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Eight finalists selected for Young Pianist Competition included in MostArts Festival
6/10/14

Eight finalists have been selected to compete in the upcoming Young Pianist Competition at Alfred University’s (AU) MostArts Festival July 6-12.

The piano competition was open to high school students ages 13-18. The finalists will travel to Alfred to perform the first movement of their selected Mozart Concerto (a competition requirement) with the MostArts Festival Orchestra before an international panel of judges - Ukrainian pianist Vladislav Kovalsky, American pianist Anthony Pattin, German-born pianist Andreas Klein - and a live audience. Competition participants must also play at least two contrasting works from two different periods for solo piano.

The competitors are:

Eden Chen, 15, was recently selected to perform on National Public Radio’s (NPR) “From the Top” show. He was also named a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist and awarded a $10,000 scholarship. In 2012, Chen received a gold medal at the AADGT International Young Musicians Festival and second prize at the 13th International Russian Music Piano Competition.

Chen has selected Mozart’s Concerto No 26 for the competition “because it gives one of the greatest reflections of the society in Mozart’s time period… people were very concerned with appearance and decorum. As a result, the piece is light, gentle, and gives a sense of royalty. It’s like an extremely decorated and detailed palace.”

Each contestant was asked what they love about the piano. Chen said: “The piano is an instrument that can be powerful or gentle, and fun or serious. It can be very relaxing to play. But, it can also be a challenge. The piano’s large range and the fact that you play with two hands gives you freedom to create whatever colors you want. The challenge comes in controlling all that raw power. But, when you play for an audience, you can share the challenge, the joy, and the wonder with them.”

Anson Hui, also 15, has given concerts throughout Europe, the United States, and Canada. He recently won first prize at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO) Concerto Competition. He performed with the ISO in summer 2013 followed by a performance with the Canadian Sinfonietta last November. In 2012, he was given the Special Grand Prize at the Royal Burlington Music Festival.

“Music is an irreplaceable part of my life,” said Hui. “About 70 percent of my time is spent with music directly and indirectly… I am somewhat piano dependent for keeping my morale high.”

He will be playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, which he finds the “most attractive” of the composer’s concertos, for the AU competition. He believes this is because of his “addiction to minor keys” and feeling a “special connection” to the piece.

Thirteen-year-old Eric Lin is winner of the 2014 Ylda Novik Memorial Piano Concerto Competition and will perform with the Capital City Symphony during the 2014-15 season. He was awarded first place at the NVMTA Robert Spencer Concerto Competition in both 2013 and 2014. As the winner of the 2012 DePaul concerto Festival, Lin was awarded the opportunity to perform with the Oistrach Symphony Orchestra. He was the youngest Finalist Prize winner at the 2013 International Institute for Young Musicians Competition and the 2013 Princeton Festival Piano Competition (ages 25 or lower).

“There are few things in the world which can capture people’s attention” like a Mozart concerto, said Lin. “When I play for any audience, my goal is to involve the audience’s attention with an exciting story written down by composers and translated by me. Exploring, discovering, and communicating in the magical world of music is what I love about playing the piano.”

Mozart’s Concerto No. 23 in A Minor, his selected competition piece, “is one of the most graceful pieces you will ever hear,” said Lin. “The repetition of resolving dissonance tells a wonderful story. The beautiful themes are shared between the orchestra and the piano, creating a magical interaction with sound.”

Mayuki Miyashita, 14, has received first prizes in many competitions such as the Music Teachers National Association and the Tennessee Music Teachers Association. In 2013, she performed with the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Maryville (TN) College Orchestra. She won second prize in the 2013 Kaufman Music Center International Youth Piano Competition in New York. In January 2014, Miyashita appeared as a soloist on NPR’s “From the Top.”

“For me, piano is a way to express myself,” said Miyashita. “Piano can have a huge range of sounds and many colors. When I’m playing the piano, I feel like it’s one big orchestra and I can be a conductor.”

She will be playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 for the Alfred competition. “What I really like is this piece is so pure and clean. It’s so simple and pretty, so it makes me full of joy when I’m playing it.”

Kada Qian, 16, has given more than 100 concerts in the United States and. He has appeared as a soloist more than 10 times with orchestras such as the Boston Civic Symphony, Boston Landmarks, Cape Ann Symphony, Memrose Symphony, Merrimack Valley Philharmonic, Metrowest Symphony, Lowell Philharmonic, Rivers Symphony, and the Salem Philharmonic.

Qian has performed on NPR’s “From the Top” and in 2013 released his first album for Naxos Records.

“What I love most about playing the piano is the opportunity to communicate to the audience. There’s a magical quality about creating music since it’s always amazing to see how many people can be touched by it. It’s also extremely satisfying to know that music can act as a uniting force that brings members of the audience together. Knowing that I can change and impact lives with piano motivates me to improve and innovate every day.”

The concerto Qian has selected “seems to exhibit another side of Mozart that makes him more human in a way. Although its melodies are beautiful, there is almost an obsessive and dark mood … which is contrary to the common stereotypes of Mozart’s music.”

Roger Shen has been active in local, national, and international competitions. He won first-place awards for the 2013 Music Teachers Nationals Association (MRNA) New Hampshire Senior Piano Competition, the 2012 MTNA Illinois Junior Piano Competition, the Bradshaw & Buono International Competition, the 2012 Walgreens National Concerto Competition Open Division, the Aloha International Piano Concerto Competition, the American Fine Arts Festival, and the Chicago Steinway Young Artist Competition. In February 2013 he made his orchestra debut with the Northbrook Symphony Orchestra. Later that month, he performed with the Midwest Young Artists Symphony Orchestra and he has also performed with the Honolulu Youth Orchestra.

William Wang, 16, has performed in Carnegie Hall, at Lincoln Center, in the Steinway Gallery in Westport, CT, at the Whitney Center, Hamden, CT, and in Enlow Hall, Kean (Union, NJ) University. He was also selected to perform at the 2013 Foulgue International Music Festival. Wang won first place in the 2012 Golden Era of Romantic Music International Competition, the 2013 MTNA Connecticut Competition in the senior piano division, and the 2013 NTD TV Youth Pianist Competition.

Wang said he loves playing piano because “behind every piece there are stories and emotions of the composer. By connecting the composer to the audience in my performance, I can share the composer’s feelings with the audience.”

Wang has selected Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 for the AU competition. He describes it as “a piece that is different than the stereotypical Mozart pieces. It highlights the turmoil of Mozart’s later life. While still containing Mozart’s charm, it has a dark and brooding tension that never resolves throughout the whole piece.”

Duo Xu, a senior at Williamsville East in Amherst, won first place in the 2012 Duquesne Young Artist National Competition in Pittsburgh, the Rochester (NY) Philharmonic League’s Young Artist Auditions, and the 2012 Heddy Killian Competition.

Recently, Xu was named a National YoungArts 2014 Winner and was awarded an Amherst Symphony Orchestra Scholarship and the Buffalo Philharmonic’s Young Musicians Scholarship.

Xu welcomes “the plain joy of playing and the warmth I feel when people come up and tell me how much they liked something, or that they could listen to me for days. They have no idea how much that affects me. That, I think, is my true goal – to never forget the feeling of happiness and never stop loving.”

She has chosen Mozart’s Concerto No. 23 for her competition piece. “The opening starts so bright and clear, it’s like opening the curtains and letting the sunshine stream in,” said Xu. “The long phrases match the setting well, and by the time I’m halfway through, I find myself swept by the river of multi-colored waves. If the first movement is bright and happy, then the second movement is heartbreaking. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve honestly every heard.”

The Grand Prize winner in the MostArts Young Pianist Competition will receive $10,000 and will be invited back to campus for a solo recital during the 2014-15 academic year; the Second Prize winner will receive $2,500, while the Third Prize winner will receive $1,500. The prizes are made possible through the privately funded Hutter Memorial Fund.

The final evenings of festival week will be devoted to showcasing the competition finalists. Each evening, three-four contestants will perform the opening movement of a Mozart piano concerto with the MostArts Festival Orchestra. Audience members will be asked to cast a vote for their favorite pianist each evening. The audience will also have the opportunity to choose their two favorite competitors, who will each receive a $500 Audience Award. Finally, there will be a $500 Discretionary Prize.

The winners will be announced at a closing Gala Concert on Saturday evening followed by a Raku Extravaganza with Higby for the entire community at the “Hair Pin Turn” above the Miller Theater.

Concert tickets are now available at: http://mostarts.alfred.edu/tickets.cfm

Dr. Lisa Lantz, associate professor of music/strings and director of the AU Symphony Orchestra, is the artistic director and founder of the MostArts Festival.

“The weeklong event will host a Festival Orchestra which will offer free chamber music concerts called ‘Sound Bite Samplers’ during the noon hour in Holmes Auditorium,” Harder Hall on the AU campus, showcasing various groups of musicians who will speak about the works to be performed as the audience enjoys lunch or dessert, she explained, while “ceramic workshops by artists/AU professors Wayne Higby, Walter McConnell and John and Andrea Gill will be offered in Harder Hall, along with an assortment of other activities. Evening concerts will take place in Miller Theater at 7:30.”

The judges will also be featured in concert during the festival.  Kovalsky will open the week in a solo recital Sunday evening, July 6. Pattin will perform on Monday evening in a concert of transcribed gems originally for piano that are better known in their adapted orchestral form. Later in the week, Klein will perform Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 2” with the MostArts Festival Orchestra. 

Kovalsky is executive and artistic director of the Monmouth Conservatory of Music, Red Bank, NJ and a member of the International Keyboard Festival and Competition Faculty at Mannes College of Music, New York. Klein is an internationally distinguished performer who has been touted in The New York Times as “a fascinating artist with all the indispensable qualities: temperament, taste, touch, tone” and “a pianist who makes silences sound like music.” Pattin is an active pianist, orchestral soloist, chamber musician, accompanist, and music scholar. He is now professor emeritus from the University of Montevallo and appears frequently on the Alabama Symphony’s “Concertmaster and Friends” series.

More festival details can be found at www.MostArts.Alfred.edu under Schedule of Events.