The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Van Cliburn competition for amateurs runs through May 29. See and hear it live. | May 26, 2011

REMINDER: Tonight at 7 p.m. in the Playhouse of the Overture Center, the Rhapsodie String Quartet (below, in a photograph by Greg Anderson), which is made up of members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will perform a recital of Haydn’s String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76 No. 2 “Quinten” of “Fifths”; Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major; and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E-Flat Major, Op. 12. A $5 donation at the door is suggested.

By Jacob Stockinger

I didn’t know this, but there is a whole world of amateur piano competitions held in North America and Europe and soon, if not already, in Asia, I expect.

But certainly the most prestigious is the Van Cliburn International Amateur Competition, started in 1999. It takes place every fours years in Fort Worth, Texas, falling in between the more famous competition for young professional pianists. (It is named, of course, after Van Cliburn, below, who was recently awarded the National Medal of the Arts.)

The latest amateur competition, the sixth, started Monday night and runs through May 29, this Sunday.

And as usual, the Van Cliburn Foundation, which runs it, is doing a terrific job of getting it to reach the public, though I think it could have even more publicity.

It features three rounds with recitals of varying lengths (10-12 minutes, 16-20 minutes and 25-30 minutes) but no concertos. And the amateur pianists compete for cash prizes, not recording contracts and touring engagements.

Here in a website to visit:

And here is a link to an interview/profile of the organizer and jury foreman John Giordano and the idea behind the amateur competition, where the minimum age is 35 (hooray):

Finally, you can watch it live – as I did for a while Monday night, and heard  Mozart‘s Fantasy in D Minor and Debussy‘s “L’Isle joyeuse” — or via delayed archives with a real-time chat room for viewers and critics, who make interesting remarks about he performers and performances even as the performances are taking place.

I still don’t see some of the great information, I saw last time around, especially the list of performers (with their history of prizes in other competitions, their bios and non-musical professional lives) and the complete repertoire list (fascinating and helpful as well as envy-generating for other amateurs such as myself.)

But if you click on “Competitors,” you will see how many scientists and medical workers are in the contest — people like the John A. DeRuntz, 73, a retired scientist and mathematician (below) from Oregon:

Unfortunately, this time around, there is no one from Wisconsin to root for.

Bu t take a look. Share it with other students and amateurs. And let me know what you think.

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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