VIII . 1989 .

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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     Sultanov's triumph

 

19-year-old Soviet wins Cliburn gold with fire, brilliance

 

By Barry  Shlachter

 

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

 

 

When it came down to a decision, the jury found a rousing and individualistic player who did communicate with the audience, conferring last night on 19-year-old Soviet Aleksei Sultanov, the youngest of the original 38 hopefuls, the gold medal of the Eighth Van Cliburn Piano Competition.

After the silver was announced, the message was clear to Sultanov, sitting in the middle of the Fort Worth-Tarrant County Convention Center, sandwiched by Soviet colleagues.

He threw his bushy head back against the top of his seat and let out a deep breath. When his name was then called out as the winner, the short and wiry pianist leaped to his feet, raised both hands in the air and closed each into a triumphant fist, reminiscent of the

knockout scene from Rocky.

 On stage, he held the Cliburn trophy a loft.

"Sultanov looks like an angel, plays like a devil and is full of wonderful, ordinary human feeling," said one member of the audience, Dallas psychiatrist Dennis Dalton.

The waifish pianist from the Central Asian city of Tashkent, who listens to rock and jazz in his leisure, practices the martial art of kung fu and is not afraid to handle cobras, also stood out with his commandeering of the keyboard.

"The guy is powerful," said juror Lawrence Leighton Smith, music director and conductor of Kentucky's Louisville Orchestra.

"I think he has instant dynamic appeal (and) tremendous talent, " said juror John Lill. winner of the 1970 Tchaikovsky Competition.

"He has charisma," Van Cliburn himself
said of the young Soviet, who takes home an estimated $200.000 in prizes, including a Carnegie Hall debut, a slew of concerts, a recording contract, $15,000 in cash and a new tuxedo courtesy of his Fort Worth host family, Jon and Susan Wilcox. 
Emcee Dudley Moore tripped over his words, playing the slips comically for all they were worth, but managed to announce that Jose Carlos Cocarelli, a poker-faced Brazilian living in Paris, won the silver.

The 30-year-old Cocarelli, noted for his unemotional but masterful performances of Brahms, maintained his almost neutral tone.

Asked how it felt to lose to a pianist from a younger generation, he looked around the backstage area packed with cameras, reporters and fans, and cither couldn't or wouldn't answer directly. He said the question was "too delicate." The stiff, introspective Brazilian said the Giburn was his last competition.

The bronze went to Italian Benedetto Lupo, 25, a cool pianist who managed to communicate with the audience. He was another who said piano shoot-outs were behind him.

He will devote himself to concerts. His next appearance will be at an acoustically perfect Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul, '. Turkey, on Saturday.

Juror Sergei Dorensky of the Soviet Union was not altogether pleased by the outcome. "It was a fair decision, (but) I suppose we could have divided one prize ! second with third. I don't know why we didn't do it."

If there was any major upset, according to some close Cliburn watchers, it was the relatively low ranking of Soviet Alexander Shtarkman who had been on many listener's lists for a place among the top three. He got fourth.

 

 

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    What now? "I will try to have fun, especially after the results," said Shtarkman, whose studied, intellectual approach was often cited in contrast to Sultanov's dynamic playing.

Afterward, Shtarkman handed Van Cliburn seven photographs taken of the American pianist when he won the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition. Some included shots with Shtarkman's father, Naum. who won the bronze that year and earned Giburn's respect.

The Texan kissed Shtarkman on both checks, Russian-style, then told him of a moving competition performance by the young Soviet's father "I remember his Chopin. It was just to die." - Shtarkman, in halting finglish that gave his words greater sincerity, replied: "I am happy to meet you. You are to me like a legend."

Giina's Tian Ying, who lives in Boston, took fifth. The other Soviet finalist, Elisso Bolkvadze, was placed last among the six finalists, apparently the result of a grievous memory slip during Saint-Saens' Second Piano Concerto.

 Kevin Kenner of Baltimore was the only American to be promoted to the field of 12 semifinalists. He missed the last cut, but his skills were recognized yesterday when he received one of four jury' discretionary awards, shared the chamber music award with three others and took the prize as the best American pianist. All that was worth $3,000, more than Bolkvadze got for sixth place

Jurors said the voting, which took two hours for all categories, went relatively easily.

         The outcome, choosing the pyrotechnical Sultanov for the gold and the guarded, nearly somnolent Cocarelli for the silver, reflected the jurors' "wide range in taste and in their lives," Lill said afterward. "It was a pretty good cross section of pianists, teachers, conductors and of styles and tastes."

The British pianist, like many others during the competition, questioned whether the gold medal would weigh too heavily on a performer as young as Sultanov, still not out of conservatory, still not fully formed artistically and yet to learn a breadth of repertoire.  The young Soviet had never appeared with a chamber music quintet before the Cliburn semifinal, when he played with the Tokyo String Quartet.

"If he is exploited too much and too soon, of course it's going to be a bad thing," Lill said. "The quality of anyone can suffer if quantity takes over. He's got to pace himself. He's a great talent."

At his news conference, the 5-fcot-4 pianist of Russian-Uzbek parentage responded to the question of whether he was ready for the rigors of the numerous concert dates that come with the Giburn gold.

"If you have too many concerts, it can go two ways," he said through an interpreter. "It can bring you harm or it can help you. ... But there's one way to fulfill the (challenge). It's practice, practice, practice."

Looking flushed from champagne toast, an exuberantly self-confident Sultanov confided, "In this competition, I wanted the first prize or nothing."

Jury' chairman John Giordano, conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony, broke his silence on individual competitors after the awards were distributed, disclosing that even before the contest, he instinctively felt that Sultanov would be among the three medalists.

"His incredible energy and talent came through in the screening," he said of the auditioning session videotaped in Moscow. "I even told Robert Davidovici our concertmaster, that he was going to be one of the top contenders. I was worried from the outset that he might not be recognized."

Piano competition  have been attacked by critics as producing relatively few great artists, choosing instead the common denominator every' juror's second choice.

Richard Rodzinski, the Cliburn's executive director, had made numerous public assurances that the jury this time would select 3 winner who could communicate with audiences, if not excite them.

"A lot of complaints have been made about contest winners and they've all been true," said juror Abbey Simon, a noted concert pianist and recording artist. "They all sound alike, bland.

"But with Mr. Sultanov. we have a fearless, independent player who can be criticized in all sorts of ways, but we all can be criticized. If you arc looking for a pianist with charisma, a pianist who is brilliant, I think Mr. Sultanov with his wonderfully poetic gifts fills the bill beautifully."

The American juror dismissed contentions that awarding a pianist so young might prove professionally damaging.

"He'll have to sink or swim," Simon said. "I think Mr. Sultanov is the kind of person who can meet the repertoire demands and grow in a formidable way. But his growth is his own responsibility.

"And if he is as intelligent and'gifted as I think he is. he should be able to meet all

the challenges      I'm sure he's an original.

I have a feeling his teachers find him difficult but he's a delight to hear."

Brazilian Cristina Ortiz, who won the Cliburn in 1969. also at the age of 19, cautioned that gold medals do just so much for pianists, no matter their maturity.

"It's all up to them now," she said. "The ones that have it in them will make it whether they have the top prize or not. It accelerates the process (of building a professional career). It may not mean much.''

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who's No. 1 ?

 

Cliburn competitors face the luck of the draw

 

BY Barry  Shlachter

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

 

No. 1 was the loneliest number in the random drawing last night to choose the order of performers at the sellout Eighth Van Cliburrn International Competition. No one said they wanted to go first when the preliminary round begins tomorrow morning.

"I don't mind any, but I don't want the first number," said Lora Dimitrova of Bulgaria, who ended up 32nd. "Ev­erybody would prefer in the middle but not surrounded by the best per­formers."

Those first up find two obstacles, explained competition veteran Victor Sangiorgio, 30. a London-based Australian born in Italy, who drew No. 5. "The audience is cold and it's 9:30 in the morning. It's not very pleasant."

Even the youngest Cliburn contest­ant. 19-year-old Aleksei Sultanov knew better than to hope for No. I. "Of course not!" he made clear through a Marlboro-smoking Soviet interpreter. "I'd have to get up too early in the morning, and then you'd have to be a super genius!" He drew No. 27.

As competitors were called up in al­phabetical order, hoped-for middle numbers were going left and right at a Park Hill backyard dinner party held for the occasion.

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"I wonder when lucky No. 1 is cho­sen?" asked Fort Worth Symphony conductor John Giordano, who was handling the lottery. Then he sum­moned American David Buechner. who had the almost equal misfortune of choosing the last spot. No. 36, at the 1985 Cliburn and was eliminated early on."It's gone!" shouted a relieved Predrag Muzijcvic of Yugoslavia as the secretive Buechner took No. I, then slipped away from the gathering as he did before a morning news confer­ence without comment.

Giordano said the 29-year-old New Yorker showed absolutely no reaction. "Placid." was his description.

But Giordano, who is the jury chair­man for the two-week competition, downplayed the importance of ending up first tomorrow morning "That's why we schedule everybody twice," he said. Unlike many competitions, the Cliburn has a preliminary round with two phases in case a pianist hasa cold or a case of nerves. The musicians, most veterans of in­ternational competitions, spoke easily with reporters, playfully voicing com­plaints about the weather and later rais­ing some serious problems they have with juries, repertoires and politics.

 

 

  "I don't like to come to competitions they make me nervous." Disclosed  Seizo Azuma, 26, who admits to being unusually frank and even sardonic for his nationality. ("When 1 enter Japan, I change completely I become a very polite Japanese.")

Azuma, like most budding pianists, would rather perform at a recital than in a competition. Luckily for him, he already was familiar with the four-hour Cliburn repertoire, with the exception of the William Schuman work specially commissioned for the May 27-June 11 event.

"Every competition has its own obli­gatory works that make me angry some­times because they're not always nice the plain-spoken Azuma said.

"At the Tokyo competition, three years ago, they were so difficult to learn," he groused. "And at the Montre­al last year, I had only one week to learn a contemporary one and it was horrible ! It was like horror film mu­sic."

What's his complaint this time?

"I don't have one now," said Azuma, who paused, then laughed: "But I'll find one. ... Oh yes, too many pianos to choose from." (U.S., European and Japanese manufacturers have deliv­ered eight grands from which the con­testants can select.)

Hungarian Karoly Mocsari, 26, who lives in Paris, placed fifth in the 1985 Cliburn. But he is another who could live without piano-playing contests.

"They should give first prizes to ev­erybody 38 guys," he said. "No. 1 have a better idea. Why not let every­body play through the entire program not stages. That would be the best
solution. Of course, it might take two months..."

Make no mistake, some competi­tions are riddled with politics, and some with corruption, the outspoken Mocsari maintained.

"The worst might be in Italy because there's too many," he said. "It's funny because the Japanese used to win, and there might be a dirty reason. Some were sponsored by Yamaha."

What makes him think they were fixed?

"There are thousands of these first-prize winners Asians, mainly Japa­nese. But you never hear from them again. Why? They just aren't good."

(Yamaha rebutted the charge. "That's the first time I've heard any­thing like that," said Turley Higgins, Yamaha's director of U.S. concert and artist services and here for the Cliburn. "We do not sponsor competitions in Italy.")

Mocsari did not spare his native Hungary:

"In the Liszt-Bartok Competition, most of the time Russians used to win. They were good, usually. It's changed now. I was able to win (in 1986). But after me, the other prizes went to Rus­sians. I knew they would be Russians because of the past.

"But the Cliburn is a good one," Mocsari said. "If it wasn't, I wouldn't return."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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         Cliburn judges surprise some with selections

 

            Fort Worth Star-Telegram June 1, 1989

 

 

Andrew Wilde stood up and walked briskly out of Ed Landreth Auditorium, before the rest of the audience had budged. In the lobby, he paced back and forth. When someone reached out to console him, he drew away, a distant, bewildered look on his face.

He had lost

Kevin Kenner buttoned the jacket of hisdaik blue suit as he stepped onto the stage, his face a mask even though he had just been named a semifinalist in the Van Gliburn International Piano Competition.

The names of the fortunate 12 had been announced in the approximate order in which they had played during Ave days of preliminaries.

"I was waiting for (Leonid) Kuzman to be called. Suddenly my name came up," Kenner said 30 minutes later, standing next to the Silver Steinway as the auditorium emptied. "What hap­pened to (Andrew) Wilde? What hap­pened to (Eduardus) Halim? What hap­pened to all these people?"

And Kevin Kenner had won.

The 38 who began the competition and more than 400 avid concertgoers had waited nearly three hours to hear the jurors' verdict. It was 12:39 a.m. when jury chairman John Giordano began naming those who will play on.

Among the 26 who will not. there were tears, condolences and cynical jokes that the jurors' computer must have had a short circuit.

 

 

                Among the 12 who will, there was pleasure, and relief, and a fair amount of shock that the list of winners omitted so many who had been such favorites of the audience and the critics. Some found victory bittersweet. Inc semifinalists include three Sovi­ets (Elisso Bolkvadze, Alexander Shtarkman, Alcksei Sultanov) and two Chinese (Lin Hai, Ying Tian). plus Jean- Efflam Bavouzet of France, Pedro Burmester of Portugal, Angela Chengof Canada, Jose Carlos Cocarelli of Brazil, Benedetto Lupo of Italy, Kayo Miki of Japan and Kenner, of Baltimore, the (one American.

The eliminated include Wilde, Kuzmin and Halim. Ju Hee Suh of South Korea and Karoly Mocsari, who was fifth in '85. And yes, David Bucchner and Thomas Duis missed again. .-All had been deemed contenders. "I am pretty surprised.'- said Tamas  Ungar, head of the piano faculty at TCU. "Some of the better people didn't make it. I think the biggest upset was Suh and Mocsari."

Suh, who played with an injured pinkie and won the audience said "it's OK." She filed out of the auditorium immediately after the announcement.

"It's funny." said Mocsari, "just fun­ny ... just strange."

"It'smore acts of omission than commission "said spectator Grcgor Alien, winner of Td Aviv's Rubinstein Com­petition in 1980. "There were some that I thought were absolute shoo-ins Duis and Mocsari.

Afterward, outside and surrounded by supporters, Duis still had his trade­mark smile.

"They may be right, what can I say," he said. "We have gone through this before, so life goes on. So if we commit suicide because of what the jury says, we'd be in terrible shape"

"Maybe I'll go to Hawaii," he joked to one of those around him, or take a swingai eating the biggest steak in Tex­as. Back on stage. Kenner was still trying to understand what had happened.

"I'm not too coherent this early in the morning.... What's happened to some of these people? Where's Thomas Duis? I here were some excellent pianists who didn't get i n. We're not belle than them. The jury just preferred these twelve The idea of narrowing down the 'best twelve." Pianist Andrea Nemecz the wife of semifinalist Bavouzet was too upset to accept congratulations.

"This is very much not my list," she complained. "I  could tell you major, major pianists who did not get it.

"All competitions arc cruel. It's a big joy tainted with disappointments. I hope those who should have been there get enough exposure to know they are really very, very good."

"It's like an auto race," said Burmester, who made a point of shaking hands with each of the other semifinalists on stage with him. "But I've been a loser before, and most of the people up here have been losers.

"You either judge a moment or an artist. This is a moment in my life, a good moment. The others out there will have perhaps moments better than this. But right now. it is sad for them."

He wore tight designer jeans and an earring a gold cross and he said that the agonizing wail for the semifinal announcement "made me feel mortal."

The ceremony had taken a laborious .50 minutes, with words from contest namesake Van Cliburn and Radio Shack president Bemic Appel and gifts (Si00 from Cliburn. a portable CD player from Appel) for all 38 competi­tors, one by one. As for Irish pianist Hugh linney. he's calling it quits for competitions. "I decided that before it began. So fre­quently first rounds of any big competition produce some strange results, On the whole, I said what I wanted to say up there on stage (playing the pi­ano)."

American John Nauman's had enough, too. "This might be it for competitions. I will go on though . He was red-eyed. "Look at that group." he said, point­ing at the 12 semifinalists posing for a photo around the Steinway. "l'd kill... No, I wouldn't kill... "But for eight months, this was all I did...."   

On stage, with his teacher Zhou Guang-Ren translating, semifinalist Lin was saying. "I feel very happy, but in Beijing, it is not big news unless you make the top prize, one, two or three. If 1 only get in the semifinals, it is not big news."

In the lobby, someone else was trying to console Wilde, who had won bravos for his playing and his sparkle.

"Yes, you are surprised ... " he murmered. He recited it, as if he were trying to make sense of it, and he walked off toward the side door, with his wife Maria following.

His friend from England, Nick Spindler turned to follow, too. "I really should be catching up with him." he said Staff writer Jam Vincent Brady, Christopher Evans, Barry Shlachter and Hollace Weiner compiled this re­port.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Van Cliburn demands the pianist's best

 

By Carl Cunningham

 

 Post performing art critics

 

FORT WORTH - Every four years, there are 16 days in May and June when this city becomes one of the music capitals of the world at least where the world of piano playing is concerned.

This year, the attention is focused on 38 young pianists, aged 18-31 who were the competitors chosen for the eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. They are the lucky ones to reach for sudden stardom in one of the world's most grueling, heavily publicized piano competitions.

In the 27 years since it began, this competition has become a sort of standard-bearer for international musk competitions, applying the latest wrinkles in technology, business and marketing techniques and cash to the venera­ble but mysterious ritual of choosing a winner.

On the stage "of the competition, six pianists try to outdo each other and be the single one to stand on the winner's stage.

They sweat and smile nervously be­tween pieces, as tension fills the auditori­um at Texas Christian University where a winner will be announced Sunday.

But there's another question whispered seat-to-seat. "Where is Van Cliburn?''

The 54-year-old pianist and namesake of the quadrennial piano competition is a mystery man. Van Cliburn has taken on that aura in the world of classical musk since, at the age of 23 he stunned the world by winning the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition in the Soviet Union. He remains tightly behind the scenes and behind the camera.

Cliburn says he sees the competition's jury process, which winnows a field of 38 competitors down to six finalists, then a winner, as "a way of divining an opportu­nity cycle" for young artists.

The competitors' careers, he believes, will hinge on their ability to communicate music, what he calls "great pages of litera­ture," to the audience and. during the competition, to the jurors.

"This is a performer's competi­tion, and a performer is a servant; he serve the composer and he serves the audience." Cliburn said.

"In my own case, I'm a very good audience I always say that I am because I go to hear some­one because I enjoy being a mem­ber of an audience and 1 get very excited if someone speaks to me."

Cliburn makes no choices in his own mind as he listens to the performers. Instead envisioning each in his or her career.

 A crowd favorite entering the final round is 19-year-old Aleksei Sultanov of the Soviet Union, the youngest competitor this year, whose appeal appears to rest in his individualistic style and boyish charm. During the semifinals Sultanov brought more than half the audience to its ( with a rousing finale of Chopin's Sonata No. 3 in minor.

Audience members were again standing after the final recital of (he semifinals by Benedetto Lupo of Italy, who concluded with Rachma­ninoff's Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor. Lupo, 25, also reached the finals.

Finalists also include Elisso Bolkvadze, 22, and Alexander Shtarkman. 22. both of the Soviet Union: Jose Carlos Cocarelli, 30. of Brazil: and Ying Tun. 20. of China. Shtarkman's father. Naum, took third place to Cliburn's first in the 1958 Tchaikovsky.

With a budget of more than $2.5 million, the Fort Worth competi­tion may also be one of the most expensive competitions to main­tain and produce.

Other competitions have a more hallowed reputation in the musk world.  Moscow's Tchaikovsky Competition, the Leventrilt and Naumberg Awards in America, the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium and Britain's Leeds International Pianoforte Competition carry honored reputations less associated with the glitzy publicity that has surrounded van Cliburn competition. A crowd favorite entering the final round is 19-year-old Aleksei Sultanov of the Soviet Union, the youngest competitor this year, whose appeal appears to rest in his individualistic style and boyish charm. During the semifinals Sultanov brought more than half the audience to its (eel with a rousing finale of Chopin's Sonata No. 3 in minor.

 

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Audience members were again standing after the final recital of (he semifinals by Benedetto Lupo of Italy, who concluded with Rachma­ninoff's Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor. Lupo, 25, also reached the finals.

Finalists also include Elisso Bolkvadze, 22, and Alexander Shtarkman. 22. both of the Soviet Union: Jose Carlos Cocarelli, 30. of Brazil: and Ying Tun. 20. of China. Shtarkman's father. Naum, took third place to Cliburn's first in the 1958 Tchaikovsky.

With a budget of more than $2.5 million, the Fort Worth competi­tion may also be one of the most expensive competitions to main­tain and produce.

Other competitions have a more hallowed reputation in the musk world.  Moscow's Tchaikovsky Competition, the Leventrilt and Naumberg Awards in America, the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium and Britain's Leeds International Pianoforte Competition carry honored reputations less associated with the glitzy publicity that has surrounded van Cliburn competition.

 

 

           The Van Cliburn also no longer offers the highest cash prize. Exec­utive Director Richard Rodzinski admits that several major competi­tions now equal its top $15,000 award and the recently established international violin competition in Indianapolis now offers $20.000 to its top prize winner. But the list of perhaps 200 inter­national orchestral and recital performances (including future appearances with the Houston Symphony and the Society for the Performing Arts in Houston) offered to the winner make this a highly coveted prize, said to be potentially worth more than $200.000 to the winner.

It's a moot question whether the winner is ready for the punishing performance schedule and the harsh criticism that are probable byproducts of winning the Van Cliburn competition.

Past winners have groaned under the weight of that post-competition schedule, and Rodzin­ski explains that the list of engage­ments only involves agreements in principle with sponsoring organiza­tions. If the winner lacks sufficient performing experience, it is trimmed down to meet his or her professional readiness.

But the rules of the Van Cliburn competition are designed to weed out all but the hardiest candidates before they get to Fort Worth. The rest are eliminated in a relentlessly severe schedule that is neverthe­less praised by competitors for its excellent structure.

This competition is also highly praised by the contestants for the hospitality extended by Fort Worth families who host them and try to remove as much stress from their lives as possible, once they arrive and focus their energies on that all-important goal of winning.

"I must say. I think it's one of the heaviest schedules of any com­petition." said 28-year old French pianist Jean-Effiam Bavouzet. who was eliminated after the prelimi­nary round of two 25-minute solo recitals.

"One of the good things about the Van Cliburn competition is that you can show many things. You can show endurance, because you have to play two concertos (in the final round), with only one rehearsal.

"And each contestant gets to play two solo recitals before facing elimination in the first round." Bavouzet noted. Many contests eliminate competitions after one recital, where they may have been nervous and not shown their best playing.

Bavouzet also liked the fact that semifinalists get an opportunity to show their abilities in chamber music, and he had high praise for friendliness and adaptability of the Tokyo String Quartet, which was engaged to accompany each of the 12 semifinalists in one of four piano quintets by Brahms, Schumann, Dvorak or Franck.

The Van Cliburn competition has also pioneered the much-praised practice of auditioning its 193 qualified applicants by the use of videotaped recitals before live audiences in 16 Asian, American and European cities, from Beijing to Chicago and Warsaw. It was physically impossible for the screening jury to hear that many far-flung applicants live, and high-fidelity equipment donated by the Sony Corp. bridged Ihe gap as much as is possible.

In this regard, Bavouzet notes that the Leeds competition selected its candidates solely from written dossiers.

Pianist Angela Cheng. 29. a Hong Kong-born Canadian citizen now completing her education at Indiana University, considered the Van Cliburn competition compara­ble with Israel's Arthur Rubinstein competition, where she won third prize In 1986. Cheng, who was eliminated after the semifinal found, has won two other major competitions that had comparable features, the 1984 University of Maryland International Piano Com­petition and the 1988 Montreal International Music Competition.

While Cheng was disappointed that she didn't win. she wasn't devastated.

"It's wonderful exposure." she said, "but it's not the beginning of something or the end of a career." Next week, she will be playing a Haydn concerto with the St. Louis Symphony.

Bavouzet was similarly philo­sophical, praising the exposure and the challenge of making each con­testant try to exceed their previous level of achievement.

"If you can't endure it, it's not the competition (or you," he says. "But there is definitely a kind of sportsmanlike thinking about it. You have to put your highest level higher. You have to play better than your best."

Bavouzet decided to enter The Van Cliburn competition a year ago. He videotaped his audition in Paris in February, then put two months into playing recitals that would focus around the programs required for the competition.

The logistics of getting the con testants from dozens of foreign countries comfortably located in Fort Worth has its own harrowing problems, requiring all the resources of hospitality chairman Sharon Martin.

Since this year's 38 competitors included pianists from Indonesia. Yugoslavia. Korea. Bulgaria. Brazil. Hungary and several from the Soviet union and China, she had to find as many host families as possi­ble where someone speaks those languages. She also has to be careful not to place a chain-smoking pianist in the midst of a non-smoking family.

The only required party is the one where they draw lots for their order in the lineup the night before (he competition begins. Van Cliburn also hosts a consolation party for (he losers after the early rounds. And when the semifinals are over, the Van Cliburn Foundation hosts a brunch where the losers get to talk with the judges, to find out what went wrong in their performances.

Prior to that time, contestants are strictly forbidden to speak to the 15-member jury, whose 1989 judges include University of Hous­ton faculty pianist Abbey Simon.

Are Van Cliburn contestants dis­qualified if they play a wrong note or have a memory slip? Absolutely not, says Giordano, who has been the non-voting jury chairman since the 1973 competition.

"We all have memory slips and pianists grab whole handfuls of wrong notes during their regular careers," Giordano says. "What the jury is listening for are those much more important matters of style technique and interpretation."

 

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

 

 

 

 

 

Last measure

 

Cliburn finalists named amid tears of joy, pain

 

By James Vincent  Brady

Fort Worth Star Telegram

 

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         A tear came with the very first name. In a minute, Marina Mytareva was up on stage, watching the cameras flash on her charges: Elisso Bolkvadze, Alexander Shtarkman, Aleksei Sultanov. The young Soviet men had established themselves early in the Eighth Van Gibum International Piano Competition. But Bolkvadze's semifinal performances had stirred a murmur in the audience. And now, with a 1:20 a.m. announcement at Texas Christian Universi­ty's Ed Landreth Auditorium, all three Soviets were in the finals.

"When they called Elisso first," said Mytareva, her eyes glistening, "oh, I was crying!" . Officially, Mytareva is their interpreter, but now she felt almost maternal.  "It's like three grown kids," she gushed. Jose Carlos Cocarelli, a Brazilian liv­ing in Paris; Tian Ying, a Chinese pia­nist living in Boston; and Benedetto Lupo of Italy also won promotion to the finals of the most prestigious music competition in the Western Hemi­sphere. With their selection, high hopes were lifted and dashed.

John Giordano, chairman of the ju­ry, told all 12 semi finalists that they were winners. But all 12 knew that only the finalists would endure in the mem­ory. For the other half, high hopes fell bittersweet. The last American in the running, Kevin Kenner of Baltimore, turned to shake the hands that reached out to him after he was passed over.  "I'm kind of dazed," he said. "You never know how 14 people are going to make a decision.               I'm sure it's fair.

"I don't have any regrets. Others felt 1 communicated. Whether I win money or medals is secondary."As the finalists climbed the stage to pose for pictures with competition namesake Van Cliburn, Lin Hai a 20-year-old from Beijing, walked up the aisle, looking for his host family, Bill and April Yee. He caught their eye. He gave them a weak smile. His piano teacher, Zhou Guang-Ren, was by his side in a moment. "The strong ones won," she said. Lin iuststood emotionless.

The names had come alphabetically. Bolkvadze First. Frenchman Jean-Ef-flam Bavouzet knew right then that he had not been chosen. His face tightened and his eyes glistened, and he clapped for the others all the harder.Walking into the mild night air, he turned to his hosts, George and Betsy Pepper. "I'm sorry for you much more than for me," he said, his voice upbeat, his expressive eyebrows raised. "Oh, don't you feel sorry for us one bit," George Pepper said. His wife add­ed, "You've given us two wonderful weeks!"

And they each put an arm around his back as they walked away. Dedicated observers parents, teachers, family, journalists and the pi­anists themselves had crowded the hall, waiting for the announcement, which came nearly 2'/i hours after the last note of the semifinals. The jury's selections this time caused nowhere '. near the stir their first cuthad. Inreducing the original field of 38 to 12semifi-nalists, they had ousted half a dozen audience favorites.

Tamas Ungar, the usually outspoken head of the TCU piano faculty, was more reticent than usual. "I thought Kenner would get in, for .sure ... and Burmester definitely ... but then, I suppose there has to be some suspense in nearly every competition. Cest la vie."

In its peculiar way, elimi nation wasa gift to some. I am listening now," said the rail-thin Portuguese, Pedro Burmester, em­bracing competition production mana­ger Ann Murphy in an aisle. "Now I can have fun."

In the lobby, he turned to friends. Now, he announced, he could at last "be free togoTexas cowboy dancing." .Behind him stood Andrew Wilde, the Briton who had failed to make the first cut a week ago. With a wagging, pointed finger and a wry eye, Wilde barked, "And you should still prac­tice."

"Until I am 30," Burmester said with a sweep of his coal-black hair, "I will still be in the competitions, in the race. I will not practice tomorrow, but I will practice again soon. You don't stop being a pianist." The finalists don't have a moment to consider stopping

Tired, worn from days already of practice and facing a rehearse sched­uled less than eight hours later, Alexan­der Shtarkman, 21, the only blue-eyed Soviet in the finals, said with a smile, "What can I say?" The anticipation had been building.

"For two nights, they didn't sleep, Mytareva confided. Bolkvadze, 22, looked her best for the announcement. She wore white silk and aqua heels and blue eye shadow and her brown eyes sparkled as she sat on the piano bench, surrounded by the other five finalists, all males.

Beaming, they posed for pictures. Sultanov, 19, leaned back against the keyboard, his arms folded low across his chest, an even smile on his face. He was still thinking business. Perhaps he would switch from the Hamburg Stein-way to the Silver Steinway, he suggest­ed.

Lupo, 25, had given each of the oth­ers a congratulatory embrace as the finalists gathered on stage. As soon as the photographers paused, he dashed offstage to call his wife of 11 months in Aquaviva delle Fonti.

It would be morning in the town of 15,000 near the Adriatic coast, about 8:30, and he wanted to reach her before she left to teach literature at the local high school.

He was too late. She had gone. "I called my family," he said. "They will call the high school." Back on stage, he chattered with Cocarelli, 30, who wanted to call Paris. "That's where his girlfriend is," Lupo explained. They both grinned.

Vladimir Viardo, the 1973 gold medalist, stood at the foot of the stage, wearing a tuxedo, watching the finalists pose for pictures. Was he surprised at his countrymen's strong showing?

"We have a strong school and a good selection before they come to the com­petition. They go through three levels of selection. But it's unpredictable what's going to be in the finals."

Ying, 20, who seemed surprised when his name was called, has not seen his parents since he came to the U.S. at age 12. Now he thinks he will call them. "I figure it's about time I do."

He had left Shanghai at 12 to study music in the United States. His parents now run an antique shop in the West African state of Ivory Coast. "The first couple of years were diffi­cult, but I have managed to live alone," Ying said. "When I call, I'm going to tell them this exciting news.

"I'm glad I've got two more opportu­nities to play." After awhile, Richard Rodzinski, the competition's executive director, ushered the three Soviets over to an elderly woman in the front row. She wore a black dress and clutched a black cane.

It was Rildia Bee Cliburn, Van's mother. She wanted to meet them.Bolkvadze and Sultanov gave her gentle handshakes, and Shtarkman bent at the waist, took her hand and kissed it.

Staff writers Christopher Evans, Wayne Lee Gay, Barry Shlachter and Hollace Weiner contributed to this re­port.

 

 

 

 

A Grand Scale

This year's Cliburn has elevated contest's stature

By Nancy Kruh

Staff writer of  The Dallas Morning New

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FORT WORTH Finally. Is days and 112 piano performances later, a hush has fallen over the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. All that awaits is the climactic conclusion: the an­nouncement, at S p.m. Sunday, of who will win the gold medal.

But no matter which of the six finalists' names is called, the suc­cess of this eighth competition has already been assured.

Every performance has been a sellout. The level of talent, say jurors and critics, has never been higher.

And the profile of the Cliburn

is also on the rise. More than 150 reporters from around the world flocked to Fort Worth to cover the event, including representatives from the London Times, Voice of America, all three American tele­vision networks, and even the usu­ally lowbrow Entertainment To­night.

The attention is evidence of the Cliburn's clout in the realm of classical music.

"I think this and the Tchaikov­sky (the Moscow contest that Van Cliburn won in 1958) are the two most important competitions in the world, as far as impact is con­cerned," said Lee Lamont, a New York manager of classical musi­cians who is in Fort Worth for the Cliburn.

But with that clout comes pres­sures all of which must be con­tended with by Cliburn organizers and competitors.

The purpose of the event has al­ways been to recognize emerging talent in classical pianism. Yet the fact remains, 27 years since its in­ception, the quadrennial contest has yet to produce a bona fide su­perstar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Soviet's style key to Cliburn

Teen pianist's boldness sets competition on its  ear

 

By Olin Chism     

Of The Times  Herald Staff

               

FORT WORTH Aleksei Sultanov, a diminutive 19-year-old musician from the Soviet Union with a jack-hammer style of playing, won the eighth Van Cliburn International Pi­ano Competition on Sunday after­noon, topping a field of 38 interna­tional pianists.

The naming of the bronze, silver and gold winners brought many of the 3,054 at the Tarrant County Con­vention Center Theater to their feet as wild applause erupted and shouts of "Bravo!" were sustained through­out the awards presentations.

The selection of Sultanov virtually guarantees an interesting, if controversial gold medalist.

 

His playing through the four phas­es of the two-week competition tend­ed to draw strong reactions, both pos­itive and negative. The judges thus avoided a typical charge: That com­petition juries generally compromise on "safe" winners to avoid controver­sy. At 5 foot 2, with a slight build and a boyish face, Sultanov looks youn­ger than 19 he is tied with the 1962 winner, Cristina Ortiz of Brazil, as the youngest gold medalist. But he demonstrated awesome power and a prodigious technical command of the piano during the competition. He also may be a bit cocky. Asked after the awards program whether, in view of his age, he had considered his Cliburn entry before­hand more as a learning experience than a serious attempt to take the gold medal, he replied: "I came here with one object only to take top prize or nothing."

After the awards announcement the six finalists played a series of en­cores. Sultanov played two.

Sultanov, a reputed black belt in karate, calmed down after making a bad impression at the beginning of the competition with his aggressive style.

He became the favorite during the semifinal round, bringing the audience to its feet during a per­formance of Chopin's Sonata No. 3 in minor. Sultanov, a student at the Mos­cow State Conservatory, took $15,000 in cash plus a recording contract and an extensive, two-year series of engagements that will take him to many parts of the world. The total value of the package is estimated at more than $200,000. The other prize-winners were: Jose Carlos Cocarelli of Bra­zil, second. Benedetto Lupo of Italy, third. Alexander Shtarkman of the Soviet Union, fourth. Tian Ying of China, fifth.

Elisso Bolkvadze of the So­viet Union, sixth. Cocarelli won $10,000, a re­cording session and a series of concert dates.

Lupo won $7,500, a recording session and tours. Fourth through sixth prizes were $5,000, $3,500 and $2,000, respectively. Cocarelli, Shtarkman, Kevin Kenner of the United States and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet of France split the $1,000 Steven De Groote Memorial Chamber Music Award. De Groote, a former gold medalist, died less than a week before the Cliburn Competition opened. Kenner won a special $1,000 prize as the highest-ranking pian­ist from the United States. Lupo won a gold watch from Neiman Marcus for giving the best performance of a piece espe­cially commissioned from Wil­liam Schuman. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Dallas Morning News. David Hoo

 

Meeting with the Master

 

Van Cliburn is joined by the Cliburn piano competition finalists: (from left) Benedetto Lupo, Jose Carlos Cocarelli, Elisso Bolkvadze, Alexander Shtarkman, YingTian and Aleksei Sultanov. It hasn't been easy to spot Aleksei Sultanov among the Clibum contestants, because he usually is obscured by others flocking around him. He's small to begin .with; indeed, he's as small as he is young and he's the youngest of the 38 competitors, having not yet reached 20.

But there he is, in the vortex of aspirants for a Cliburn medal, and there has been lively speculation that he may win one. Soothsayers proclaim that "this is Russia's year in Fort Worth," and Sultanov is widely trumpeted as the best bet among the four Soviets. All command respect, as also do the trio of Russian-born pianists representing the United States.

A neutral, non-Russian competitor says "Alcksci's problem may be getting into the finals. But if he gets that far, the judges will (hear him play RachmaninofPs second concerto and may decide he just has to have the gold medal."

Sultanov gets to play Rachmaninoff today, as well. He'll deliver the Etude No. 5 in E-flat minor. His Bach is the Allegro that opens Bach's Italian Concerto. He'll also play the opening Allegro of Haydn's Sonata in E-flat major, and there will be two Chopin selections the Scherzo No. 2 in minor and the Etude No. 12 in minor.

 

 

          

 

 

A Soviet Pianist, Aleksei Sultanov, Wins Cliburn Prize

 

By Bernard Holland

Special for New York Times

 

FORT WORTH. June 11 The H-member Jury of the Van Cliburn In­ternational Piano Competition has given us first prize to Aleksei Sultanov, the tiny 19-year-old Soviet pian­ist who seems to have bowled over both jurors and audiences with the sheer power of his playing. The award, estimated by Cliburn officials to be worth $200,000. includes n cash grant of $15.000, a Carnegie Hall re­cital and two years of concert touring managed by the competition.

Second prize went to Jose Cocarelli aged 30. from Brazil, who receive $10,000 and extensive concert opportunities, including a recital in New York City. The winner of the third prize was a 25-year-old Italian, Bene­detto Lupo. The cash award Is $7.500 along with similar concert bookings. All three pianists will have the chance to record.

Mr. Sultanov's victory might be de­scribed as a triumph of brawn over sophistication. He has played the standard repertory over the past few weeks of competing with great power, unimpeachable technique and a mini­mum of subtlety. With this victory, he is suddenly thrust into a busy concert career, and it remains to be seen, given his extreme youth, whether Mr. Sultanov's new life will permit his musical understanding to stretch or else Impede Its growth. The talent Is certainly there.

Conventional Wisdom Upheld

Mr. Cocarelli's good showing seems to demonstrate the conven­tional competition wisdom that that well-groomed competence has n way of steering its way through the possi­ble strong likes and dislikes of Jurors. Mr. Lupo's elegant technique had a similar steadiness. Perhaps the two most interesting musical personalities Aleksandr Shtarkman. 22, of the Soviet Union and Ying Tian. 20. the Chinese now living in Boston finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Sixth prize went to the other Soviet pi­anist, Eliso Bolkvadze. 22.

 


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The winners announced from the stage of the Tarrant County Conven­tion Center Theater early this evening were chosen from six finalists. Since the last rounds of this competition began here In downtown Fort Worth on Thursday, the six have performed two concertos each with the Fort Worth Symphony under Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Dudley Moore, the actor and pianist, served as this evening's master of ceremo­nies. At the end the six finalists played departing "encores."

An Unexpected Hamper

The finals gave all six contestants a chance to perform on a grander scale than during the earlier rounds. This was not always to their benefit or to the competition's. Most troublesome was the poor quality of playing by the Fort Worth Symphony. The Chopin F-minor Concerto (heard four times in the three days) and the Rachma­ninoff C-minor (heard twice) are not gracefully written for orchestra: still, the inability of the Fort Worth's  winds on Thursday and Friday to achieve even a semblance of agree­ment on tuning and balance and the lack of confidence heard in their solo playing was unacceptable.

 

 

 The orchestra's execution tight­ened considerably on Saturday night. In the Rachmaninoff C-minor Con­certo with Mr. Lupo, the horn solos went well and blendings were smoother and better tuned; but Mr. Lupo's attempts at interesting tempo fluctuations in the first movement here were largely ignored.

Lack of rehearsal time or the pres­ence of a guest conductor (the experi­enced and highly professional Mr. Skrowaczewski) cannot fully explain away these performances, and it has to be asked whether the Cliburn can really be the event it largely deserves

to be with the kind of orchestra play­ing heard during the first two evenings of the finals.

Moving the competition from Texas Christian University's Landreth Auditorium a reasonably in­timate and acceptably resonant space where the earlier rounds were held to a hall notable mainly for its drab, faceless modernity and poor acoustics has also not helped this event. That two of the three Soviet players momentarily lost their places during Thursday's and Friday's per­formances is attributable in part to nerves and pressure, though the in­ability to hear properly and to re­spond to their collaborators on stage might have contributed.

Mr. Sultanov avoided such prob­lems on Friday by simply routing  through his Chopin and Rachmanin­off pieces as if no orchestra existed, often leaving Mr. Skrowaczewski and his musicians to pant in pursuit.

The Cliburn's audience changed with the move downtown as well from the sophisticated and near-devotional concentraters observed during the nearly two-week-long pre­liminary and semifinal rounds at T.C.U., to the Tarrant Center's social-event foot-shufflers and squirmers, listeners more typical of symphony subscription audiences everywhere. Saturday's full house was quieter, however.

Shifts in the Music

Indeed, as it has grown toward its grand conclusion, the Cliburn has sometimes decreased in quality. For better or worse, it has measured its climax according to physical size more musicians playing bigger pieces more loudly before larger audiences. It is a syndrome of in­verted values that troubles the competition process in general, one whereby the more important (albeit quieter) repertory Bach, Haydn, Mozart and the Beethoven sonatas has been relegated to the earliest phases, while works largely of lesser quality (the endearing, inspired though roughly crafted Chopin and Rachmaninoff concertos or the Prokofiev C-major and Saint-Saens G-minor, both brilliant and compara­tively shallow) have served as the final tests. Concertos, however, are for the am­bitious pianist the stuff of profes­sional success. They are the basic fuel for orchestra engagements, while recitals and their often more subtle repertory are less popular and offer less exposure. Indeed, the ambivalence between pianist as artist and pianist as career maker has been central to the deci­sions these 14 jurors have had to ar­rive at: has the Cliburn, in other words, tried to choose the best musi­cian or has it sought out the pianist with enough strength, endurance and solidity to withstand the onslaught of opportunity which Mr. Sultanov must now face.

Extensive News Coverage

The Cliburn is a big and expensive enterprise and it depends on public exposure to prosper if not survive. Roughly 80 news organizations have been covering this event, and daily television cameras have been thrust in the faces of contestants at every al­lowable moment.

Yet the Cliburn's most effective promotional device is not its attrac­tion to news organizations but its win­ners. It is they who go out and sell not only themselves, but also the compe­tition that elevated them. A tacit quid pro quo is at work here, and the Cli­burn is counting on Mr. Sultanov to work as hard for Fort Worth as Fort Worth has worked for him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In one man's opinion, a small measure of  fine-tuning would make the Cliburn

World s  Best

 

By Wayne Lee Gay

Fort Worth star-Telegram

 

 

Detroit knows how to make cars, Hartford how to sell insurance, Hollywood how to make movies. Fort Worth knows how to put on a piano competition. And as of this week, the world knows it.

It took nearly a generation of sweat, devotion, arm-twisting and love of the piano to make the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition into the Western Hemisphere's best piano competition. It took nearly another generation of media cultivation and careful spreading of the word for the international music community to recognize the fact

In the Americas, the Cliburn is home safe for the foreseeable future. Even if some upstart competition in Salt Lake City or College Park or Palm Springs decides to lake aim at it, even if some other city can somehow pull together the financial resources the Cliburn has cultivated over a quarter of a century, it would take decades to learn how to do it as well as Fort Worth.

The next step is obvious: to make the Cliburn into the most prestigious piano competition in the world.

Between now and 1993, the Cliburn has greater technology, greater financial backing at its disposal than any other competition. It has greater human resources at its beck and call. It has the concentrated devotion of an energetic, dynamic city.

 


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It also faces two dangerous pitfalls: jury credibility and the management of its champions.

Sour grapes arc inevitable at any competition. Losers and friends of losers arc eager to entertain and spread rumors of politics, favoritism and fudging. And if the Cliburn is not the most maligned competition in the rumor mill, it also is not the most unsullied.

Its jurors have publicly questioned the fairness of decisions to which they were a party. Warranted or not again and gain it has been charged with considering national origin in its selection process. And it cannot af­ford to have another day, ever again, like the opening day of the semifinal round, when an audience of interna­tional press and visitors witnessed sub-professional performances of chamber music and the required piece.

 

 

 The obvious and necessary solu­tion begins with the jury selection process. The competition's adminis­tration must become fanatical about the integrity and quality of its judg­ing panel. It must listen to any and all charges of favoritism and politics, and it must go the extra mile to in­vestigate those charges.

It must presume itself guilty until proven innocent

It must be willing to spend the money' to seek out and hire a jury whose reputation is beyond reproach, even if that means cutting back on fripperies such as a celebrity master of ceremonies.

In short, the jury at the 1993 Cliburn must be as impressive as the competitors.

The second challenge will be the management of three very different medalists. The selection of Aleksei Sultanov as gold medalist was in some ways a remarkable achievement the Qibum actually may have given its top prize to the most excit­ing pianist of the generation. But he comes with some very risky attachments. He's 19. He has a lot to offer and a lot to leam. The Cliburn must handle him and educate him. If, 10 years from now, Aleksei Sultanov is anything less than one of the most respected and beloved pianists in the world, the Cliburn will have to ask itself some very hard questions about what it is doing and why.

His career is not, as juror Abbey Simon said after the announcement, "his own responsibility." It is very much the responsibility of the Cli­burn Foundation, if the Cliburn is to have credibility in the future.

Silver medalist Jose Carlos Cocarelli is a different matter. He hasn't developed the personality at age 30 to be anything other than a musi­cian's musician. The Cliburn must shoulder a huge responsibility in de­veloping an audience for an artist whose appeal is at best limited. If Cocarelli disappears, the Cliburn once again will have to ask itself some hard questions about its func­tion and efficiency.

Bronze   medalist Benedetto Lupo u less risky than the two ahead of him. Although his personality emerged slowly during the competition, he is an artist of staying power and con­sistency. The potential for disaster is much less with Lupo than with Sultanov or Cocarelli. But, if the Giburn is to become the undisputed leader on the international competition circuit, someone needs to be lying awake at night pondering how to make sure that even the bronze medalist becomes an important pia­nist. The moment Sunday night when young Aleksei Sultanov stood, arms raised in triumph, to accept the cheers of an audience that obviously loved him was the high point of the Cliburn's history.

It could be the golden moment when the Cliburn, basking in the in­ternational limelight, reached its pinnacle. Or it could be just the beginning for a competition that actually pro­duces the international stars it promises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sultanov is winner of Cliburn

19-year-old Russian was youngest entrant

 

By Nancy ruh

 

 

FORT WORTH Russian Aleksei Sultanov jubilantly accepted the gold medal for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition on Sunday.

The lyear-old from Tashkent showed no reserve when he heard his name called, jump­ing from his seat, punching his fists above his

head Rocky-style and bounding to the stage with youthful exuberance.

He had every reason to be happy. The prize is one of classical music's most coveted and it virtually assures him a concert career.

The award was presented before a packed house at Fort Worth-Tarrant County Conven­tion Center Theater. Other top finishers were Jose Carlos Cocarelli of Brazil, who took the silver medal, and Benedetto Lupo of Italy, who earned the bronze. The Soviet Union's Alexan­der Shtarkman was fourth, China's Tian Ying, fifth, and Eiisso Bolkvadze of the Soviet Un­ion, sixth.

 


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Critics have been saying the Cliburn needed a genuine "personality" to wear this year's gold medal, and the 14 jurors delivered with Mr. Sultanov.

The diminutive Russian is the youngest of the 38 Cliburn competitors, but his explosive bravado at the keyboard ignited audiences throughout the 16 days of competition.

His confidence matches his piano skills. At news conference after the awards ceremony, he explained his strategy for the Cliburn: "I wanted to get the first prize or nothing."

screened his videotaped audition in February. The two jurors sat on the committee that selected the competitors.

"He's a great musician, a great art­ist, a real talent unique," said Mr. Shostakovich, son of composer Dmi­tri Shostakovich. "I listened to three bars and I was sure he must be the gold medalist."

 Mr. Votapek, the 1962 alburn winner, said Mr. Sultanov's often un­conventional style "works because he's not dishonest. He does some­times outlandish things, but I person­ally don't think we could have gone any other way. He's not a flash in the pan."

The Cliburn victory virtually as­sures that. First prize includes a S1S.O0O cash prize, but more import­antly, concert engagements over the next two years worth an estimated $200,000. An appearance in Dallas is tentatively planned.

Despite what could be a withering performance schedule, Mr. Sultanov indicated he wants to continue his musical education at the Moscow State Conservatory, in addition to fulfilling his Cliburn obligation.

I know it is difficult to fulfill," he said through an interpreter. There is only one way to fulfill it prartice practice, practice."

Earlier, though, Cliburn Founda­tion executive director Richard Rodzinski explained that the tour will be tailored to the winner.

"All those prearranged concerts arc only done in principle to date," Mr. Rodzinski said before the medal­ists were announced. "We gear the nature of the concerts, the number of concerts and the extent of the tours toward ^heir ability. If some­one is capable' of doing only 30 or 40 concerts a year, that's all we'll give them.

"What we're here to do is help these young musicians. To throw them to the wolves would be con­trary to the purpose of the founda­tion."

All the concert agreements, he said, guarantee an appearance by one of the medalists not necessar­ily the winner of the gold.

Mr. Sultanov joins Brazilian Cristina Ortiz, who sat on this year's jury, as the youngest Cliburn winner. He studies under L.N. Naumov, who also coached 1973 Cliburn gold medalist Vladimir Viardo. After the award of ceremony, Mr. Viardo was backstage to congratulate Mr. Sultanov.

The announcement of the medalists was the climax of a ceremony over seen  by  actor  Dudlej Moore, himself an accomplished con­cert pianist. After a brief intermission, each of the six finalists returned to play short selections.

Mr. Sultanov offered an unpre­dictable interpretation of Chopin's familiar Grande Waltz Brilliante. He came back for an encore of the com­poser's rousing Revolutionary Etude, pulling the audience to its feet once again.

Offstage, though, his commanding presence shrinks into boyishness: He openly idolizes Mr. Cliburn. saying the Port Worth virtuoso has a "Rus­sian soul." He also is a student of Ko­rean martial arts and a fan of Bruce Lee movies and jazz music. While in Fort Worth, he enter­tained friends with his jazz piano skills and played by ear Duke Elling­ton's Take the 'A' Train. Also during his stay he received his first driving lesson; his host family took him to a nearby college parking lot, where he could practice with abandon. And he shopped for his girlfriend, who will be receiving as a souvenir a genuine American bikini.With the Cliburn win, his future promises a changing lifestyle and he assured reporters during the news conference that he is very am­bitious about a concert career. "For me. this competition is al­most everything," he said. "I want to play for the audience. I want to play for the people." 


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Second- through sixth-place fin­ishers also are assured significant boosts to their careers.

For second place, Mr. Cocarelli re­ceives S10,000 and a New York debut recital and concert. Mr. Lupo, who placed third, wins $7,500 and concert tours. Mr. Shtorkman receives $5,000, Mr. Ying $3,500 and Miss Bolkvadze $2,000.

 Other prizes awarded at the ceremony were the Steven. De Groote Memorial Chamber Music Award of $1,000 for the best chamber music performance to Jean-Efflam Bavouzet of Prance. Mr. Cocarelli, Kevin Kenner of Coronado, Califs and Mr. Shtarkman. Mr. Cliburn per­sonally endowed the award and re named it this year in honor of the 1977 gold medalist.

 

 

 

 

 

Sultanovs playing isn't just at keyboard

By Hollace Weiner

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

 

 

As Fort Worth was discovering Aleksei Sultanov, he was discovering a new world at Blockbuster Video. He checked out kung fu movies up to three a day. Horror flicks like Friday the 13th. Then he spotted Charlie Chaplin.Yesterday, this boyish Soviet was named the best of 38 young pianists from around the world. He is 19, trying not too successfully to grow a mustache, and possessed of the excitement that the Eighth Cliburn had charged itself with identifying.

"Charisma..." second-place medalist Jose Carlos Cocarelli had mused at the backstage news conference, "that's communication with a lot of love all the way through. My colleague" he motioned toward Sultanov "can tell you more about charisma."    

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Of the six finalists, only Sultanov looked . like he was having a good time at the piano.He plays powerfully, teasing the audience with body language. When he bows, his long hair flops into his eyes, and you could swear you see him smirking. 

As if he were watching Charlie Chaplin. His favorite scene, from The Gold Rush, is one in which Chaplin sticks forks into his dinner rolls, pretends they are people and performs the dance of the buns.

"You don't need to speak English to understand Charlie Chaplin," said Susan Wilcox, Sultanov's host in Fort Worth.

When Sultanov arrived at the Wilcoxes' Wedgwood doorstep, he'd never heard English outside the classroom. "I think his English was good to begin with, but he was afraid to speak it because it was completely untried," said Jon Wilcox.

So at first they stuck with Russian, relying on Jon's three years of the language at Texas Christian University and Susan's command of Polish. By yesterday, they were up to 25-percent English.

And Sultanov understood the meaning of a scream like the shriek Susan emitted when she spotted two garden snakes taking a dip in her backyard pool.

"He knew I hated snakes. We had talked about it," she said.

Sultanov picked the snakes out of the water... and surreptitiously carried them to his hosts' bedroom. "At that point, I knew he was part of the family, because he thought that was very funny," Susan said. Sultanov was so proud of the prank that when a reporter telephoned for details, he gave his first English interview. Eagerly.

 

"They were no little, no big," he said of the snakes. "Susan was very afraid, yes. I don't afraid of snakes, no."

Whatever the case, the incident endeared Sultanov to the couple, who have a cat but no children, and they began calling him their "adopted son."

They knew he was an accomplished martial artist he has earned a black belt but it was not until the competition that they knew the kind of pianist he was.

"He practices a few bars at a time, slowly so he can hear every note," Susan said. Then he gets on stage and rips through a piece in record time. "We never heard a full piece until the concerts."

They have, however, sat through a number of kung fu movies from beginning to end.

 

 

 

 

 

The party almost went on without them.

 

By Carol Nuckols

Fort Worth Star Telegram

 

It was almost 9 p.m. before the medalists, who had been detained by news conference, arrived at the Worthington Hotel's Grand Ballroom for the party in their honor. About 1,400 guests had sat or stood around for nearly two hours, sampling roast pork, black-eyed pea relish, fried catfish, fresh berry shortcake, locally made cheeses and other upscale, down-home cuisine.

But when the medalists arrived they were met with congratulations, hugs, cameras and requests for autographs.

Cold medalist Aleksei Sultanov paused on the way into the ballroom to view- the collage that photographer Chris Reynolds has been compiling from every party. Standing beside him was 12-year-old Philip Viardo. Vladimir's son. Sultanov was only an inch or so taller.

Inside the ballroom, Robert Gourdin, North American sales director for Moet et Chandon, decapitated four bottles of champagne with a saber to oooohs and gasps. He poured one bottle of the bubbly into the top glass of a pyramidal stack of glasses, then invited the medalists to join him in pouring the other bottles until champagne flowed like a foun­tain.

The first glass went to Sultanov who, it should be noted, is underage. It also should be noted that he drank i t down mostly i n one gulp

The crowd gave him a "bravo.

 

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 Stiv and Stari Eisman were doubly pleased that Sultanov won the gold medal yesterday.

"We are ecstaticwe picked him from the first, said Staci.

"No question that Aleksei was the best pia­nist here," said Steve, "The jurors were right on."

. The other reason: The Eismans have one of Sultanov's piano strings "the one be broke on the Hamburg Steinway." Steve said

"We're getting the string framed with Aleksei's autograph, said Staci. "We haven't met him yet, but we will"

Martha Hyder pulled out all the stops for the alfresco luncheon she threw yesterday for out-of-town guests. Mariachis greeted the guests, ' kilim rugs were spread out everywhere and big bee-trimmed umbrellas shaded the fuchsia-draped tables.

Jurors mingled with all the competitors for the first time since the competition began. Previously, jurors and competitors had been kept segregated, but by yesterday afternoon, it didn't matter. The decision had already been made.

"I know, but I'm not telling." smirked jury chairman John Giordano.

The star movie star Dudley Moore, who emeced the awards ceremony. Giordano took the opportunity to suggest a Moore appear­ance with the Fort Worth Symphonyand to pull a prank on his wife, Mary Alice.

"This is my wife," Giordano introduced her. Th3t was Moore's cue. "The eyesight is not what it used to be, Moore said while shaking her hand. The line cracked everybody up

Why? It's the punchline to a joke Giordano had been telling all week, which can't be re­peated here.

How does Kevin Kenner measure up to Van Cliburn?

The two stood back to back Saturday night at the reception that followed the last competi­tion performance.

The decision: Kenner by one-half inch. He's 6-foot4tt to Van's 6-foot-4.

The reception, at the Fort Worth Club, resembled a Cliburn family reunion, with relatives showing up from Sheveport and beyond Also present was Gretel Ormandy, widow of conductor Eugene Ormandy, to whom Cli­burn will dedicate next Monday's concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra his first public performance in more that a decade.

As the two-week marathon of parties came to a dose, guests were congratulating enter­tainment chairman Mildred Fender for organ* iring the social calendar.

Things went of Twith few hitches. Only the ranch party was forced indoors by rain. The air conditioning went out at River Crest Country Club during a Saturday luncheon for jurors, but box fans were brought in and windows opened, and nobody seemed to mind

The jurors, incidentally, earned reputations as social animals. They've held up not only to the endless hours of music but also to the nonstop round of luncheons and dinners, at' which they tended to linger. And then they partied into the night at the Worthington Ho­tel's hospitality suite.

What's in store for Cliburn Foundation workers, now that the medals arc awarded and everyone else is winding down?

" Instead of 80-hour weeks, maybe well only be working 60." said publicist Beth Wareham, yawning frequently during a quick phone in­terview-. "It will be absolute chaos for us for at least two or three weeks solid

This morning, there are meetings among the Cliburn, the medalists and international man­agement reps. Then Sultanov must begotten to the airport in time for a 4 o'clock flight to New-York he has an appointment tomorrow with NBCs Today show.

After that, there are press kits to compile; travel details to arrange, a competition CD that needs to be publicized ...

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cliburn winner plays at more than piano

 

FORT WORTH (AP) - As Fort Worth was discovering Aleksei Sultanov, he was discovering a new world at the video store. He checked out kung fu movies  up to three a day. Horror flicks like Friday the 13th. Then he spotted Charlie Chaplin. Sunday, this boyish Soviet was mimed the best of 38 young pianists from around the world. He is 19, trying not too successfully to grow a mustache, and possessed of the excitement that the Eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competi­tion had charged itself with identify­ing. "Charisma..." second-place medalist Jose Carlos Cocarelli had mused at the backstage news confer­ence, "that's communication with a lot of love all the way through. My colleague" he motioned toward Sultanov "can tell you more about charisma."

 

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Of the six finalists, only Sultanov looked like he was having a good time at the piano. He plays power fully, teasing the audience with body language. When he bows, his long hair flops into his eyes, and you could swear you see him smirking.

As if he were watching Charlie Chaplin.

His favorite scene, from The Cold Rush, is one in which Chaplin sticks forks into his dinner rolls, pretends they are people and performs the dance of the buns.

"You don't need to speak English to understand Charlie Chaplin," said Susan Wilcox, Sultanov's host in Fort Worth.

When Sultanov arrived at the Wil­cox doorstep, he'd never heard Eng­lish outside the classroom. "I think his English was good to begin with, but he was afraid to speak it because it was completely untried," Jon Wil­cox said.

So at first they stuck with Russian, relying on Jon Wilcox's three years of the language at Texas Christian University and Susan Wilcox's com­mand of Polish. By Sunday, they were up to 25 percent English.

 

 And  Sultanov  understood  the meaning of a scream like the shriek Susan Wilcox emitted when she spotted two garden snakes tak­ing a dip in her back yard pool.

"He knew I hated snakes. We had talked about it," she said.

Sultanov picked the snakes out of the water ... and surreptitiously carried them to his hosts' bedroom.

"At that point, I knew he was part of the family, because he thought that was very funny," Susan Wilcox said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jury earns more darts than laurels for picks

 

By John Ardoin

Music Critic of The Dallas Morning  News

 

FORT WORTH It's all over, in-eluding the shouting, at the eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. As had been expected, the gold medal went to a Soviet pia­nist Aleksei Sultanov. At 19, he is the Cliburn's youngest winner since 1969's Cristina Ortiz of Brazil, coincidentally, a member of this Cliburn jury.

Though Mr. Sultanov is far from a fully formed artist, he is one who leaves excitement and controversy in the wake of his playing. And that may even be what helped him win. The Cliburn sorely needed a spir­ited winner after the bland choices made in the past two competitions.

Nor was it difficult, personal tastes aside, to understand the awarding of second prize to Brazil's Jose Carlos Cocarelli. Though he is a conservative and, at times, gray performer, he rose steadily after the preliminaries, making his best showing in chamber music and with orchestra.

What was unfathomable was the jury's preference of Italy's Benedetto Lupo over the Soviet Un­ion's Alexander Shtarkman. Mr. Lupo has neither the technical com­mand of the piano nor the range of color and imagination to justify this decision.

For me, this was the one sad moment of the awards ceremony, and one that seemed to go beyond mere personal preference. But, as they say, that's horse racing. How­ever, if Mr. Shtarkman was better than fourth, China's Tian Ying fit comfortably into fifth place, and sixth was custom-made for Soviet pianist Elisso Bolkvadze.

An unexpected decision was the splitting of the chamber music prize renamed by Van Cliburn in memory of the 1977 laureate. Steven De Groote four ways. It went to America's Kevin Kenner, who also won the award for being the high­est-ranking American pianist, Mr. Shtarkman. France's Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and Mr. Cocarelli.

After the awards presentation, the finalists were heard in encores. None of the playing did anyone credit, but after all the six had been through, who could blame them for the widespread feeling of letdown that had set in?

In any such event, what matters when all the prizes are given and the applause has died away is whether one can accept with good grace and firm belief the first prize winner. That presented no problem for me at any rate, in this year's Cli­burn.

 

 

That virtuoso guy is so totally cool

 

 

In a Sultanov sweat: You know Aleksei? That teen-age guy living over at the Wilcoxes' house? Well, you won't believe, man. That guy won the Van Cliburn!

1 know, man. It surprised me, too. I knew he played music, but I thought, maybe he's in some Deep Blum punk band! ."

Hes only19, man. I saw him the other day. renting Bruce Lee movies at Blockbuster. He had some new Manhattan Transfer CDs, too.

J talked to him, man. He's really cool. He  loves the Wilcoxes' house, because they've got "th1sttur pool.

You know what he did, man? Well, one day. he finds a snake in the pool. So he, like, grabs it, and takes it inside and scares Mrs. Wilcox!

He says once he caught a cobra, man! Grabbed it in his lore hand! Cool! (Not here. In Tashkent. I don't know where it is. But I think Southwest played them in baseball.)...

New movie idol: Yeah, Aleksei's cool, man. He's only S-foot-4 and he doesn't even look 19. Bet they'll card him to get into PR's!

And he's real good-looking. With all this, like, hair. The Cliburn videos go on Channel 13, but he should make MTV!

It's so cool that a teen-age guy woo. Terri Allen this girl from Haltom City, agreed

"He's four days younger than me," she said. "I've earned this good-luck crystal for him all week, and I want to give it to him.

"I am just in love," she said. "I would die to hold his hand."

Katherine Blackmon and Chuck Brizins from SMU were happy, too. They're both 20.

" Hes young and spunky, and so different." Blackmon said.

"He's so excited." Brizins said. "When he won, he threw his hands up and screamed. And he held up the cup, like he'd just won Wimbledon."

 Bruins wanted Aleksei to ditch his dosing Chopin: "I thought, come on, man. Kick into little Elton John."...

Ready  to play: You know what else? Aleksei just drove his first car last weekend. Mr. Wikox let him drive the Lincoln. Aleksei turned rubber, man! Hes only 19. Now he's this beg star! He's in New York tonight, but he nt even party. He'll be on The Today Show1

I saw Aleksei on TV, man. Everybody asked if fie can handle the pressure. Sure he can! What's a piano, after you've handled a cobra?

Anyway. Alekseis  really cool

He knows kung fu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look for two Soviets, Brazilian to be winners

 

By John Ardoin

 

Music critic of  the Dallas Morning News

 

 

FORT WORTH The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was topped off Saturday evening with concerto appearances by Brazil's Jose Carlos Cocarelll and Italy's Benedetto Lupo. Only the pry remains to be heard f rom at Sunday afternoon's awards ceremony.

This third and last stage of the Cliburn has been a difficult and perplexing time for performers and listen­ers alike. A few bids have been enhanced China's Tian Ying and, on Saturday, Mr. Cocarellland several hopes have been dashed, chiefly those of the Soviet Un­ion's Elisso Bolkvadze.

But there have been I no buzzes or thrills as I were experienced In the I preliminaries and the semifinals. Maybe the reason Is simply fatigue or saturation. But whether a contestant lagged behind in the finals or sprinted ahead, it is the Jury's duty to con­sider all phases of a pianist's playing in making its final decision. On this count. I can only fervently hope It will be responsible.

1 believe the 1989 medalists will be the Soviet Union's Alexander Shtarkman and Aleksei Sultanov and Brazil's Jose Carlos Cocarelll. Though Mr. Cocarelll was bland In the solo rounds, he did deliver the most poetic play­ing of the chamber music performances, and on Satur­day, his playing of Chopin's Second Concerto was streaked with high lyricism and deep feeling.

He also was heard in Brahms' First Concerto, and It was rocklike, virtually note-perfect and quite admira­ble. It wasnt exciting or illuminating, but It was very professional and easily outranked Mr. I.upo's pedestrian playing of Chopin and Rachmaninoff concertos.

So where will that leave the six finalists? This is a difficult Jury to second-guess, but I expect first prize to go to Mr. Shtarkman, second to Mr. Sultanov end third to Mr. Cocarelll. However. It Is easy to formulate other scenarios.

For example, first prize might go to Mr. Sultanov and second to Mr. Shtarkman. I also could envision Mr. Sul­tanov and Mr. Cocarelll sharing second prize, or even the two Russians splitting first prize. I don't see Mr. Co­carelll In the running for first prize, however..,

As for the other prizes, I expect Mr. Ying to take fourth. Mr. Lupo fifth and Miss Bolkvadze sixth, al­though Mr. Lupo might luck out with fourth and Mr. Ying fifth. As for the chamber music award, I expect It to go to Mr. Cocarelll, and the prize for best perfor­mance of William Schumann Chester to be Mr. Shtark­man.

And, if I bad my way, I would create a special prize for Stanislaw Skrowaczewski's masterful conducting of the Brahms Concerto, and the care, affection and in­sights he brought to Chopin's F minor Concerto.

 

    

       - .

 

            - .

, .

... , 1989 . .    ,   , , 2-    ,

  , -, , , , "". . .,  .    ? , ,   , - -. - .

, , -. , , -    . ,...

 

            Jo Ardoin

            The Dallas Morning News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winner will have it all and more

 

By John Ardoin

 

.FORT WORTH What makes a winner? That question must be uppermost in the minds of audience mem­bers who have sat so patiently and attentively during the preliminaries of the eighth Van Cliburn Interna­tional Piano Competition. How do you separate one accomplished performer from another, all of whom must appear worthy of some sort of prize?

 

The answer lies not just in technique, tone, musicianship, nerve or any of the other ingred­ients essential to enter and survive a harrowing experience such as this. To win, you must have may 27 june 11    every good thing every other competitor has in greater abundance, plus some­thing more, something of your own that excites the im­agination and raises goose bumps.

In short, you must have what the Soviet Union's Al­exander Shtarkman had Tuesday and what his country­man Aleksei Sultanov and Portugal's Pedro Burmester

demonstrated Wednesday during the final preliminary

round. The real contest has narrowed down to these three amazing artists. Any one of them would provoke excitement in a competition; having all three at the Van Cliburn is creating bedlam. For his second appearance, Mr. Sultanov left his crit­ics open-mouthed with his playing of the slow move­ment of Mozart's Sonata K. 330, a moment of great deli­cacy and depth. He then gave an all-out storming version of Liszt's Mephisto Waltz, which prompted a quick intermission to replace a broken string so that Mr. Sultanov could continue.

He clinched his remarkable second appearance with two movements of Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata, played with audacity, wizardry, artistry and animal vitality. He seems to stretch himself and get better each round.  Again it fell to Mr. Burmester to follow in the wake of Hurricane Aleksei, and again he triumphed in his own special way. He opened with the Mozart Sonata K.

545. a piece most pianists sidestep because of its child­like simplicity. But it became an angelic, disarming statement in Mr. Burmester's hands. Next, he gave us four sections of Schumann's Kreisleriana that were of the purest fantasy and wond­erment. And to conclude, he turned to Leonard Bern­stein's transcription of Copland's EI salon Mexico, which he played with enormous color and verve, as though it were sort of a soufhof-the-border version of a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody.

The final day of preliminaries had begun strongly with the return of South Korea's Ju Suh. She pro­vided limpid, unaffected Mozart plus two big virtuoso pieces that showed she intended to hold her own against all comers. I expect her to go all the way to the finals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Soviet emerges as Cliburn standout

 

By John Ardoin

 

In every competition, yon wait for the contestant who takes absolute command of the stage and the in­strument, a competitor possessed by the music he or she has chosen to perform. That moment in the eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition came Monday corning with Aleksei Sultanov from the Soviet Union, as it bad 16 years ago with Vladimir Viardo and 12 years ago with Alexander Toradze.

Only 19, Mr. Sultanov is that sort of inspired per-former who establishes standards by which other play­ers must be held accountable. He Is a pianist who doesn't need to be crowned a winner; his playing boldly proclaims it

Mr. Sultanovs facility and command of his in­strument is total, and musically, there were no loose ends or lapses in concentration. Every phrase was thought out to its logical conclusion and delivered with conviction, authority and a bravura sense of fantasy. He began with Bach's "Italian" Concerto, well-etched and couched in a strong, noble tempo, and then moved to the Haydn Sonata in flat, which was a rare blend of humor and brilliance.

His preliminary trial peaked with an iridescent, in­tensely lyrical tracing of Chopin's second Scherzo, and he unleashed a torrent of passion and sound In etudes by Chopin and Rachmaninoff.

He seemed an impossible act to follow, but the won­der of Monday morning was that the next pianist was capable of holding his own in a very personal way.

Portugal's Pedro Burmester used his liquid, ex­tremely flexible and variegated sound to rich effect In a superb, searching performance of the toccata from Bach's Sixth Partita: it was the most magical playing of Bach in the preliminaries. His Haydn had whimsy and grace, and to it be added the unexpected element of mystery.

Chopin's Impromptu. Op. 36 and Scriabins Etude in D flat followed, with the Chopin free and spontaneous and the Scriabin lilting rather than driven. The latter piece works both ways; I happen to prefer Mr. Burmesters style.

Of particular Interest again during the morning session was Indonesia's Eduardus Hallm. who was heard a few years back In the CJB. Dcalcy Awards con­test. He has grown greatly and is now  a  more settled, eloquent artist. He offered stately Bach and elegant Liszt

While the afternoon session the end of the first phase of the preliminaries bad occasional highlights, it was a largely an uneventful period until South Korea's Ju Suh occupied the stage. Her ap­pearance had been delayed a day because of a finger Injury. But on Monday, nothing seemed to present a problem for her articulate, raging technique.

Miss Suh brought clarity to Bach's "Italian" Con­certo, enormous drama to Beethoven's Op. 7 Sonata and took Chopin's first Scherzo at a brilliant dip. which never faltered. But It was in the Liszt Paganini Etude with which she ended her group that the heavens opened, and she made a shining bid for a place In the Cliburn sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commissioned work gets varied treatment

 

By John Ardoin

 

FORT WORTH No one 1$ certain of the origins of what has come to be known as "the contest piece" a commissioned work required of all competitors in a music competition. But it is now a fixture at most contests, and it has always been a part of the Van Cliburn International Piano competition. The Cliburn has commissioned such of compos­ers as Aaron Copland. Samuel Barber. Leonard Bern­stein and John Corigiano for contest pieces, and this year's work is by William Schuman. It is a set of varia­tions titled -Chester. Variations for Piano" and based oq an old American hymn. Ive never understood the purpose of contest piece. As one pianist put it. "Contestants hate learning them and audiences dread hearing them."

The Schumon is no better and no worse than most, and certainly core Untenable than easy, given Its  rather folksy, straightforward character. But so far It has not fared well In the Cliburn.

During the first day of the semifinals. It was treated either with disdain or with indifference. Finally on Sat­urday cane a suave and convincing performance by Brazil's Jose Carlos Cocarelli. There was also a lively and comcitted one by toe USSR's Aleksef Sultanov. While Mr. Sultanovs "Chester" was too heated to be Ideal, at least he, like Mr. Cocarelll, treated the piece with seriousness and prepared it with care.

Mr. Sultanov placed the Schuman between two eighty keyboard works Beethovens "Appassionata" and Chopin Third Sonata. Both were given extraordi­nary' performances In Mr. Sultanov hands the Beethoven became as much a feat of control and concentra­tion as one of pianism. It was a grand musical experience as well as a mesmerizing theatrical one, and it again marked Mr. Sultanov as the most compelling and dominant artist In these proceedings. His Chopin was equally exciting and individual perhaps too individual for some. Bui then, what arc mannerisms to one person are Insights to another.

The balance of Mr. Cocarellis recital included an airy, charming performance of Schumann "Abegg" Variations and a trying and inadequate one of Brahms Sonata in Minor.

Saturday's first recital was given by China's Tian Ying. Ho enforced his standing as the cost interesting of the Oriental pianists heard hero in the past week, one whose playing has fluidity, color and poise.

His gifts are great, but still In a formative stage, for his playing often was without sufficient definition; as If it lacked an inner core. For all his sensitivity, his  playing Is at ticics subdued to the point of being overly self-effacing.

In the chamber music category, Saturday's best were the solid, professional, but hardly eventful performances of the Brahms Quintet by America's Kevin Kenner and of the Schumann Quintet by Portugal Pedro Burmester. Both appeared with the Tokyo String Quartet, the resident ensemble for the competition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Music Review

 

             Pianist Sultanov: A Conquering Winner

 

 

 

            Less than two weeks after winning the eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Ft Worth, Tex., Aleksei Sultanov on Thursday night launched an extended period of fulfilling the concert engagements that come along with his gold medal The 19-year-old Soviet citizen gave a sold-out recital to an overflow audience at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena.

And, unlike the last three Cliburn winners who began their post-competition tour with a first stop in Pasadena (in 1977, 1981 and 1985) and later re­turned with disappointing results, Sultanov con­quered immediately and unequivocally.

More important than his musical and technic 1 credentials which seem perfectly in order and even surpass in some respects the standard we have come to expect from international competitors is Sultanov's personality.

He has one. It seems individual, perhaps even unique. And the impassioned articulate and sensitive playing that flows from his arms and fingers with the naturalness of a lion's roar or a bird's cooing ex­presses something more much more than mere good training, as cherishable a quality as that may be. It expresses a successful bonding between per­former and listener.

Playing an old-fashioned (some might even say hackneyed) debut program consisting of well-worn sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven and Prokofiev and too-common show-pieces by Chopin and Liszt, Sul­tanov distinguished himself in every way. And won hearts in the process.

He probed familiar works with a bright but never perverse imagination. He reinstated appropriately the conversational flow of musical sentences most of his listeners could recite by themselves. And he heated up these chestnuts to their full flavor.

Beethoven's "Appassionata" Sonata became a celebration and not for a moment a cerebration of direct communication from pianist to audience. Sultanov gave it the full range of his dynamic inter­ests, caressed the inner workings of the great slow movement, then rode the finale to a glory to which many aspire but few achieve.

In a very few moments, his Mozart the Sonata in , K. 330 - went beyond the limits of style and restraint.   But,  in general,  it purled along,  made sense as music, and stayed in its own century Prokofiev's sure-fire Seventh Sonata seemed. after the fact, a tad contrived Sultanov may by now have earned the right to be tired of it yet it emerged as predicta­bly effective and hair-rais­ing as any reiteration of it we have heard in this locale.

The compact, tireless pi­anist seemed most at home in  the  display  mode  of Chopin's    - flat   minor Scherzo and Liszt's  "Mephisto" Waltz, where his accuracy, speed and passionate delivery gave them a surprising freshness. In  an  evening  of quick   responses  and  hyperactive  tem­pos, Sultanov saved the fastest for last. His two encores were both by Chopin, the "Grand Valse Brillante" in E-flat and  the   ''Revolutionary''.

 

 

           By Daniel Cariaga,

           Times Music Writer

           Los Angeles Times

           Saturday , June 24, 1989

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            The Russians

 

          Seven Cliburn contestants carry on the intimidating tradition


             At the breezy garden party nothing seemed to faze Lin Hai, the tall, impassive young Chinese pianist. Not the Beijing upheaval, not the anticipation of the stage, not the newness of America.Nothing, that is, until mention of the name Sangiorgio.Alarm seized his expression, and he leaned forward to consult his interpreter. Relieved, Lin eased back with a nervous laugh.He hadn't quite heard correctly, the interpreter explained. For a moment there, Lin thought he was up against one more Russian. The spell lives on.Contestants here from 19 lands are well versed in 19th-century demigods Franz ,    Liszt and Anton Rubinstein. They revere the 20th-century performances of Lazar Bermann, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Emil Gilels that sustained the Russian aura. They know Van Cliburn himself is a product of  the Russian school.In the field of 38 Cliburn contestants, seven carry the intimidating Russian musical heritage, though only four competitors are Soviets and only two of those are from Russia proper.Tradition may be formidable, the pianists say, but it comes down to the personalities that dominate.The Soviet contingent this time includes a diligent young man on a personal quest perhaps older than himself; a boyish youth schooled in Kung Fu; a woman who loves to sing and another who loves to laugh.With only one of them handy with English and only one interpreter to share, they stay separately with their host families, pointing and gesturing, thumbing through French and Russian dictionaries, finding common ground at the refrigerator. So far, so good.Mild and sociable, Alexander Shtarkman, the leader of the contingent in many eyes,   * carries a sporting interest. He is only 21, but should he take the gold, he would be, in a sense, raising the mark his father set 31 years ago.His father, pianist Naum Shtarkman, placed third in the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition, the one in which Van Cliburn won top place and world renown.In an interview, Shtarkman said he tries not to let that bear down on him nor, for that matter, the great Russian tradition. Though his father has advised him on music and the politics of competition, the younger Shtarkman insists he can only play for himself.He started by the time he was 5. Even in a setting of high expectation, as a child Shtarkman said music was a pure joy. But between 15 and 16, he rediscovered music, apart from plans and parents and schooling and a new drive inside himself. "All of a sudden, there was kind of a switch there. I realized it all had to be work. This switch just happened. It becomes a part of you, in your blood, and whatever you saw as a child as your entertainment has become your life."Critics see his performance as one that is controlled, his momentum strategic in the way it builds. In his first preliminary performance, Shtarkman meted out an excitement that tingled by his finish.It's not rising emotion, he says. "It's homework."He has mixed feelings about competitors and competitions."On one side, it's a fight, and always a good fight, and always a good fight to come to the top but that should only be on stage," he said through an interpreter."From the other side, the competition is absolutely necessary and the musicians are very friendly with each other. All that happens backstage."Onstage, all you should think about is performing."And while the task of carrying forth the Russian tradition could be considered a considerable burden, nothing, Shtarkman said, parallels the intimidation of walking out to perform."If you can dare to come on stage, you can consider yourself almost Jesus Christ," he said.Somewhat in contrast to Shtarkman's debonair attire, Aleksei Sultanov arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport with a Bruce Lee pin on his lapel. At 19, he is the youngest, and at 5-foot-6, one of the shortest of the contestants.He was considered among the pre-competition favorites. His first performance leads off today's schedule at 9:30 a.m. No matter how he performs, he is guaranteed to hold his place among the most colorful. With a flouncy mop of uncontrollable brown hair brushing his cheeky face, Sultanov may not seem dangerous. However, he studied kung fu for three years and tae kwon do for another year in his native Tashkent, capital of the Urbek Republic, which borders the Himalayan Mountains.And other than piano, the only passion he's expressed in Texas is for some kung fu videos, cigarettes, pizza and sashlik provided it is prepared correctly.Sultanov's host, Jon Wilcox, got a chance to exercise the Russian he studied many years ago, and to learn the difference between sashlik Georgia-style and sashlik-Tashkent.Wilcox said his family prepared the dish, which resembles lamb kabob, Saturday night, but Sultanov took one sniff and shook his head. "We had pizza." Wilcox said.Earlier yesterday, Sultanov had gone into a 15-minute chain-smoke panic when he called the Cliburn office to receive his repertoire and nobody answered. Then, it was back to practice.Veronika Reznikovskaya has been practicing, too, with time for little else. She was the second of the Soviets to perform, and the velvet beauty of her music was in contrast to the digital precision of Shtarkman, who directly preceded her.Her parents are bothjnusicians, Reznikovskaya said, and they tell her she showed musical propensity when she sang songs even from age 1. She studied music formally as a child, and debuted in concert at 11.Now she is 22, and still loves to sing.Elisso Bolkvadze, 22, was also absorbed in practice, and little else. She's been polite to the cat, jocular with her hostess, Karen Milan (especially since they are struggling to make French do what their English and Russian cannot), and concerned how the other Soviets are faring."She listens," Milan said. "She was nervous the day she played (Saturday) being the last. She wanted to know what the others said in the newspapers."Milan has seen it before: Friends or not, the pianists from the same country develop a kinship and unleash a need for conversation that builds up especially later, after the contest is narrowed.But for now, Milan said, "Mainly, they just practice and rest and eat. And wring their hands a lot."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Fort Worth Star-Telegram / Monday, May 29,1989

 

 

             Stage set for Cliburn competition

          The 8th Van Cliburn

 

 

             FORT WORTH The tickets are sold out, the pianos are tuned, and the judges are poised.

Now, the fate of the eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition rests in the well-rehearsed hands of 38 of the world's most promising young musicians.

The first chords will resound at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, once American David Buechner takes the stage at Ed Landreth Auditorium at Texas Christian University. The 30-year-old New Yorker drew the dreaded first posi tion in the five-day preliminary round.

During the last Cliburn competition in 1985, Mr. Buechner was an early favorite among both the audience and the media; his failure to advance to the semifinals brought a public outcry. He is at the cutoff age for the Cliburn; this is his last chance at the competition.

The taciturn Mr. Buechner so far, he has refused to talk with reporters al­ready has emerged as one of the high-pro­file competitors. Others seem destined to be closely watched for reasons besides contro versy.

Karoly Mocsari, a 27-year-old Hungarian who now studies in Paris, also is making his second appearance at the Cliburn. At age 22, he was the youngest of the six finalists in 1985; he placed fifth. Anything less than that this time, he said, will be a disappoint­ment.

"I have to reach the finals," he said. "I've been practicing ei a day," said Kevin Kenner, a 26-year -old Californlan. "But I've got to be careful. I started getting pains in my forearm, and that's never happened before."

West German Jurgen Jakob said there is such a thing as too much practicing before a competition. "It's like in sports," said the 27-year-old who has recorded and per­formed extensively in his country. "You can't run 25 miles before a marathon."

During this week, each musician was given an hour to select one pi­ano out of eight to play during the competition. There also was time for photographs, interviews and parties, including a lawn party Thursday night where competitors drew numbers to determine the or­der in which they would perform.

After more than 45 hours' worth of preliminary performances, 12 pi­anists will advance to the semifi­nals, June 2-6. Then six will com­pete in the finals, June 8-11. The 14 judges will announce the winner on June 11.

First prize is a $15,000 in cash

and a worldwide tour that could earn the performer up to $200,000.

All the competitors are keenly aware of what a victory would do for their careers. have to get one step closer to the top."

The Soviets will be getting most of the attention, if only because this is the first time they have competed in the Cliburn since 1977. Of the five in the field, Aleksei Sultanov is the Wunderkind. Program informa­tion lists his age as 20; he says he is 19, and he looks even younger.

Three years ago, Mr. Sultanov competed with a broken finger in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the most prestigious of all piano events and the one Cliburn won in 1958. Despite his impressive performance in the preliminaries, he was forced to withdraw by the judges, who were fearful he would permanently damage his hand.

To Mr. Sultanov, the Cliburn holds special meaning because of its namesake, who is planning a So viet tour this summer. The young Russian spoke of the Fort Worth pi­anist in tones usually reserved for a screen idol.

"He's a brilliant pianist," Mr. Sul­tanov said through an interpreter. "The Russians miss him very much. He has a Russian soul."

By Wednesday, all 38 competitors had arrived in Fort Worth. Among them are 10 Americans, five West Germans, three Chinese, and two each from Japan and Yugoslavia.

The pianists all are staying with Fort Worth host families, whose homes have been outfitted with grand pianos for practice.

And practice is what the competitors have been doing with most of their spare time.

 

           By Nancy Kruh

           The dallas morning news

           Saturday, May 27, 1989

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         Dealings ease with Soviets over Cliburn Under Gorbachev's new policies,

         the U.S.S.R. offered to let the competition pick any qualified pianist, whether officially sanctioned or not.

 

 

 

 

         Glasnost has reached the banks of the slowly flowing Trinity.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of openness not only permitted the current exhibi­tion of unofficial Soviet art at Fort Worth's Modern Art Museum but also greater freedom by the Van Cliburn International Piano Compe­tition in selecting young Soviet entries.

That's not to say that the Cliburn selection process was exactly the same as else where or that Soviet cultural authorities harbored no suspi­cions that the choices they pushed for might be deliberately sabotaged.

Of 193 applicants who auditioned on three continents, five were Soviets pre-screened by Gosconcert, Moscow's official artistic manage­ment agency.

But for the first time, Gosconcert officials said that if the Cliburn heard of any other qualified Soviet pianist, he or she would be allowed to compete in Fort Worth though without the Soviets picking up the tab for air fare, said Richard Rodzinski, the Cliburn's executive di­rector.

"This time we could have gone beyond their pool," he told an informal Texas Christian Uni­versity course explaining the workings of the competition. "But there was no need."

Since the Cliburn this time could have reject­ed or chosen any of the five proposed, there were initial Soviet apprehensions that it might pur­posely choose those least likely to succeed, Rod­zinski recalled. This led to hesitance in allowing the audition to be videotaped for the screening committee based in Fort Worth.

" 'What would happen if you didn't select those whom we consider the top three?'" he quoted the Soviets as asking him.

The U.S.-bom, European-reared Rodzinski, a persuasive former artistic administrator of the Metropolitan Opera, said he argued that it was in the interest of the Cliburn as an international competition to locate the best talent available.

"It's easy to choose the top three," Rodzinski said he told them. "And furthermore, if we don't find any more better in London or Paris or Tokyo, we may take all five."

The videotaping went ahead.

In the end, the committee in Fort Worth chose four of Gosconcert's five. In a field of 38 compet­itors, they form the largest contingent next to the American lineup of 10, of whom three are Sovi­et-born.

Although such pre-screening was not conduct­ed in Warsaw or any of the Western audition sites, where anyone could enter, Rodzinski said he had no qualms with the pre-selection process in either Moscow or Beijing.

"When it is impartially done, it saves us a lot of work because they filter the best," he said.

Cliburn officials are confident the Chinese and Soviets handled it objectively, he said, "be­cause of the fact that they were willing to let us hear anybody else. I think that's a very clear indication they were really trying to do their best."

It will be the first time since 1977 that any

Soviet citizen will be competing in the Cliburn. There were none at the last two competitions because bilateral cultural ties had been snapped with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

"The fact that they were not partici­pating all these years was traumatic for young Soviet pianists, I am absolutely sure," said Alexander Toradze, 36, who won the silver in the 1977 Cliburn and defected three years later. "Many youngsters would like to see their ca­reers and musical life going the way our careers and lives took us.

"Now, after a long dark winter, spring has arrived."

The ascension of the reform-minded Gorbachev, the introduction of glasnost and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan have brought about changes in cultural contacts, some big, some small.

For example, the Cliburn requested

the personal mailing addresses of the Soviet competitors. Past programs were only able to list them "c/o Gos­concert, Moscow."

Permission was granted this time, but the information arrived after the printer's deadline. Rodzinski said he's thinking of a way to insert the informa­tion by hand if necessary.

Toradze said the package of conces­sions the Soviet authorities granted the Cliburn should not be underestimated.

"I see it as a big change, a major change and a happy one," he said in a telephone interview from New York.

And if any international competition could wrest such concessions, it would be one associated with Fort Worth pia­nist Van Cliburn, Toradze said.

"His name represents ultimate fair­ness," Toradze said. "Van Cliburn is a sacred name in the Soviet Union, abso­lutely sacred. Besides the spirit which

he represents, his victory in the (1958) Tchaikovsky Competition was a unique celebration of art triumphing over mistrust, over the Cold War, over politics."

Toradze attributed to glasnost the fact that Soviet competitors will partic­ipate even though a Soviet defector, conductor Maxim Shostakovich, is a member of this Cliburn jury. The Sovi­et Georgian-born pianist said he doubt­ed if any would have been sent under such circumstances before the Gorba­chev era.

"" Toradze contrasted the current, open climate with that of 12 years ago when he and other Soviet competitors were ordered not to contact Youri Egorov, an entry who had defected to the West in 1976.

The stock (if the Kremlin thought in such terms) of the Soviet juror at the 1977 Cliburn, a man named Nikolai Petrov, shot up in Moscow not because Toradze won the silver medal but be­cause "Egorov was eliminated before the finals," Toradze asserted.

"Politically, that was more impor­tant for the Russians."

Many, including Toradze, said they believe Petrov's influence on jurors played a role in Egorov's poor showing. But Rodzinski said, "I don't think it'll be ever possible to find out all the truth."

Toradze said he expected Soviet competitors would be allowed for the first time to mix freely with the others, including three Americans of Soviet

origin.

In 1977, Soviet pianists had to check in regularly with their "translator," whom they were convinced was a KGB agent, albeit a highly sophisticated one, he said.

"We telephoned her even when we went out for a hamburger," he said.

"The attitude of Soviet competitors this time will be more human, more normal, more collegial because they will be less fearing the eyes of the other

Soviets like the fake translator who will be watching and monitoring all their movements," he said.

"But I don't know if they will take chances, use this opportunity, be will­ing to be open.

"Freedom has to be learned. It's a different alphabet, a different language and you have to learn it. But because it is a natural language for humans, once you get the smell of it, it's a universal process."

 

  

By Barry Shlachter

 

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Thursday A.M., May 25, 1989

 

 

 

 

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