About Piano Cleveland

Why I Like Competitions

March 26th 2013
Community Connections
Mike Telin
Mike Telin

by Mike Telin, ClevelandClassical.com

I’ve recently become impressed by how deeply concerned organizations and companies are about finding out whether or not I have had an enjoyable experience. People everywhere are asking — how did you find your banking experience, your shopping experience, or your flight experience? Even websites have these little popup surveys — How was your experience using our online booking system?

What I would like to tell these people is, look, I got what I wanted, it didn’t take too long or cost an arm and a leg, so my experience was just fine and it would be even better if I didn’t have to talk to you. But I’m from the Mid-west so I just smile and say, thank you very much.

Then a couple of nights ago, I logged on to Hulu to watch the next episode of Doc Martin and found myself presented with the possibility of watching one of three advertisements. “Which ad experience do you prefer?” I was asked. Unfortunately “I prefer no ad experience” was not an option and therefore one was chosen for me. Ad experience, I thought — how much of an experience could I possibly have with an advertisement? And if I could, would it be a physical, a mental, a spiritual, or perhaps a virtual experience. In fact, the experience I really wanted to have did not involve watching an ad.

The same marketing consultants who have infiltrated the for-profit world have also found their way into the non-profit. I’ve recently found myself in more than a few conversations where the topic of discussion centered around the question, how can classical music organizations enhance the live concert experience? This is where I become confused, because I go to a concert for one reason, to hear music, and if the music is well played and the performers don’t talk too much, I have a good experience. In fact many times a great experience. So what are we really looking for in this “enhanced experience?”

Well perhaps soft comfy chairs and people to bring drinks and nibbles during the performance would be nice. Or, maybe some new rules like, all concerts should begin at 7:30 and last no more then 80 minutes without intermission — the exception being opera. Then you must start at 7:00 and be finished by 9:00 (brief intermissions for set changes are permitted). All introductions of pieces can last no longer than one minute, unless the performer could also have a career as a stand up comic, then the sky’s the limit.

Obviously I’m making light of a topic that is extremely important. And I do believe that presenters and artists are doing their best to find ways of creating enjoyable concert experiences that will keep the current audience satisfied as well as attracting new concertgoers.

So what are the expectations of today’s classical music audience? Maybe it is about the experience. But if so, at what expense? Are 21st century concerts going to begin to resemble reality TV? Will audiences be encouraged to tweet their thoughts about a piece during the performance to be projected above the stage? Better yet, why don’t we simply let audiences throw certain composers or pieces off the island. I know I’d happily agree to ban all performances of Chopin’s Etude op. 25 no. 11 (“Winter Wind”). But again, I digress.

If it is about the experience, what new environments need to be created that truly enhance the concert-going experience while preserving the core activities of our profession — the presenting of and listening to music?

This is why I like competitions, whether it’s music or sports — like a tennis tournament. All of the makings of riveting reality TV are already built in. During competitions it is expected that a certain number of contestants will be voted off the island. Competitions can also easily morph into a festival.

As a kid, my brothers and I waited with anticipation for Saturday afternoon to come so we could watch ABC’s Wide World of Sports — “Spanning the Globe to bring you the constant Variety of Sport – The Thrill of Victory and Agony of Defeat”. We cheered for our favorite athletes, feeling their thrill in victory and sharing their agony in defeat.

Competitions are exciting, they offer the spectator the opportunity to be close to the contestants —in the case of music, to hear them perform with the style, grace and technical command that only comes from years of training.

You’re also with them when they are struggling. Your heart skips a beat along with theirs during a memory slip or technical mishap. You can see they are beginning to become ill and you hope they can pull through.

It’s like Pete Sampras during his 1996 quarter-final match against Alex Corretja (it’s the middle of the 5th set tie break and Sampras is given a delay of game warning by the umpire because he was vomiting on the court). Yes, he did go on to win the match, as well as the tournament. When you immerse yourself in a competition you will have an experience unlike any other one-off musical or sporting event.

Like a tennis tournament, being a spectator at a music competition is not easy work. The tennis tournament is hot, the bleachers are hot and the matches can go on for hours in the direct sun. The music competition also requires long periods of sitting, the ear begins to get tired and you’re listening to the third or fourth performance of the same Beethoven Sonata. What’s a spectator to do?

If that contest is this summer’s Cleveland International Piano Competition, and you need to take a break from the main event, there are a number of choices. Go to events happening around the grounds. Go see a film at one of the booths, visit the art show, attend a lecture, or see if anyone is playing one of the pianos that have been placed around the area (try one out yourself!). And following the final concerto rounds, when the winner is announced and you’re asked about your competition experience on the way out, there is only one answer to give.

It was great on so many levels

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Gastón Frydman

Argentinian pianist Gastón Frydman possesses a voracious curiosity to explore the limits of what a 'classical music' concert means. He has won numerous awards and has performed in notable venues across the world as a soloist and as a chamber musician. In 2018, after receiving an invitation from Sergei Babayan, Frydman began his studies with Antonio Pompa-Baldi at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He received his Bachelor in Piano Performance and is currently pursuing his Master's with a specialization in Pedagogy at CIM.

Eva Gevorgyan

Critics rave at her “emotional eloquence and impeccable technique” combined with all “the important features of a mature master” (ICMA): 18-year old Armenian pianist Eva Gevorgyan has quickly established herself as one of the most promising talents in the pianistic world.

Eva Gevorgyan has performed with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, Mariinsky Orchestra, National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia, Russian National Orchestra, State Academic Symphony Orchestra “Evgeny Svetlanov”, Canton Symphony Orchestra, Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra, Malta Philharmonic and others. She has already performed at major concert venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Hamburg’s Laeiszhalle, the Mariinsky Concert Hall, Moscow Conservatory Great Hall, and KKL Lucerne. Eva has participated in the Verbier Festival, Duszniki International Chopin Piano Festival, Stars of the White Nights Festival, Eilat Chamber Music Festival, Palermo Classica Festival, the Perugia Piano Festival, ClaviCologne Festival and Klassik vor Acht, Jeune Chopin à Cannes, Ferrara Piano Festival, Elena Cobb Star Prize Festival, Fränkische Musiktage Alzenau and others. In January 2020 Eva was invited to perform in Yerevan in front of the President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian and his spouse. At the Alto Adige Festival she performed in the presence of Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella.

Eva has appeared with such conductors as Vladimir Spivakov, Lawrence Foster, Vasily Petrenko, Valery Gergiev, Alexander Sladkovsky, Roberto Beltrán-Zavala, Eduard Topchjan, Dimitris Botinis, Piotr Gribanov, Tigran Hakhnazaryan, Ruth Reinhardt, Anatoly Levin, Ilmar Lapinsh, and others.

At the XVIII International Chopin Competition in Warsaw Eva Gevorgyan was the youngest finalist. Evgeny Kissin chose Eva Gevorgyan as a scholar of the 2020 Klavierfestival Ruhr. Eva was also an ICMA Discovery Award winner at the 2019 International Classical Music Awards. She is a grand-prix winner of the Russian National Orchestra Competition in 2021. In total, Eva has received awards at more than forty international competitions for piano and composition in the United States, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, and Russia among others, including First Prize at the Cleveland International Piano Competition for Young Artists (incl. special prize for the best interpretation of Bach and Canton Symphony Orchestra Prize), First Prize at the Robert Schumann Piano Competition in Dusseldorf, Second Prize and the Press Award at the Cliburn Junior International Piano Competition, Grand Prix and special prize for best Chopin interpretation at the Chicago International Music Competition, and First Prize at the Jeune Chopin International Piano Competition in Martigny. She has been a laureate and received five special prizes at Moscow’s Grand Piano International Competition. Eva also won First Prizes at the Chopin International Piano Competition for Young Pianists in Szafarnia, Poland, and Portugal’s St. Cecilia International Piano Competition, and won the Grand Prix at the International Piano Competition of Giuliano Pecar in Gorizia, Italy. Eva was awarded the Junior Prize (City Prize) at the Eppan Junior Piano Academy (Italy).

Eva is a Young Yamaha Artist. She received a scholarship from the International Academy of Music in Liechtenstein and participates regularly in the intensive music weeks and activities offered by the Academy. She also holds scholarships from YerazArt Foundation, Foundation Artis Futura, and from the Armenian Assembly.

Eva Gevorgyan was born in April 2004. After studies with Natalia Trull at the Central Music School in Moscow, she joined the Reina Sofia School of Music in Madrid, where she continues to study with Stanislav Ioudenitch. Eva was invited to the International Piano Academy Lake Como, where she participated in masterclasses with Dmitry Bashkirov, Stanislav Ioudenitch and William Nabore. She has also participated in masterclasses with Pavel Gililov, Grigory Gruzman, Piotr Paleczny, Andrea Bonatta and Klaus Hellwig.

John Zion

John Zion serves as the Managing Director of MKI Artists, one of the leading classical music management agencies in the United States where he directs the careers of a prestigious roster of artists, ensembles, and composers. He is also a co-founder of OurConcerts.live that produced and streamed more than 300 concerts during the pandemic and continues to provide access to live music to audiences around the world.

Also an active consultant, John works with artists, administrators, and arts organizations on career development, project management, and digital marketing. John serves on the board of Chamber Music America and has guest lectured and presented on arts-related issues at the Colburn School of Music, University of Michigan, Manhattan School of Music, Banff Centre, APAP|NYC, and Chamber Music America’s National Conference. He was named one of the “Rising Stars in the Performing Arts” by Musical America in 2012 and received a BM in Violin Performance from the Hartt School of Music.

Gabriela Montero

Gabriela Montero’s visionary interpretations and unique compositional gifts have garnered her critical acclaim and a devoted following on the world stage. Anthony Tommasini remarked in The New York Times that “Montero’s playing had everything: crackling rhythmic brio, subtle shadings, steely power…soulful lyricism…unsentimental expressivity.”

Recipient of the prestigious 2018 Heidelberger Frühling Music Prize, Montero’s recent and forthcoming highlights include debuts with the New World Symphony (Michael Tilson Thomas), Yomiuri Nippon Symphony in Tokyo (Aziz Shokhakimov), Orquesta de Valencia (Pablo Heras-Casado), and the Bournemouth Symphony (Carlos Miguel Prieto), the latter of which featured her as Artist-in-Residence for the 2019-2020 season. Montero also recently performed her own “Latin” Concerto with the Orchestra of the Americas at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie and Edinburgh Festival, as well as at Carnegie Hall and the New World Center with the NYO2. Additional highlights include a planned European tour with the City of Birmingham Symphony and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla; a second tour with the cutting edge Scottish Ensemble, this time with Montero’s latest composition Babel as the centrepiece of the programme; her long-awaited return to Warsaw for the Chopin in Europe Festival, marking 23 years since her prize win at the International Chopin Piano Competition; and return invitations to work with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony, Jaime Martin and the Orquestra de Cadaqués for concerts in Madrid and Barcelona, and Alexander Shelley and the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada.

Celebrated for her exceptional musicality and ability to improvise, Montero has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras to date, including: the Royal Liverpool, Rotterdam, Dresden, Oslo, Vienna Radio, and Netherlands Radio philharmonic orchestras; the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg, NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, Zürcher Kammerorchester, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and Australian Chamber Orchestra; the Pittsburgh, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, Toronto, Baltimore, Vienna, City of Birmingham, Barcelona, Lucerne, and Sydney symphony orchestras; the Belgian National Orchestra, Württembergisches Kammerorchester.

A graduate and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in London, Montero is also a frequent recitalist and chamber musician, having given concerts at such distinguished venues as the Wigmore Hall, Kennedy Center, Vienna Konzerthaus, Berlin Philharmonie, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Cologne Philharmonie, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Munich Herkulessaal, Sydney Opera House, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Luxembourg Philharmonie, Lisbon Gulbenkian Museum, Manchester Bridgewater Hall, Seoul’s LG Arts Centre, Hong Kong City Hall, the National Concert Hall in Taipei, and at the Barbican’s ‘Sound Unbound’, Edinburgh, Salzburg, SettembreMusica in Milan and Turin, Lucerne, Ravinia, Gstaad, Saint-Denis, Violon sur le Sable, Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Rheingau, Ruhr, Trondheim, Bergen, and Lugano festivals.

Montero is also an award-winning and bestselling recording artist. Her most recent album, released in autumn 2019 on the Orchid Classics label, features her own “Latin” Concerto and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, recorded with the Orchestra of the Americas in Frutillar, Chile. Her previous recording on Orchid Classics features Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and her first orchestral composition, Ex Patria, winning Montero her first Latin Grammy® for Best Classical Album (Mejor Álbum de Música Clásica). Others include Bach and Beyond, which held the top spot on the Billboard Classical Charts for several months and garnered her two Echo Klassik Awards: the 2006 Keyboard Instrumentalist of the Year and 2007 Award for Classical Music without Borders. In 2008, she also received a Grammy® nomination for her album Baroque, and in 2010 she released Solatino, a recording inspired by her Venezuelan homeland and devoted to works by Latin American composers.

Montero made her formal debut as a composer with Ex Patria, a tone poem designed to illustrate and protest Venezuela’s descent into lawlessness, corruption, and violence. The piece was premiered in 2011 by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Montero’s first full-length composition, Piano Concerto No. 1, the “Latin“ Concerto, was first performed at the Leipzig Gewandhaus with the MDR Sinfonieorchester and Kristjan Järvi, and subsequently recorded and filmed with the Orchestra of the Americas for the ARTE Konzert channel.

Winner of the 4th International Beethoven Award, Montero is a committed advocate for human rights, whose voice regularly reaches beyond the concert hall. She was named an Honorary Consul by Amnesty International in 2015, and recognised with Outstanding Work in the Field of Human Rights by the Human Rights Foundation for her ongoing commitment to human rights advocacy in Venezuela. She was invited to participate in the 2013 Women of the World Festival at London’s Southbank Centre, and has spoken and performed twice at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters. She was also awarded the 2012 Rockefeller Award for her contribution to the arts and was a featured performer at Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential Inauguration.

Born in Venezuela, Montero started her piano studies at age four with Lyl Tiempo, making her concerto debut at age eight in her hometown of Caracas. This led to a scholarship from the government to study privately in the USA and then at the Royal Academy of Music in London with Hamish Milne.