Overseas star pianists outfitted in cowboy boots at Fort Worth’s Cliburn Competition
FORT WORTH — On Wednesday morning, a day before the start of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, 30 young pianists from around the world chatted and laughed in the lobby of the new music center at Texas Christian University. On one side, the contestants were outfitted with their own pair of cowboy boots.
“I’m so excited to wear proper cowboy boots,” said Federico Gad Crema, 23, of Milan, Italy. “You see this stuff in the movies.”
Everything will get more serious today, when the first contestant takes the stage in the building’s elegant 717-seat Van Cliburn Concert Hall. Artistic directors, Cliburn fans, members of the press and an international jury will all be on tap, not to mention online viewers.
“We are opening doors at the Cliburn,” CEO Jacques Marquis told contestants during an orientation in the concert hall. “After that, your job is to keep the door open.”
The competition consists of four series of solo recitals leading to concertos with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. At an awards ceremony on June 18, cash prizes totaling $265,000 will be handed out, along with artistic management services worth more than $1 million.
Competitors bring works they have performed in the past, as well as new pieces from their repertoire. All pianists will perform a work commissioned by competition juror Stephen Hough, both composer and concert pianist. “I wanted to write a fun play,” he previously said. The Dallas Morning News“in line with scintillating keyboard pieces from Scarlatti to Prokofiev.”
For his repertoire, Gad Crema has chosen intimate works that he believes will allow him to show his musical personality. In the preliminary round, he will perform Scarlatti’s Sonata in D minor, which he describes as “sweet and tender”.
“The Van Cliburn Competition is definitely not my forte,” he says, “because they tend to prefer showy pianism. But Radu Lupu won this contest, and he was probably the god of sound. He was one of the main reasons I’m a pianist. I’m always looking for the beauty of sound.
“I don’t want to try to pretend to be another pianist, or another person. I just want to be authentic, whatever I do.
For many pianists, this is only their second time in Texas, having already taken part in scouting auditions at TCU in March. “It’s so hot here,” said 24-year-old Chinese pianist Ziyu Liu, who lives in Hanover, Germany, where it’s “always very cold and cloudy.”
Liu will participate in the foreplay early, which makes him more nervous. Parallel to the work of Hough, he will play that of Schubert Drei Klavierstucke and Bartok’s Piano Sonata, which he says will allow him to show “all the possibilities as a musician”.
Shuan Hern Lee, 19, from Australia, knows the Dallas-Fort Worth area best. In 2019 he won the gold medal at the Cliburn Junior Piano Competition. “It was a great experience for me,” he said. “I’ve definitely gotten used to how this competition goes.”
Although he was one of the youngest competitors, Lee didn’t wonder if this put him at a disadvantage.
“When I went to auditions here, I didn’t look at the list of contestants, even when they came out with the results,” he said. “It’s not something in my control. I prefer to devote my time to music and my lifestyle. I think it has a more direct approach to my stage performance.
Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth. Preliminary round (June 2-4) and quarter-final (June 5-6) at the Van Cliburn Concert Hall at Texas Christian University, 2900 W. Lowden St. Semi-final (June 8-12) and final (14-18 June) at Bass Salle de spectacle, Quatrième and Commerce. Single tickets $30 to $225; subscription packages from $162 to $2,900. 817-738-6536. cliburn.org.