In just over an hour's time, the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition kicks off in Forth Worth, Texas. 29 pianists vie for arguably the biggest prize in the world of piano concours. Is this the Olympics of the Piano? Or the piano version of American Idol? AI 8 just ended yesterday with probably the biggest upset in Idol history - underdog Kris Allen toppled the overwhelming favourite Adam Lambert for the biggest prize in the pop music industry. Perhaps AI is the Van Cliburn competition of the pop world!
Are there any favourites in VC13? The answer is thankfully, no. Anyone of the 29 (one pianist Yue Chu pulled out in the 11th hour because of a hand injury) can win this competition, and it could easily be an Asian this time.
The piano has indeed made the world a smaller place. Of the 6 finalists in the 2005 competition, I had the opportunity of hearing or meeting 4 of them in person - Kobrin, Sa Chen, Plano and Huang. And that without leaving the "boondocks" of Singapore and Australia. The same applies for the 2009 competition; nobody is ever a stranger now. So who among the 29 have I heard or met in person?
ILYA RASHKOVSKIY - 1st prize winner @ Hong Kong International Piano Competition 2005, has already performed in Singapore twice.
DI WU - Soloist with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra on two occasions, the first time when she was a teenager.
RAN DANK - 3rd prize winner @ Sydney International Piano Comeptition 2008. As I had earlier predicted, he would perform Boulez's Douze Notations at VC.
MARIANGELA VACATELLO - Semi-finalist @ Sydney International Piano Competition 2008. Watch out for her Busoni Chopin Variations.
FENG ZHANG - Quartet-finalist @ Sydney International Piano Competition 2008. No Alkan or Godowsky at VC, so he's playing safe this time.
SPENCER MYER - Semi-finalist @ Leeds International Piano Competition 2006.
All my best wishes to them. The real joy of competitions is to discover new talent, so let the battle of the ivories begin!