23 January ~ the fourth day in Hannover

Eberhard, amateur pianist and founder of the Berlin Amateur Competition, shares our passion of giving amateurs opportunities to express their love of making music. He and Richard want to organize a federation of international amateur competitions to enhance networking and coordination of events.

The world of music is like any other ~ small and connected. Here we saw Maria Mazo, 2005 Cliburn Competitor, who is studying at the Hochschule in Hannover and had a master class with Veda Kaplinsky. She shares a bite with Marcello when she came to say hello at a reception for the Jury and celebration for Richard’s birthday.

And we all sang ~ HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Steinway is a wonderful sponsor and partner! Steinway provides pianos for the recitals in all the venues. Gerrit travelled from Hamburg, international headquarters for Steinway, to greet the Cliburn delegation and to hear the performances.

Friday evening, the hall was filled ~ not an empty seat! Throughout the day, audiences were coming to support their various favorites. One doesn’t have to know the spoken language to understand the appreciation of an artist and a performance. There definitely was a buzz ~ bravos and numerous curtain calls for several of the competitors. Truly, this was a day and night of exquisite performances.

Saturday is the last day in Hannover. We leave early Sunday morning for St. Petersburg; therefore it may be a few days before I get back to the blog. Everyone is well ~ thank goodness! Alann

Hannover ~ the half way point at the Hochschule auditions

The Hochschule in Hannover, one of Germany’s prestigious music conservatories, welcomed the Cliburn Screening Jury with a warm reception following a Press Conference which featured an interview of Richard for German television and interviews with Veda and Richard for German radio. The Hochschule has made a great effort to publicize this event which will fill the hall for the entire week; these lively posters are everywhere on campus.

Audiences crowd to see the schedules for the first day of afternoon and evening auditions.

Applicants are coming to Hanover for the auditions from many countries: Belgium, Canada, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, Russia, Spain, Ukraine. This international representation gives much meaning to the spirit of the Cliburn ~ the power of cultural diplomacy.

All bundled up for the walk to the Hochschule. John is proud of his new hat, and Marcello sports a special sparkle ~ always!

On Tuesday, competitors showed off many composers, even though Chopin headed the list; in one evening there were performances of his Twelve Etudes ~ Opus 25 and Opus 10. The audiences are enthusiastic and applaud warmly, calling back their favorites for two or three bows. Thursday night, it was almost a full house, as many came to encourage ‘the home team’, Hannover Hochschule artists.

Richard tells Linda Engelhardt how much we appreciate all the arrangments and hospitalaity she made possible at the Hochschule for the Cliburn Auditions.

Richard tells Linda Engelhardt how much we appreciate the arrangements and hospitality she made possible at the Hochschule for the Cliburn Auditions.

Linda and Richard served together on the Executive Committee of the World Federation of International Competitions for many years. Linda is recently retired Executive Director of the Celle Violin Competition. She encouraged the Hochschule in Hannover to roll out the red carpet for the Cliburn. Wonderful success!

As a matter of protocol as Chairman of the Competition, it is not proper for me to comment on the performances. I am anxious not to show any preference that I shy away from taking photographs of applicants backstage or pacing the halls waiting to go on stage. However, I do want to note the high level of talent, the earnestness and desire of these young artists to communicate and to share their incredible gifts. There have been many memorable moments. I wish all could share in the experience. Alann

Shanghai ~ a summary

A walk in the park (sponsored by the Shanghai Spiritual Civilization Promotional Committee) before the auditions ~ one sees little boys playing with helicopters, all ages doing tai chi, men painting Chinese characters on the open walkways; writing is considered a fine art and exercise in China.

Dinner included roasted lamb bits presented in a Chinese boat sailing on a cloud.

Marcello Abbado pauses with us in front of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Over the two days and three evenings, we heard 16 applicants, 12 males and 4 females. Liszt was the most performed composer. However, we heard 5 performances of Rachmaninoff’s Second Sonata, a Bach prelude, two Mozart sonatas, and 2 Chopin nocturnes. It is interesting to note audiences in China are reserved in their applause even though they are rapt in their listening to the performances. More than half of the hall was filled with young people, and parents brought their children who tried hard to sit still ~ like young children everywhere; they ultimately found it more comfortable in the balcony.

As we left Shanghai, this red symbol was being hung everywhere as the Chinese begin to celebrate their New Year, the year of the Ox. The Chinese are a vibrant people, eager to embrace the present and mold the future. We leave inspired and continue the quest for competitors for the Thirteenth Competition in Hannover. It will be a 24 hour journey. Alann

Saint Petersburg

St. Petersburg Conservatory

Here we heard 13 applicants from across the Russian Federation. In all, we will hear 27 Russian in auditions, which is the largest national majority. However, in these days many of the Russians study and live abroad.

Liszt and Rachmaninoff were the favorite composers for these applicants, and we did hear some wonderful Scarlatti. Whatever the acclaim of the ‘Russian school’ ~ factors of it are in transition. Time brings change.

It is interesting to note that the audiences in the Conservatory do not applause until the performance is ended, and even then the response is only polite.

The acoustics are wonderful, and the hall is richly beautiful. Over the last four years, the Conservatory has undergone major restoration for its public places ~ like most of the imperial buildings in St. Petersburg ~ utterly stunning. The city has a special glow this week as it celebrates the 65th anniversary of the end of the Seige of Stalingrad/St. Petersburg.

Today we leave snowy St. Petersburg and head for Lugano, Switzerland, and two days of rest ~ a welcomed respite on the schedule before four intense days begin. The auditions in Lugano will be streamed on our website ~ so take a look, beginning Saturday, 31 January. And, I will be back on the blog. We all send our hellos to everyone. We are still in tact and holding up! Alann

Shanghai ~ first day

Shanghai Conservatory of Music hosted a Press Conference for the Cliburn as it launches its first competition screening auditions in China. Interest focused on the webcast of competition in May-June, the process of selection of the jurors, the artwork for the competition, and the 3 years of engagements for the winners that accompany the prizes.

Veda Kaplinsky, Richard Dyer, John Giordano, Hung-Kuan Chen, Marcello Abbado ~ the Screening Jury ~ with Richard as they complete their orientation of the rules and procedures for the auditions. Before the first recitals at 8:00 Thursday evening, 15 January, the group went to the Yu Gardens for last-minute sightseeing and shopping before the arduous work begins.

Vendors in the square and in hundreds of stalls surrounding Yu Gardens

Vendors line the square and entice you from hundreds of stalls surrounding Yu Gardens. If you can’t find what you are looking for here, it doesn’t exist! The Gardens are amazing; 500 hundred years old, they have been restored several times and remain a place of inspiration and tranquility.

Today is the last day in the office before we take off. Richard and I need lots of help getting everything into a briefcase or suitcase ~ schedules, contact information, presents, cameras, computers and all the wires that power these wonderful machines. Diane and Pat and Janice know how to fit it together. Hope we still have room for the boots and gloves. We are leaving Fort Worth where it is a balmy 76 degrees and heading for much colder clime. Alann

The entire Cliburn staff is working feverishly to finalize preparations for the screening auditions which begin next week. Cliburn President, Richard Rodzinski, and Cliburn Chairman, Alann Sampson, will join Jury Chairman John Giordano, and Jurors Marcello Abbado, Hung-Kuan Chen, Richard Dyer, and Veda Kaplinsky in Shanghai – the first of 6 cities – to hear 155 applicants for the first phase of the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. I will be the blogger for the journey and hope to send photos and news from each city. Follow our story. Alann


Weather conditions delayed departure from St. Petersburg for Munich and the connection to Milano for the van to Lugano. We made the connection because they held the plane for us but not the luggage. So we had a bit of a layover in Milan while we waited for the luggage to catch up with us. Everyone was a good sport, and John Giordano took this opportunity to stretch out!

Ahh! It’s all worth it.
Sunset at Lugano.
Marcello sits for the setting of the stage lights before auditions begin.

The first day of recitals showcased 6 applicants performing a range of repertoire from Beethoven to Ligeti, with three opting for Schumann. The hall in the radio station is perfect for these auditions; the audience is rapt and polite, with definite preferences. Two from North Texas came to Lugano to follow these auditions in person, one joining the trek in Hannover and continued to St. Petersburg.
Davide Cabassi comes to say ‘Hello’ and share news!

Davide Cabassi comes to say HELLO and to share news.

Four years ago Davide auditioned in Lugano for the Twelfth Competition in which he competed and became a laureate ~ finalist, and he remembered how very nervous he was in Lugano. Today he came to tell us he and his wife are expecting their first child in July. Davide’s smile lit up the hall. CONGRATULATIONS! With great expectations, Alann

Sunday in Lugano ~ Day II

Six very interesting applicants ~ from all over the globe ~ Italy, Israel, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Korea. Special performances of Stravinsky, Scarlatti, Szymanowski, Scriabin made for a wonderful day of concerts.

There has been good coverage of the auditions on the radio and television, including interviews with Richard. However, the audiences remain small but faithful ~ eager to give encouragement to these remarkable young artists as they take on this challenge.

The acoustics are very good ~ can hear every soft note; in quiet passages it seems as if we hold our breaths, not wanting to disturb the resonance of the notes ~ and there is no coughing, regardless of the cold.

Getting ready to return home! ‘Knee deep’ in snow, Alann

Monday in Lugano ~ Day III

Palm trees display snowy bonnets!

Snowbound! Snow fell heavily and stranded travellers throughout western Europe. This kept two applicants from performing their audition recitals today; they will prepare DVDs and send to Fort Worth for the jury to view later in the month. However, the programs performed presented several spectacular moments. Liszt and Scriabin had special spotlights.

Snow does not dampen enthusiasm. Dr. and Mrs. Heiniger are from Zurich; she is in the arts and he is a geophysicist/mathematician/teacher and amateur pianist; they came to Lugano Thursday to spend vacation time at the auditions. He has been following the Cliburn since 1997; hopefully, we will see them in Fort Worth for the next Amateur Competition. Several Cliburn enthusiasts ~ board member and friends ~ came from Italy and Switzerland for these performances. Their ardent admiration fills the hall with applause and bravos.

Christian will be in Fort Worth as an Official Guest at the competition. He is director of the classical music series for RTSI in Lugano and is planning to present Cliburn winners in the coming seasons. In fact, there are several plans in the making for adding opportunities and venues for Cliburn laureates in Europe and elsewhere.

It was especially moving to speak with some of the pianists today; perhaps a comment from one of them reflects the aspirations of others:

“This is my dream ~ to compete in the Cliburn, the best, the highest competition in the world.”

You feel as if your heart is on the line with theirs!

This will be the last blog from Lugano. Tuesday, we hear 6 recitals, lasting until almost midnight; we leave at 4:00 in the morning for the connections and flight to the states. To be resumed in New York, Alann