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Last year's winner, , gives a summer recital at Fairlight Hall.

Last year’s winner, Tzu-Yin Huang, gives a summer recital at Fairlight Hall.

The piano competition – what’s it all about?

The stock of the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition has risen irresistibly in recent years, and the competition now stands alongside the Leeds International Piano Competition as one of the UK’s leading events in this field. But what exactly is the point of a competition like this? The organiser’s Julian Norridge put the question to competition director Professor Frank Wibaut. Photos by Richard Grebby of RG Studios.

There are a number of purposes, Prof Wibaut explained. The most obvious is that it gives brilliant young musicians from all over the globe the chance to compete against their peers, to match themselves against some of the best that the world has to offer. It can give them a sense of where they stand in what is inevitably a very competitive field.

“It also gives them a chance to test themselves, to test their stamina,” he said. “They have to learn to play a huge programme from memory for most competitions – in our case two whole concerti and a 35-minute programme largely of their own choice for the semi-finals. It gives them a chance to prove themselves to themselves.”

Hastings International Piano Concerto CompetitionFinancial reward and career openings

The competition also offers contestants a number of opportunities. The six who reach the final will all get a financial reward – the winner will receive a cheque for £10,000. But perhaps more importantly, they will also get the chance to perform with one of the great orchestras of the world, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, who will be playing this year in the two-evening final.

This is something that many of the young musicians, all aged between 16 and 30, will not have had the chance to do before. For them, it will be an invaluable experience.

For the winner, the competition will open many doors. They are guaranteed the chance to play as a soloist in a further concert with the Royal Philharmonic. They will also get to play a concerto in the United States, as well as being offered a number of other concerts.

So are such competitions a key part of the process of becoming an international soloist? “Perhaps unfortunately they are,” said Prof Wibaut. “Competitions don’t suit some musicians – they have to rely on raw talent to break through.”

Bringing out the best

“But others need and relish the intense pressure to bring out the best in themselves. They need an audience like this to boost themselves, to put them on the ladder or to move up a couple of rungs.”

So what does the event offer to the people of Hastings? Quite a lot, said the professor. “They get the excitement of a competition. They also get brilliant young musicians and a world-class orchestra on their doorstep.

“I think the last time the RPO played in Hastings was more than 40 years ago. It means people don’t have to travel somewhere else to hear high-quality classical music. People like that. It’s why so many take part as volunteers and members of the audience.”

Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition Thursday 23 February-Saturday 4 March, White Rock Theatre, White Rock, Hastings TN34 1JX. Tickets available from the theatre box office in person, by phone (01424 462288) or online. For more information, visit the HIPCC website.

 

Posted 10:28 Saturday, Feb 18, 2017 In: Music & Sound

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