Cliburn Competition identifies 30 finalists

Rachel Cheung

Almost since its inception more than a half-century again, the quadrennial Cliburn International Piano Competition — founded by (and named after) the legendary Fort Worth maestro Van Cliburn, who wowed the world with his interpretation of Tchaikovsky so impressively, he won a Russian-based contest at the height of the Cold War — has been a crown jewel in the world of classical music. It has also focused a lot of attention on North Texas as an arts hub, which ain’t a bad thing.

This morning, the Cliburn Foundation announced the names of the 30 finalists for the 15th competition, which will take place this summer. Nearly 300 pianists submitted applications, and 141 auditioned live in five cities from Budapest to Seoul. Sixteen nations are represented (including, of course, Russia) by the contestants, who will range in age from 18 to 30 (as of the final day of the competition). Nine women and 21 men will compete.

Cliburn died 0n Feb. 27, 2013, just as the 14th festival was about to announce its competitors, making this year basically the first to be finalized entirely after the gay maestro’s death.

Philipp Scheucher

Here are the competitors. The competition will span May 25–June at Bass Performance Hall.

Martin James Bartlett, United Kingdom, age 20

Sergey Belyavskiy, Russia, 23

Alina Bercu, Romania, 27

Kenneth Broberg, United States, 23

Luigi Carroccia, Italy, 25

Han Chen, Taiwan, 25

Rachel Cheung, Hong Kong, 25

Yury Favorin, Russia, 30

Madoka Fukami, Japan, 28

Mehdi Ghazi, Algeria/Canada, 28

Caterina Grewe, Germany, 29

Luigi Carroccia

Daniel Hsu, United States, 19

Alyosha Jurinic, Croatia, 28

Nikolay Khozyainov, Russia, 24

Dasol Kim, South Korea, 28

Honggi Kim, South Korea, 25

Su Yeon Kim, South Korea, 23

Julia Kociuban, Poland, 25

Rachel Kudo, United States, 30

EunAe Lee, South Korea, 29

Ilya Maximov, Russia, 30

Aloysha Jurinic

Sun-A Park, United States, 29

Leonardo Pierdomenico, Italy, 24

Philipp Scheucher, Austria, 24

Ilya Shmukler, Russia, 22

Yutong Sun, China, 21

Yekwon Sunwoo, South Korea, 28

Georgy Tchaidze, Russia, 29

Tristan Teo, Canada, 20

Tony Yike Yang, Canada, 18

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

Van Cliburn

Van Cliburn

The big news in entertainment this weekend is the 14th quadrennial appearance of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition — the first without its gay founder (Cliburn died in February of cancer). The six finalists will compete until the winner is revealed on Sunday.  Miss it, you and you’ll have to wait another four years for the next one.

Razzle Dazzle weekend is in full swing, with Thelma Houston headlining the MetroBall at Station 4 Friday night, then the big downtown party coming to Main Street Gardens Saturday night. It’s family-friendly and there are buses running from the event to locales in the gayborhood.

Sister Act, written by gay scribe Douglas Carter Beane, continues at Fair Park Music Hall for more than a week, before moving over to Bass Hall in Fort Worth. Meanwhile, the new cirque-ish show Traces opens at the Winspear on Tuesday. And the Festival of Independent Theatres — and Kitchen Dog Theater‘s New Works Festival — continue through June 22.

To get a little skin in the game, check out Adam and Eve in the Garden of Delights at the Stone Cottage Theatre in Addison, or move inside to the WaterTower Theatre mainstage for the light comedy Black Tie starring out actor Stan Graner.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Overtures: Cliburn competition concludes next weekend in Fort Worth


Overtures is our monthly look at what’s going on in the classical music scene: 

The 14th International Cliburn Piano Competition winds up next week, and already you can have caught the next generation of concert stars as they vie for the big prizes: lots of cash and three years of concert management.

The semifinal rounds conclude Tuesday night (including a performance by hopeful Vadym Kholodenki, pictured), as the concerts alternate solo recitals with chamber music performances. The chamber music features the Brentano String Quartet, arguably one of the best in the world. The final rounds are concerti with orchestra. They are Friday and Saturday, June 7–8 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 9, at 3 p.m. The awards ceremony is a separate ticket at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

• Still need a piano fix? Piano Texas holds court at PepsiCo Auditorium on the Fort Worth Campus of TCU. Faculty recitals are June 10—15. Check the website for specific concerts and times.

• Looking forward, check out the Mimir Chamber Music Festival, also at TCU. This outstanding group brings in the best players from around the world and presents excellent concert. The concerts are July 2—7. Check out their site for details.

• And if you don’t mind leaving Texas for your classical experience, the Santa Fe Opera opens on June 28 and runs through August. Lots of folks from North Texas head west every summer. Of greatest interest is Susan Graham staring in the frothy comedy The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein by Offenbach. The new music director of the Dallas Opera, Emmanuel Villaume, conducts. Rossini’s La Donna del Lago is rarely heard, and La Traviata always makes an appearance. But the big buzz (with gay appeal) is for Oscar, composer Theodore Morrison’s opera based on the life of Irish bon vivant Oscar Wilde. It stares the hunky countertenor David Daniels. Another local favorite conductor, Evan Rogister (quite a hunk himself), conducts.


—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Overtures: Notes on the classical scene


Scipione Sangiovanni is competing at the Cliburn competition later this month

Our classical music contributor Gregory Sullivan Isaacs updates us on what’s coming this month in choral and orchestral music:

We will also get treated to (or inflicted with, depending on your view) Carl Orff’s blockbuster oratorio Carmina Burana by both the Dallas and Fort Worth symphonies. (You would think that they would talk to each other so such an unfortunate colliding wouldn’t happen.) The Fort Worth Opera continues its well-received season, while four other groups all wind up their seasons with major concerts. Here are the details.

• May 5 at 7:30 p.m. at SMU’s Caruth Auditorium is the Voices of Change concert. They will welcome composer Derek Bermel and play some of his music. Arrive at 6:30 to hear the informative Laurie Shulman give a preview. On the same day at 7, Orpheus Chamber Singers presents a concert at Preston Hollow Presbyterian.

• The Fort Worth Opera’s summer festival includes Puccini’s three-hanky favorite, La Boheme, Donizetti’s comedy (one is really funny — many aren’t) Daughter of the Regiment, Richard Strauss’ comedy (that is more amusing than a knee-slapper like Daughter), Ariadne auf Naxos and the super-intense, disturbing, marvelous refill-your-valium-first, Glory Denied. All four are excellent. The innovative Frontiers! program will showcase scenes from new operas by living composers on May 9 at 6 p.m. and May 10 at 4 p.m.

• May 10 also brings some great string quartet playing to the new City Performance Hall as Chamber Music International presents a concert that contains two masterpieces: Beethoven’s Razumowsky quartet and Bartok’s fourth string quartet. There is other music on the program, but these two are must hears.

• The Carmina Burana overload starts with the FWO May 17–19 at Bass Hall. The DSO plays this same work, with its lewd sexual lyrics, May 23–25. Both symphonies have fine soloists and it will be, if nothing else, an opportunity to contrast the area’s two major conductors: Jaap van Zweden and Miguel Harth-Bedoya.

• May 17–19, the DSO takes a big risk by presenting the first act of Wagner’s opera, Die Walküre. The main interest here is tenor Clifton Forbis, who is also on the faculty of SMU. This is one act of a four opera cycle so it is a part of a part of a whole. Tickets are hard to come by, but it should be worth it if you are a Wagner fan.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Despite passing, Cliburn piano competition goes on

Van Cliburn - pianist  1960Van Cliburn the man may be gone, but the competition named in his honor continues, as evidenced this morning by the release of the 30 competitors slated to appear at the 14th annual piano competition. Ranging in age from 19 to 30, they represent countries from China to Poland.

The event will take place over two weeks from May 24 to June 9 at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. For more information, visit

Read the full list after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Overtures: Notes on the classical scene

Van Cliburn - pianist  1960Gregory Sullivan Isaacs and I have prepared this rundown of the upcoming month in classical music news.

The biggest news in local classical music is, of course, international news: The death this week of gay maestro Van Cliburn. More than even his virtuosity on the piano, his sponsorship of the Cliburn competition and performance series made him not just a force for nurturing creativity, but a magnificent asset to local culture. His impact, and his loss, cannot be overstated.

You might, then, choose to honor him by checking out one of these who benefited from his largesse. Yeol Eum Son will perform a piano recital on March 12 under the Cliburn at the Bass banner. She took the Cliburn competition 2009 silver medal and second prize in the recent Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow. Many critics call her one of the best pianists alive. Her program has lots of fireworks and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Show at 7 :30 p.m.

The Soundings series at the Nasher is always fascinating. On March 8, the program features two cellists, one surprisingly doubling on a piccolo, and a pianist who also plays the harpsichord. No hint on what they will play, but history says that it should be excellent. It starts at 7:30 p.m.

Chamber music fans have two concerts. On March 10, in the new City Performance Hall, Chamber Music International presents pianist Chih-Yi Chen and violinist Clara-Jumi Kang in sonatas by Beethoven and Mozart and what they call  “showpieces TBA.” (Curtain at 7:30 p.m.) On March 11, Dallas Chamber Music brings the outstanding Artemis String Quartet to SMU’s Caruth Auditorium at 8 p.m. In the 1990s, they won all the major competitions and their appearance should draw a full house.

Symphonic music is surprisingly scarce this month. The Dallas Symphony continues its performances of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Meyerson. Musical director Jaap van Zweden shines in these sprawling works so this should be a moving experience.

Music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya leads the Fort Worth Symphony in the popular Sibelius Second Symphony March 15–17. If he minds his manners and doesn’t blow your ears out, it should be a fine performance. The young violinist Stefan Jackiw joins him playing a warhorse. Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. All performances are at Bass Hall.

Looking ahead to April, get your tickets for Puccini’s Turandot, presented in all its splendor at the Winspear Opera House by the Dallas Opera. It is doubtful that there is anyone who hasn’t heard the big aria, “Nessun Dorma,” sung by everyone  from Aretha Franklin to reality TV competitors. Out baritone Jonathan Beyer takes on the role of Ping. (Look for an interview with him in an upcoming issue of Dallas Voice.) Performance are April 5, 7, 10, 13, 19 and 21. Not to be missed.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay maestro Van Cliburn dies

Van CliburnVan Cliburn, the Texas native who became the most acclaimed pianist of the second half the 20th century, has died, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and other outlets are reporting. He was 78. He revealed last fall that he had cancer.

Cliburn shot to fame in his early 20s, winning the first Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow during the height of the Cold War. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine and received a hero’s welcome in the U.S., including a ticker-tape parade. His subsequent early recordings were huge best sellers.

Beyond his power behind the keys, however, was his influence behind the scenes. He founded the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, a quadrennial celebration of great young musicians, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

While many outlets reported correctly that Cliburn was deeply religious, few mentioned that he was also gay, making him one of our most honored but under-recognized icons.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Overtures: Our classical music calendar

Bell Joshua_ Perf shot 1 2010_PC Eric Kabik

Now that the holiday concerts are behind us, the classical season returns in full in February — and none too soon. Our classical music expert, Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, offers these notes on what to look for in February:

• Things start out with the truly amazing pianist, Nobuyuki Tsujii. Born blind, the 24-year-old Japanese man tied for the gold medal at the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He learns all of his scores (some of the most complex in the repertoire) one note at a time. His performance has to be experienced live to be understood. You can hear him with the Fort Worth Symphony on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 1 and 2, at 8 p.m., and Sunday for a 2 p.m. matinee. He will play Tchaikovsky’s first concerto, which rocketed Van Cliburn himself to fame in 1958 in Moscow.

• Next weekend, the Dallas Opera takes you into both the oven and the frying pan with Lee Hoiby’s Opera Bon Appetit! Mezzo soprano Susan Nicely portrays food goddess and gay icon Julia Child in this tuneful and delicious amuse bouche. It’s a one-day-only event (Feb. 9), but there are two performances: one at 11:30 a.m. and one at 2 p.m. It will be presented not in the opera house, but in the Dallas Farmers Market Demonstration Kitchen. Where else? Admission is free, but reservations are needed.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

With the Labor Day holiday upon us, there’s lots of stuff you can do (especially if you’re skipping Southern Decadence this weekend — lots of flooded streets, curfews and canceled flights). If you stick around Dallas, you can check out a pool party during the day … and maybe  and get a new swimsuit beforehand.

Wanna stay inside? See The Producers at Uptown Players, which we (and most other critics) loved. One set of “critics” who apparently didn’t like it: Some students from Kentucky. According to reports from audience members, chaperones for the minors stormed out of the theater during intermission, apparently not happy with the gay themes and Jewish humor. (Ummm… the musical’s been around a decade and the theater is run by gay guys — how did you not know what it was about and come in the first place?!?!?) Still, leading actor B.J. Cleveland apparently had fun with it. During his Act 2 number “Betrayed,” where he pauses to summarize the show until then, Cleveland ad-libbed “Last bus leaving for Kentucky!’ and “They’ll marry their cousins, but they find this offensive.” Ouch.

A lot more fun is taking place this week, too … though much of it seems to be at the end of the week. Even at Uptown Players — again. On Thursday, it launches is second annual Pride Performing Arts Festival with a one-night-only staged reading of Dustin Lance Black’s play 8, and continuing until Dallas Pride Weekend. Also on Thursday: The first concert of the Van Cliburn Concerts series at Bass Hall kicks off with four former Gold Medalists performing for the ailing gay maestro; plus, it’s Fashion Night Out (and our friends at DFW Style Daily have complete coverage here).

On Tuesday, gay music legend Bob Mould drops his latest CD, Silver Age, in which he embraces his daddy status — and rocks out doing so. Before that, the new film For a Good Time, Call from gay director Jamie Travis opens today, and it might be worth a look-see — especially if you’re a fan of huge dildos (other than the ones you saw at the GOP National Convention this week).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Van Cliburn returns to Tchaikovsky Competition for 1st time since winning it 53 years ago

It may be hard to believe today, but in 1958, a piano concert was as big on the international news pages of the world as the 1980 U.S.-Russia Olympic semifinal hockey game would be decades later. That’s when a kid from Kilgore, Texas, named Van Cliburn attended the first Tchaikovsky Piano Competition — named for the great Russian composer, and intended as a display of the prowess in the arts of the Soviet Union — and walked away with the top prize, following an eight-minute ovation.

The impact was huge — a Time magazine cover; a ticker-tape parade in New York City — and Cliburn has been a giant in classical music since then. He now lends his name to his own piano competition, which has become one of the most celebrated and revered events of its kind in the world.

The Tchaikovsky was 53 years ago, but apparently, it’s never too late to go back. Monday, the gay piano virtuoso boarded a plane for Moscow, returning to the competition for the first time since his historic win. (He’s visited Russia many times over the years, but never returned to the competition.)

I can hardly imagine what it was like, at the height of the Cold War, for a 23-year-old Texan to travel all that way barely six months after the launch of Sputnik, which ratcheted up hostilities and the space race between the sole superpowers of the day, as the eyes of the world looked on. Just to go there was heroic; to perform, and perform well, superhuman; to win it … well, it’s legend. For Cliburn to return now — and to be a Russian in the room when he takes to the stage for the first time in more than a half-century? Well, it gives me goosebumps.

Congrats to Van Cliburn.

See Van Cliburn receive an award from President Barack Obama here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones