The Honens International Piano Competition is based in Calgary, but the Honens team is on the road now listening to the 50 pianists who have made it to the quarter-final round of the competition. Honens is looking for more than fast fingers. The competition is in search of a “complete artist – a sensitive musician, a consummate collaborator, an awe-inspiring virtuoso, a communicator, a dreamer and explorer.” From the 50 quarter-finalists, 10 will be chosen to compete in Calgary in October 2012 for the top prize. Honens president and artistic director Stephen McHolm has been sending us his impressions from the road. This week he was in New York.
New York City, the Big Apple, Gotham – the city that never sleeps. It’s definitely, as the song says, “a helluva town.”
The Honens team arrived in the Empire City almost a week ago for 2009 laureate Georgy Tchaidze’s Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall debut. Georgy’s all-Russian program, including solo works by Medtner, Mussorgsky and Prokofiev was captivating. He was joined in this performance, as he was in a recent Glenn Gould Studio recital, by delightful soprano Dina Kuznetsova for Rachmaninov’s dazzling Six Romances Op. 38.
Why people think that classical musicians only listen to classical music is a mystery to me. I was reminded of this as Dina told me about her admiration for Canadian folk legend Stan Rogers and her hopes to make a pilgrimage to Atlantic Canada to hear his music. We even thought about bringing her along with the Honens team to the Kathleen Edwards concert the following evening at Webster Hall – another great night of music as an appetizer for our 19 quarter-final recitals in NYC.
A fascination for life outside the practice studio is an important part of what defines “the complete artist.” You can feel it immediately when a musician begins to play – an intangible electricity. It’s also the reason that Honens requires all 50 quarter-finalists to meet with an arts journalist for a brief 10-minute interview. Curious people make great artists. It’s easy to be curious in a city like New York – it’s also essential. In London we were joined by critic Edward Seckerson . Here in New York, veteran broadcaster Bob Sherman spoke to the pianists about the music they performed, their views on what makes a “complete artist,” their interests, dreams and ambitions.
Ol' Blue Eyes sang “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Like quarter-finals cities Berlin and London, New York is an essential career-building market. It’s also fiercely competitive. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice – and that’s just the start.
Canadian works performed by New York quarter-finalists:
Kuzmenko In Memoriam: To the Victims of Chernobyl
Works performed in New York worth re-discovering:
Bartók Out of Doors Suite, Sz. 81
Schubert Moments Musicaux, D. 780
Letter from Berlin: Honens quarter-final update
Letter from London: Honens quarter-final update
Cecilia String Quartet’s road diary with pianist Georgy Tchaidze
Edward Seckerson from The Independent interviews Stephen HcHolm
on May 02, 2012