OPC finalists 2012 revealed

Friday, 5th of October, marked the end of the Open Piano Competition semi-finals, which was held in St Olave's, a stunning medieval church in the City of London. 15 made it to the semi-finals, each performing a 20 to 25 minute programme to include a major Romantic work by Mendelsson, Chopin, Liszt, Schuman or Brahms and one 20th century or contemporary piece. 

Artistic Director Coady Green stated that the two days were "very interesting and [showed] some very strong playing" but didn't give away much on who his favourites were. He added that it was a "great pleasure to hear the pianists communicate with music and perform with great musicality."

Tamara Lorenzo Gabeiras' comments were more revealing: "We were satisfied that we had passed the right people but we had some surprises [...]", she admitted during her interview. "We expected some of the participants to be more confident in the semi-final. Unfortunately not everybody kept the level of the first round so things might change now. [...] We dont take too much into account the technical abilities and the mistakes they might have made, wrong notes or something, we are looking more for the artistry, musicality, sensitivity but some people made lots of mistakes [...] perhaps they had a bad day.

The search for artistry over technical ability is shared by all three artistic directors: "What we are looking for is a strong communication of musical vision and musicality, and that has certainly been given by a number of competitors in the last few days", said Coady Green.

Marianna Prjevalskaya expressed similar ideas: "First of all I'm looking for personality, talent and whether a performance touches me and impresses me musically and emotionally. I'm not looking at how many errors they make [...] I'm looking for someone who is very individual and there are people like this."

These are harder concepts to explain but Tamara has some insight as to where these intangible qualities may come from: "Older participants tend to have maturity in their playing and the music sounds on a different level, sometimes younger people are more technical and more muscular but they lack that maturity and I think it's an advantage of older people".

Marianna was of the same impression and added: "The difference that I see is first of all maturity, I can see extremely talented technically accomplished young musicians and I can see absolutely mature musicians who when they touch the piano the sound is totally different. So we are taking into account everything together, both wonderful talent from young people and maturity and wonderful approach to the instrument from the older pianists."

The judges' deliberations took place behind closed doors on friday night and only after considerable time the finalists were revealed. 

In Category 1, Professionals (out of 10 competitors in the semi-finals)

 

In Category 2, Non-professionals (out of 5 competitors in the semi-finals)

 

The final decision seemed consistent with the judges comments: in the professional category the youngest competitors at 19 (Ngoc Vu), 21 (Beatrice Stelzmuller) and 22 (Benjamin Carre') showed exceptional talent and are certainly concert pianists in the making but suffered in comparison to the slightly more seasoned Viviana Lasaracina at 24 and Adam Kosmeja at 26 who managed to make it through to the final. they are still relatively young and will challenge Antoine Joubert who at 32 is in his prime and Valentin Bogolubov who at 64 has shown a depth to his approach to the piano that will certainly be his strongest asset in facing the stunning virtuosity displayed by some of the other players. 

Amongst the non-professionals it is Dominic Piers Smith at 37 and Graham Rix at 48 who have stepped up to the challenge of joining the final. Dominic is a regular at the final stages of many amateur competitions and in this competition he'll have a chance to prove his worth on the same stage as full-time pianists. Marianna Prjevalskaya revealingly commented: "I think there are amateurs that can be up to the level of professionals". Everyone will be cheering for Graham and Dominic who may just be able to shake the pros off their laurels. 

The final is Monday the 8th at Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair. You can get tickets at www.openpianocompetition.com/tickets