Richard McKay Talks with DMN On Second Round for the Dallas International Piano Competition

 In Interviews, News

By Scott Cantrell | The Dallas Morning News

There’s a new piano competition in town. Actually, it’s the second go-around for the Dallas Chamber Symphony International Piano Competition, co-sponsored with Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. To be held Wednesday through Saturday at SMU’s Owen Fine Arts Center, it will include three rounds of performances, plus masterclasses and private lessons with SMU piano professors Joaquín Achúcarro and Carol Leone.

The Dallas contest focuses on concertos more than solo repertory. And the chance to play with an orchestra is part of the first prize rather than part of the competition itself.
Seventeen pianists from six countries, all younger than 25, will participate in the competition. As in so many other such contests these days, Asians predominate: seven from China, five from South Korea and one from Thailand. Only two competitors hail from the U.S.

The competition was part of the masterplan for the Dallas Chamber Symphony, now in its second season of presenting concerts in Dallas City Performance Hall.

“The piano competition could be an ancillary program that could reach new audiences,” says DCS artistic director Richard McKay. “There’s a very large community of pianists and piano competition enthusiasts here.”

“We also wanted a robust partnership with a university, and we spoke to several potential partners, discussing the possibility of a competition, how it would work. Ultimately, SMU won out.”

SMU benefits, too, says Leone, the university’s liaison.

“We have beautiful facilities, including Caruth Auditorium, with three concert instruments, and well-maintained instruments throughout the building. We can show off our faculty, our facilties, our location. Plus they wanted to do it during our spring break.”

“Last year was pretty successful. Everyone thought it was very effective, and beautifully run. We’re pretty excited about this, and feel this is here to stay. We had quite a few applicants — around 65 —and of high quality.”

Unusually, both the preliminary and final rounds are devoted to concertos, with a second piano accompanying; solo repertory is performed only in the semifinal round.
There are only three judges, as opposed to the Cliburn’s 12. Petronel Malan, an alumna of the University of North Texas, is a multiple prizewinner and international concert artist. Roger Lord, another competition prize winner and performer, is professor of piano at the Université de Moncton in Canada. Deniz Gelenbe, an acclaimed chamber musician, is head of piano and organ at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.

The competition is also unusual in offering pianists with smaller hands or narrower spans the options of two alternative keyboards with narrower keys.

“For so long, people have thought of Fort Worth as the place to go if you’re a professional pianist,” Leone says. “This showcases our campus, our university — and Dallas. It’s bringing not only students, but also their teachers, and, hopefully, people who just come to hear the competition as they do with the Cliburn. We have people coming from Melbourne, Australia, and from around the country.”

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