Stephen McHolm is the executive director of the Honens International Piano Competition, based in Calgary. He and his team have been on the road to London, Berlin and New York recording recitals and interviews with the 50 young pianists who made it to the quarter-final round of the competition. A jury will watch these videos and select 10 semifinalists to come to Calgary in October for the next round of the competition. McHolm checks in from Los Angeles, the last stop on the audition tour.
Sunshine, star-map guided tourists, businessmen in flip-flops, the strange but wonderful scent of coconut butter mixed with fresh flowers and, of course, the final stop for the 2012 Honens quarter-finals – this is Los Angeles.
L.A.’s Colburn School – a fantastic downtown campus with views of billboard-sized Dudamels draped from an imposing Disney Concert Hall – seems a natural place to hear some of the world’s finest pianists. And our final four didn’t disappoint. Now, after hearing 50 pianists, the highs – and dare I say, lows – aren’t easily forgotten.
I guess it’s official; I’m a piano junkie – or at least addicted to discovering the “complete artist.” Even after more than 2,000 minutes of music in 40 days, I look forward to learning more about these pianists through their recorded interviews and hearing many of the performances again when I join the first jury for its deliberations next month at The Banff Centre. It won’t be an easy task to choose only 10 to advance to the semifinals in Calgary. Across the board, we’re in store for the most consistently high standard ever heard at Honens. That’s high praise for this new crop. After all, they have big shoes to fill. Watch for the announcement of the first jury on July 17, when we post the recorded performances by, and interviews with, the 10 pianists at honens.com. The semifinals and finals take place in Calgary, October 17 to 26.
Before signing off, I, my colleague Andrea Davison and the rest of the Honens team would like to extend a big thanks to the dedicated audio/video production duo of Chris Krieger and Nick Thomas of Deluxe Design Group (see their video docs of the 2009 Honens laureates here), our three interviewers, Edward Seckerson (London and Berlin), Robert Sherman (New York) and Victoria Looseleaf (Los Angeles), the incredibly generous production teams at the Guildhall School, Konzerthaus, DiMenna Center and Colburn School, and of course the 50 young pianists who shared their artistry with us. It’s an incredible privilege to experience such talent.
Still a few hours of daylight left; off to Hollywood and Vine to find Liberace and Victor Borge on the walk of fame. If I read my map correctly, I should find them near Big Bird and Annette Funicello. Wish me luck!
Music performed in L.A. worth re-discovering:
Mendelssohn: Fantasy in F-sharp minor, Op. 28
Scriabin: Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp major, Op. 30
Letter from New York: Honens quarter-final update
Letter from Berlin: Honens quarter-final update
Cecilia String Quartet's road diary with pianist Georgy Tchaidze
on May 11, 2012