Piano Arts Competition Brings in Big Guns

Top pianists Joseph Kalichstein, Ursula Oppens, and Peter Takács will perform and teach.

By - Jun 2nd, 2016 03:19 pm
Pallavi Mahidhara. Photo from Piano Arts.

Pallavi Mahidhara. Photo from Piano Arts.

Set aside those episodes of “The Wire,” “House of Cards” or “Breaking Bad” and consider bingeing on piano music for the next week.

Milwaukee’s Piano Arts biennial North American Young Piano Artists competition opens on Friday. With each return, the program becomes grander and more distinguished. Founded in 1999, the competition offers more than a platform for young competitors. Each of the 10 semi-finalists will live with a host family, participate in coaching and educational events and gain additional confidence as performers both on competition days and at other events. The mission: “to identify and train new generations of pianists with exceptional musical and verbal communication skills, prepare them for performance and present them to diverse audiences.”

In addition to the competition, Milwaukee audiences will be offered a number of unique concerts.

A now internationally distinguished past winner in 2008, Pallavi Mahidhara, will start things off with a recital Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music (the home for most events). The program includes challenging transcriptions (Liszt of Paganini, Brahms of Bach) and works by Ravel and Berio.

The three judges (Joseph Kalichstein, Ursula Oppens, and Peter Takács), each renowned pianists and teachers, will participate in a “Masters” concert collaborating with four Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra players (Benjamin Adler, Susan Babini, Ilana Setapen and Scott Tisdel) next Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m..

Those two events promise great classical piano music. They would not have happened here without the platform of the Piano Arts competition.

Those choosing to binge can enjoy ten different 45-minute recitals on Saturday as the competition opens. The MSO players will join competitors on Monday, June 6 for ten 45-minute ensemble recitals. Audiences are welcome to drop in for whatever period they are available. (Each round runs from 9:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.)

Additionally, three young pianists have been selected for master classes with one of the judges Sunday, June 5 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. These three will then offer a recital on Tuesday, June 7 at 5:30 p.m..

Seminars and panels for competitors will address performance and career insights. These are also open to the public.

Competitors will be offered additional opportunities to perform in local venues around Milwaukee on Tuesday afternoon, June 7. See the Piano Arts website for that schedule of free performances.

Andrews Sill. Photo from Piano Arts.

Andrews Sill. Photo from Piano Arts.

The capstone events move to the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts on Wednesday. Semi-finalists offer short piano solos at 6:00 p.m.. and three finalists perform concertos (a single movement) with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra conducted by PianoArts Music Director Andrews Sill at 7:30 p.m.. (The concertos finalists selected will be previewed by Meaghan Heinrich in a 5:15 p.m. pre-talk.)

Aged 17 to 20, the 10 competitors in this year’s program represent the strongest set since the competition began, attesting to the respect PianoArts has gained over the years. Three competitors are studying at Julliard. Others are at Texas Christian University, the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, the Music Institute of Chicago, the New England Conservatory of Music, Harvard and Princeton.

In addition to this competition, winners are invited back to Milwaukee to participate in outreach programs in local schools as well as public performances. This has been a wonderful legacy of the biennial event.

Check the Piano Arts website for a chronological schedule and for details on locations and tickets.

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