Yesterday marked the end of the second round of the prestigious Classic Piano International Competition, a Dubai-based venture jointly held between the Malta-based European Foundation for Support of Culture and SAMIT Event Group. The hotly-anticipated event — this year celebrating its second iteration — welcomes prodigious young pianists from around the world to the UAE’s most populous city for a celebration of skill, musicality and tenacity, as they compete for the top prizes of €200,000, €50,000 and €25,000. Classic Piano is particularly noteworthy for both the rigorous selection procedure it employs as well as for the prestigious members of the jury adjudicating the competition, representing world-renowned performers, musicologists and pedagogues who are working together to determine the strongest candidates who will proceed to the competition’s final two rounds, and, ultimately, be declared the winners of the event. 

Piano competitions are widely celebrated around the world for their prestige, engaging atmosphere and the unique impacts they stand to make on the budding careers of virtuosi from across the globe. The latest such addition to this illustrious category is the Classic Piano International Competition, an event as extensive in its reach as in its ambitions, and one that has already made significant waves in the world of competitive musical events. Boasting an impressive list of jury members, record-breaking top prizes and a unique selection process, Classic Piano has captured the imaginations of many young pianists from countries around the world, and has prompted a hard-fought contest that first sprang to life in 2019 with the inception of the 14 Ways to Dubai initiative, a series of competitions around the world which, in addition to their prestige as events in their own right, have also served as preliminary stages to the Classic Piano project, with the five top-ranked competitors of each competition being invited to participate in the final stage in Dubai this year. 

Taking place at the Music Hall of Dubai’s Jumeirah Zabeel Saray — a modern performance venue boasting a lavish interior and superb acoustics — Classic Piano welcomes to its jury a highly distinguished group of leading musicians, including: Edison Award Winner, Professor at the Royal college of Music Dmitri Alexeev (UK); Professor Emeritus at the Paris Conservatoire, Michel Beroff (France); President of Columbia Artists Music LLC (CAMI Music), Jean-Jacques Cesbron (USA); Professor at the Moscow Conservatory , Vladimir Ovchinnikov (Russia); Professor at the Catholic University of America Nikita Fitenko (Russia/USA); Professor at the University Mozarteum Salzburg, Pavel Gililov (Germany/Austria); Artistic Director and Chairman of the International Beethoven Piano Competition Vienna, Jan Jiracek von Arnim (Germany); Honoured Arts Worker of the Russian Federation, Director of Gnessin Moscow Special School of Music Mikhail Khokhlov (Russia).

“I was very happy about the result and I was happy because the level is very high. We have very many different personalities here with musical involvement, and also very interesting repertoire at times.”

Michel Beroff

The event also welcomes to its jury the Head of the Piano Department at Chugye University for the Arts in Seoul, Hae-Young Kim (South Korea); Head of the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv, Tomer Lev (Israel); Winner of the ‘Prix Venice’ award, Giuliano Mazzoccante (Italy); First president of the Ancient Music Centre of Riga, Georgs Pelecis (Latvia); Prize-winner of the 10th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Ewa Pobłocka (Poland); Rector of the Moscow Conservatory, Alexander Sokolov (Russia); Winner of the Chopin Competition in Israel and Enescu Competition in Bucharest, Arie Vardi (Israel), and major prize-winner of Belgium’s Queen Elizabeth International Competition, Sergei Edelmann (Belgium), who, when asked about the competitors’ performances in the second round of Classic Piano, said: “I enjoyed listening to the candidates very much, and I must say that the choice we [the jury] made was almost unanimous in a sense…The participants are all brilliant pianists, brilliant musicians and all quite diverse in their personalities, so I am sure the following third and final stages will be very interesting to hear, and I’m looking forward to it.”

“I think that generally they were all quite successful, and I think — almost without exception — they did their best.”

Pavel Gililov

The judges are represented by First Prize winner at the International Composition Competition at the Hollybush Festival in New Jersey (1985), recipient of the City of Moscow Prize for Literature and the Arts (2011) and Dmitri Shostakovich Prize (2011), Chairman of the Jury Alexander Tchaikovsky (Russia). 

“I would say bravo to the jury, absolutely. At least in my estimation, our decisions coincided one hundred percent…let’s see, hot battles begin right now. I like all the participants who passed and it will be a great pity to lose someone. They are all very musical, capable and, in general, each of them is a worthy musician. But you have to do it. If it were up to me I would award all eighteen. They are already worthy of an award because they have come a long way — first by selection in their countries and then in two rounds here, this is a difficult job. But a competition is a competition, these are the rules.”

Alexander Tchaikovsky

Yesterday, Tuesday 24th August, marked the closing of the second round of Classic Piano, after which the following participants (name, age, country) were confirmed as being eligible for the third round of the competition: Lucas Krupinski (29, Poland/UK), Vasyl Kotys (36, Ukraine/Germany), Miroslav Kultyshev (35, Russia), Nikolai Kuznetsov (26, Russia),​ Jaeyoung Lee (26, South Korea/Austria) ​, Adela Liculescu (28, Romania/Austria), Victor Maslov (24, Russia/UK), Seung Hyuk Na (23, South Korea), Kojiro Okada (21, France), Leonardo Hilsdorf (33, Brazil/Italy/Portugal), Youngho Park (27, South Korea), Markiyan Popil (25, Ukraine/Belgium), Minsung Lee (31, South Korea/Germany), Jacky Zhang (13, UK), Yuki Amako (22, Japan), Viktoria Baskakova (23, Russia), Robert Bily (24, Czech Republic/Germany), Soo Jin Cha (35, South Korea/Austria).

“Several musicians are taking part in this competition who have already received high awards in other well-known competitions, and this means that in this competition they see prestige and opportunities for further career development.”

Mikhail Khokhlov

The upcoming third round of Classic Piano marks a departure from the competition’s previous stages, with participants being joined onstage for the first time by the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by their Founder, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Sergey Smbatyan. For this penultimate round of the event, candidates will be required to perform Mozart’s Piano concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, and Composer-in-Residence Alexey Shor’s Travel Notebook Piano Concerto, a work in seven movements inspired by the composer’s visits to numerous locations around the world. 

“Following the conclusion of this second wonderful round of Classic Piano, I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to the successful participants who will be joining us for the third and penultimate round of the competition, and thank the rest of the candidates for their hard work and determination. The next round of Classic Piano promises to be an extremely exciting one, and I cannot wait to see how the competition progresses.” — Konstantin Ishkhanov, President of the EUFSC. ¶

The Classic Piano International Competition continues until 4th September. For full details, see the official website.