By Jacob Stockinger
When is a piano competition not a piano competition?
When it is the Irving S. Gilmore International Piano Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Gilmore was a wealthy Kalamazoo businessman and avid amateur pianist.) UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor, by the way, performs at the Gilmore Festival and won a Gilmore Young Artists Award in 1990.
Every four years the Gilmore names a new grand prize winner — and that winner gets $300,000 and usually goes on to have an international career.
He is Russia-born Kirill Gerstein (below, in a photo by Marco Borggreve), who is now a naturalized American residing in Newton, Mass., and teaching at the conservatory in Stuttgart, Germany. He has not got many recordings out — not yet anyway — but that is sure to change.
Past winners, for example, include the Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andnes, the Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski and the Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter (who made her Madison debut last season with a recital at the Wisconsin Union Theater).
So how is that different from, say, the Tchaikovsky Competition, the Van Cliburn Competiti0n or the William Kapell C0mpetition?
For those events, you have to apply to participate, and if you are accepted, you travel to the competition and perform while the judges make their decisions.
But with the Gilmore, the judges go to the pianists as they regularly perform around the world — and the pianists do not even know they are being watched and evaluated by critics in the audience.
It’s a fascinating approach and the success of the results have been undeniable.
And so recently Gerstein, the new winner, was named to his own surprise — and the public’s.
One wonders: Can anybody in Madison — the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Overture Center — book Gerstein while his fees are still affordable and his schedule is still open?
Whatever the answer, here are some links to articles about Gerstein and the Gilmore:
Gerstein is a complete unknown to me — and I follow the piano scene pretty closely. But now I am very eager to get to know his playing.
Have any of you heard Gerstein play or perform?
What do you think of him?
The Ear wants to hear.