hard and hope that some of you can join me :!: :?: :!:

p.s. This is photo of me and one of my new friends taken at the party last night. His name is Abel and he was one of the finalists and came in third. He's from Spain but currently lives in Boston for at least the next year or so and then he goes back to Spain. Really a great player! He actually approached me earlier in the competition because he recognized my name from Piano Society! He said he has visited our site in the past, and I told him to come back and visit us again. He's a really nice guy!

Image


And here is a photo of some more new friends. The woman on my right was like me - first-time competitor and all that. We hung around together the entire time. The woman across from me is very, very talented, and so is the guy sitting on my left. But very nice, interesting, and fun people!

Image

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"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties." ~ Frederic Chopin

my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
my personal website: http://www.monicaalianello.com


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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:35 pm 
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Congratulations Monica and thank you for the report. I am especially happy that the competition has been a positive experience for you. I'll comment more later.

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"A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking" - Anonymous

Alfonso Bertazzi, amateur pianist.


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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 10:21 pm 
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Thank you for sharing the wonderful pictures and report. You looked just lovely! :D I am very thrilled that you had so much fun sharing your beautiful music with others and making new friends. The heartiest of congratulations to you!

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Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing, and carries us so far away from town, country, earth, and all worldly things, that it is truly a blessed gift of God.

Felix Mendelssohn


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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 1:02 am 
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I'm glad you had a good time, Monica. And congrats on being an internet niche celebrity. :wink: I went to a con recently for an online fandom in which I am well-known, and I didn't wear my name badge the entire time (though you're supposed to have it on at all times to get admitted to events - no one ever asked me for mine). But I still had people coming up to me saying, "So you're Terez, huh?" :lol: Maybe you managed to recruit a pianist! Someone who is good enough to come in 3rd at a good-sized amateur competition like this one could probably contribute some very nice recordings to the site.

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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 5:01 am 
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Congratulations, Monica! I knew you could do it! :D 8) :D :lol: Competitions are one big adrenaline ride, exciting yet scary at the same time until it's all over and you're finally at home. I am extremely happy that you persevered well on stage, and made the most out of this amazing experience. You look fantastic on stage! Yes, it's so nice to play on a fine instrument. Fazioli has a bright timbre, with rich harmonics - nice for Romantic works. I wonder if they still want $120k for the piano after the competition?...

Isn't it amazing to see the gamut of personalities, egos, and talent - some are so charming and wonderful, and others are just repulsive with their inflated egos and arrogance. Hey, I liked the "Piano Hog" reference. :P One can make great friends at these venues, only to see them again down the road again... I saw the winner of my competition at a medical conference 20 years later! We talked about radiology for the first 2 minutes, and then Liszt Etudes for the following 90 minutes... :P

You've got me thinking now, I just googled to see if Boston offered a similar venue for piano amateurs. Man, I work way too much! http://www.bostonpianoamateurs.org/inde ... ompetition There's an organization called Boston Piano Amateurs and they sponsor musical/social events and a have a very similar competition every 2 years. I saw your friend, Abel in the photos there too. He placed an impressive 2nd, and he has an awesome video too! The competitors are from all over the world. Just like you mentioned, I see a common pattern here, most of the finalists seem to have music degrees - so much for "amateurs" huh?! Or, they're retired and have all the time in the world to practice. It's no surprise that they share similarly strong repertoire - Liszt, Rachmaninov, Scriabin, late Beethoven Sonatas, Chopin Scherzi, Ballades.

Since I have no time to compete anymore, I was intrigued to find that they also have soirees of 10-30 people around town and at few homes. Since my piano/living room is positioned like a small auditorium, hosting a soiree at my home might be something I might like to do. I am going to check it out, and see if there are young members in the group... Hopefully, NO 'piano hogs,' right?... BTW, I wonder if Chicago is doing the same type of social events with their amateur group?...

Once again, congratulations, Monica! :D

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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 9:41 am 
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If you decide to do the soiree thing, let me know; my piano teacher is from Boston and often visits there (I think she is there right now).

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"Z Czernym poznałem się na panie brat—na dwa fortepiana często z nim u niego grywałem. Dobry człowiek, ale nic więcej..." - Fryderyk Chopin


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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 9:51 am 
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Monica, I'm so happy to hear that you had such a wonderful stage experience and other precious ones! (I believe that not just the beta-blocker, but also the angel-work helped :wink: )
The actual feeling that I'm sharing my love toward the music with others now and they're immersed in it, too, is the most wonderful thing in the music making, I think. I had such a feeling (only) one time so far and it is really unforgettable.
And you look so beautiful on those pics! Wasn't there a prize for the most beautiful participant or so? :)
What made me a bit curious on your wonderful reports was when you opportunity to get accustomed to the Fazioli on the stage got. You said you had two hours for practicing, but on another piano, didn't you?

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"The love for music. The respect for the composer. The desire to express something that reaches and moves the listener." (Montserrat Caballé about her main motivation for becoming a singer)


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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 1:59 pm 
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Hi Alfonso, Sarah, Theresa, George, and Hye-Jin.

Thank you!! :D

I forgot to mention something before, which is that I know of at least two other players who also took beta-blockers. I know that because they told me and we compared our little prescriptions bottles. :lol: And I'd bet a thousand dollars that there were even more people doing the same thing. But Hye-Jin, you are right - it really was the 'angel network' that got me through! :D

As far as trying out the piano beforehand - we were allowed three minutes to test out the Fazioli on stage. After that was when we were given a private practice room upstairs. The piano in my room was a Yamaha upright. Not great, but it was in tune. I know some people had worse pianos in their rooms, and others had grands in their room. One other thing I liked about playing on the Fazioli was the bench! It was hydraulic - two levers on the ends where you simply lift up and the bench easily goes up or down to where you want it. Really cool - no more having to sit there are turn the knobs forever. One thing I saw was this one competitor didn't understand how to work it and he actually got down on his knees on the floor and tried lifting up the bench. I was cracking up - it was so funny!

George - I do know about the Boston Amateur Competition. Maybe we can both enter it one day. That would be so much fun to be there with you!!! My new friends were trying to convince me to enter the Van Cliburn amateur competition, which is fast approaching. They're going to do it - I said I'd think about it. During one of the evenings in Chicago, the director who made the documentary "They Came to Play" came and gave us a free screening of the film. If you don't know, the documentary is about the Van Cliburn Amateur competition - the behind the scenes stuff and the competitors involved, things like that. The film was made on the last VC competition held which I think was three years ago. Five people (competitors) in that film, some of the semi-finalists and also finalists were also in the Chicago competition. Ugh!! And you are right about some of these competitors being arrogant and having inflated egos. :x And it amazed me to learn that many of these people are entering competitions all the time. One woman competitor in our group was flying off to Sicily right after the Sunday night party because she was playing in another competition.

Regarding social activities during this competition - there was one dinner party on Wednesday night - the one I didn't make because I got stuck on the highway all that time. Then there was another party where they had a keg of beer and hired a Chicago blues pianist to come and entertain. I didn't go to that one because I needed to visit with some girlfriends - one of whom was in town visiting for the first time in decades and I wanted to see her. The other reason was that I was so extremely tired and felt that I needed to get some rest on one night at least. I had trouble sleeping during all this and you know how I was sick prior to the competition - well, I got sick again starting on Saturday with a cough. Still coughing my head off today, but it's getting better. Then another time, they took a group of us to the Chicago Art Institute for a private tour. I went along - it was on Thursday night, the day I played. I have this silly little thing where I always take a photo of myself standing by one of my favorite paintings there. And here it is: :lol:

Image

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"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties." ~ Frederic Chopin

my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:19 am 
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Terez wrote:
Quote:
If you decide to do the soiree thing, let me know; my piano teacher is from Boston and often visits there (I think she is there right now).
Hi Terez, I just discovered the Boston group last night. Before I host a soiree, I am actually going to find out about the group members first, to see whether they're a vibrant young group or if they're stuck up. Seriously, I've gone to symphony and museum based events before, only to find that most are trying to size you up, or marketing their egos/businesses - YAWN! However, if the group is genuine, I'd love to host a soiree, then my invitation is open with all sincerity to you, your teacher, Monica, and all the PS members with whom I am familiar. :D

Quote:
... One thing I saw was this one competitor didn't understand how to work it and he actually got down on his knees on the floor and tried lifting up the bench.
I think he was looking for the fulcrum-release lever?! :P

Hi Monica, should I start preparing for 2011?... :P How amazing would that be if we both entered a piano competition! The red carpet will be ready should you decide to come to Boston. How much time do you have for each round? Any specific repertoire?

I've been following the Van Cliburn Competition ever since 1981 on PBS, but I haven't seen "They Came to Play." Is going to be released as a DVD?... The Van Cliburn Competition is the World Cup for professional pianists. Believe me, there is nothing amateur about it. All I know is that it takes years of full-time preparation to compete at this level. Unless the caliber of applicants have changed in recent years, the majority of applicants never go beyond the video submission stage in the application process. This is how they screen us "amateurs." The top 50 have monumental technique, extensive repertoire (Baroque-Classical-Romantic-Modern), and amazing musicianship in all genres; can sight read on the spot, and can learn a difficult piece by the composer in attendance during the competition in a span of a week. The top 25 are/will be world class pianists; The top 10 will be the future greats; but the medal round, i.e. top 3-5, are mostly determined by feuding jurors and the ultimate decision is usually based on politics, especially if one's teacher is famous or knows a juror(s). The stakes are huge at this level - concert venues in major cities, Carnegie Hall debut, recording labels, money, overnight reputation, etc.

I've noticed that over the years, there are pieces that are a yardstick of to place in the top 50: Bach Partitas, Suites; Beethoven late sonatas; Liszt Etudes, Hungarian Rhapsodies; Chopin Etudes (Op.10/1 is a screening favorite - they'll even count the missed notes for you as a courtesy), Scherzi, Ballades, Sonatas; Rachmaninov Etudes, Preludes; etc.... Finalists must know at least 2-5 difficult concertos: preferably late Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Chopin, Saint Saens, Prokofiev, etc.... That rules me out! :P

If I didn't know the subjects in the photo were 125 years apart, I thought I was looking at two lovely Renoir paintings. However, I think Renoir would have preferred the 'impressionistic' elements in your dress over the Woman at the piano. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 1:47 pm 
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Hi George,

I don't quite know how they run the Boston competition, but if it's similar to Chicago then you get 10 minutes for the first round, 20 minutes for the second round, and 30 minutes for the third round. Repertoire is practically anything - mostly I heard all the 'normal' stuff - Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Bartok, Debussy, etc...but I also heard a few pieces by composers I didn't know. Regarding Van Cliburn, okay forget it - I'll not even bother with that one. Too hard! Yes, you can get the documentary "They Came to Play" on DVD. The director/producer was trying to sell more copies of it to our group. But maybe you can find it at your library too.

So, do you think you really would enter the Boston? I'd seriously consider it if you are. But my husband would have a cow if I told him that now, so I'd have to let a little time pass before mentioning another competition.

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"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties." ~ Frederic Chopin

my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
my personal website: http://www.monicaalianello.com


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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:48 pm 
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Moncica wrote:
As far as trying out the piano beforehand - we were allowed three minutes to test out the Fazioli on stage. After that was when we were given a private practice room upstairs.

Oh, what did/could you do within three minutes on that piano? I think it is too short!


George wrote:
I've been following the Van Cliburn Competition ever since 1981 on PBS, but I haven't seen "They Came to Play." Is going to be released as a DVD?... The Van Cliburn Competition is the World Cup for professional pianists. Believe me, there is nothing amateur about it. All I know is that it takes years of full-time preparation to compete at this level. Unless the caliber of applicants have changed in recent years, the majority of applicants never go beyond the video submission stage in the application process. This is how they screen us "amateurs." The top 50 have monumental technique, extensive repertoire (Baroque-Classical-Romantic-Modern), and amazing musicianship in all genres; can sight read on the spot, and can learn a difficult piece by the composer in attendance during the competition in a span of a week. The top 25 are/will be world class pianists; The top 10 will be the future greats; but the medal round, i.e. top 3-5, are mostly determined by feuding jurors and the ultimate decision is usually based on politics, especially if one's teacher is famous or knows a juror(s). The stakes are huge at this level - concert venues in major cities, Carnegie Hall debut, recording labels, money, overnight reputation, etc.

Hey George, I thought at the first reading of your post that you mean the Van Cliburn Competition for the professionals, not the Van Cliburn for amateur pianists. Is it really true, that the prize winner at that amateur competition make commercial recordings and get much money from concerts (in Carnegie Hall) and CDs? Then they aren't amateurs any more, are they?

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"The love for music. The respect for the composer. The desire to express something that reaches and moves the listener." (Montserrat Caballé about her main motivation for becoming a singer)


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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:08 pm 
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hyenal wrote:
Hey George, I thought at the first reading of your post that you mean the Van Cliburn Competition for the professionals, not the Van Cliburn for amateur pianists. Is it really true, that the prize winner at that amateur competition make commercial recordings and get much money from concerts (in Carnegie Hall) and CDs? Then they aren't amateurs any more, are they?


The VC Foundation runs two piano competitions, one for professional young pianists, the other for outstanding amateurs. I don't think that the IPCOA is much different from the Chicago or Boston ones - you read more or less the same names competing in all of them.

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Alfonso Bertazzi, amateur pianist.


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 Post subject: Re: piano competition
PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:40 am 
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Alfonzo is right, Monica, I didn't know VC Foundation also had an Amateur Competition as well. I was referring to the Professional Competition. By all means, go for it if you and your friends are up to it!

Yes, Hye-Jin, In the professional competition, the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medalists carry a $20,000 cash prize, and 3 year concert season tours all paid for including travel expenses, career management fees, and a recording label with Harmonia Mundi. The Gold medalist receives additional concerts in Europe, Asia, appearances with major orchestras, and prestigious houses all over the world. Finalists receive $10,000 cash prize, 3 year concert tours in U.S. Semifinalists receive $5000 cash prizes. And there are individual cash awards given too.

Quote:
So, do you think you really would enter the Boston? I'd seriously consider it if you are. But my husband would have a cow if I told him that now, so I'd have to let a little time pass before mentioning another competition.
I was half-serious. "Mooo!" I can sympathize with your husband, I am having a cow too just thinking about it. :P After my only and last competition, I had said never again: I had been studying piano for just 5 years, I was the youngest at 16 (high school), and everybody else was 22 (college grads). I had to hear all the other finalists until my turn came to play. I feel that competitions tend to bring out the worst in people because one's constantly in a state of tension and fear. It's not fun when you know you can't practice other repertoire because you're too busy preparing for a competition.

On the other hand, a part of me wants to excel, not by competing with anyone else, but to compete within myself to see what I can achieve. I am at a point in life where I am secure, have more than I need, so I have nothing to lose if I enter. In retrospect, I feel my musical run was cut short because of education, career, time, etc. Perhaps a competition might provide the incentive to work towards the goal of completing the larger works from where I left off years ago... If I were to play for 2011, I'd have to start now to rebuild my former repertoire in order to play near 30 minutes, let alone 60 minutes. I wish had your vast repertoire-on-demand.

You see that my feelings are mixed either way. I don't have the time necessary to prepare for a competition, 1-2 hrs a week won't cut it. I don't want to make a promise that I cannot keep. If I work at it, and if I have enough pieces ready to enter before the deadline, I wouldn't mind entering the competition. But, that's a lot of "if's." Perhaps, it might at least give me an incentive to practice towards it. I will inform you if I make any headway towards 2011, if not perhaps 2013?...

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