Forty two vie for piano competition glory
This year’s Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition, which promises to be the biggest and best ever, will start at the White Rock Theatre on Thursday February 23 and run until the grand two-evening final on 3 and 4 March. The organiser’s Julian Norridge sets the scene. Photos by Richard Grebby of RG Studios.
There were a record 151 entries for this year’s competition, of whom 42 have been invited to come and play live in Hastings. According to Professor Frank Wibaut, the competition director who spent weeks listening to every single one of the entrants play, the overall standard is “stunning,” higher than ever before.
The record number of entries reflects the growing international reputation of the event, which is now widely regarded as being second only to Leeds among UK piano competitions.
And this year, for the first time, the six pianists who reach the two-evening final will play at the White Rock Theatre with the full Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), one of the world’s finest, under the baton of the brilliant young British conductor, Timothy Henty.
Stages one and two
The first stage of the competition will begin at the White Rock Theatre on Thursday 23 February. Each of the young pianists, all aged between 16 and 30, will have 30 minutes to play excerpts from the concerto they have chose from the competition’s list. The orchestral part will be played by an accompanist.
There will be three sessions a day – at 10am, 2pm and 6pm – on the Thursday and Friday. On Saturday there will be sessions at 10am and 2pm. These will all be open to the public with tickets costing £5 per session.
Up to 24 contestants will then be chosen to go forward to stage 2 on Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February. Each will perform 35 minutes of a concerto they have chosen from a different list. This means each contestant will have to play two complete concertos from memory. Once again there will be three sessions per day.
Up to 12 semi-finalists
Up to 12 competitors will then go through to the semi-finals on Wednesday 1 March. They will each play a 35-minute recital of music of their choice, including one piece from a compulsory list of composers.
There will be three sessions, at 11am, 2.40pm and 6pm. Tickets will be £15 for the whole day or £5 per session. Six contestants will then be chosen to go through to the final.
The losing semi-finalists will be given the chance to attend a special masterclass given by distinguished members of the international jury at the White Rock Theatre at 6pm on Thursday 2 March. The audience will sit beside the contestants on the stage, which will give them a real insight into what it’s like to perform at this level. Tickets cost £20 and include wine and canapés.
The grand final
The grand final will take place over two evenings on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 March. Three finalists will perform each evening, playing one of their chosen concertos in full with the RPO. The winner will receive a cheque for £10,000, the chance to perform as soloist with the RPO and the opportunity to perform a concerto in the USA, as well as other concerts.
This year ticket prices for each night of the final are £15 or £25. There are special packages of £40 for both nights or £50 for all the semi-final and final evenings. There is also a whole competition pass, allowing entry to every stage, for £100.
Once again this year people will be able to use the competition programme to buy discounted tickets to the Jerwood Gallery. A new development is that the first 30 people to go to the White Rock box office with a Jerwood ticket receipt will receive a free ticket to the Friday evening final.
Also for the first time the competition programme will also act as a temporary Hastings Card. The hugely popular discount card for a large number of shops and restaurants across the town is one of the sponsors of the 2017 competition.
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