Earlier this week, the Chopin Foundation of the United States, which is based in Miami, announced that its 2015 national competition for American pianists would offer a top prize of $75,000.
That would be the highest award for a piano competition in the country, as the Foundation says. The top prize at the Cliburn Competition, for instance, is $50,000; it was won this year by a 26-year-old Ukrainian pianist named Vadym Kholodenko.
The 2015 competition, which marks the 40th anniversary of the Foundation’s creation, will take place Feb. 21-March 1, with a jury chaired by the fine American pianist Agustin Anievas. Winners go on to the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, and the Foundation books concerts for them in the United States and abroad.
The secondary and tertiary prizes are nothing to sneeze at, either: The silver medal pays $35,000, and the bronze, $20,000. Money aside, it’s a terrific feather in the cap of rising young pianists, and while classical music competitions have come under fire for their horse-race elements, it really isn’t substantially different than the Olympics. A substantial part of the test has to do with performance under pressure, and many are the excellent musicians who have come to grief with stage fright but have gone on to rewarding careers.
The Foundation’s executive director, Jadwiga Gewert, said in a news release Wednesday that the group wanted to “raise the bar” and get the best pianists to come to Miami for the contest. “As one of only two organizations in this country that are committed to discovering and promoting American classical pianists exclusively, we feel the increased cash prizes will go a long way to help get the winners noticed,” she said in a statement.
Every year, the Chopin Foundation reliably offers a series of free weekend concerts each month during the season, and in two counties. The Saturday afternoon concerts are given in the intimate auditorium at the Broward County Main Library in downtown Fort Lauderdale, and the Sunday afternoon concerts take place at Granada Presbyterian Church in Coral Gables.
Earlier this summer, the Foundation announced the performers and concert dates:
Menan Berveniku (Nov. 2-3): This young pianist from Kosovo is making his South Florida debut.
Drew Petersen (Dec. 7-8): A 19-year-old who recently graduated from Harvard, this prodigious young pianist will be appearing with his 17-year-old brother, baritone Erik Petersen.
Conlan Miller (Jan. 18-19): A pianist from Utah who won the Music Teachers National Association’s Young Artists Award Competition this year.
Lindsay Garritson (Feb. 8-9): A Yale graduate who also plays the violin, Garritson has made numerous appearances in South Florida; she considers Stuart, where her mother lives, home base. Her program will include Spanish music as well as pieces by Chopin.
Paderewski winner (March 15-16): The International Paderewski Piano Competition takes place in November in Poland; some 48 pianists will be competing, many of them from Russia. There are three Americans in the running: Evan Mitchell, Fifi Zhang, and the 15-year-old Carmen Knoll, a Juilliard student who’s been getting major buzz.
Young Pianists Concerts (April 12-13): All-Chopin programs played by young South Florida pianists chosen by audition.
Micah McLaurin (May 17-18): An 18-year-old South Carolinian who has racked up impressive reviews in his very young career.
The Foundation also presents a Salon series at the La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach, for which Foundation members are admitted free. Non-members pay $45. The three concerts this year feature a new Polish duo, violinist Aleksandra Kuls and pianist Marcin Koziak (Nov. 17); the American pianist Claire Huangci, who won the 2010 Chopin Competition in Miami (Jan. 12); and Sean Chen, a Broward County-born American who took the bronze medal at this year’s Cliburn Competition (March 30).