Pianist Moye Chen Wins World Piano Competition
Chinese pianist Moye Chen has won the World Piano Competition that was held on Saturday night in Corbett Auditorium at the University of Cincinnati.
The 30-year-old pianist (pictured on the left), who is currently pursuing a doctorate at the University of Illinois, combined bravura and artistry in his winning performance of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William Eddins.
But this year’s finals was not as evenly matched as last year, when it seemed that any one of the final three pianists could have won gold. The five-member jury agreed; no silver medal was awarded, but the two remaining competitors, Reed Tetzloff and Feng Bian, tied for the bronze.
Chen won $20,000 and a New York debut recital. Tetzloff and Bian each were awarded a $10,000 cash prize.
“There was a clear difference of level in tonight’s performance,” said juror Frederic Chiu, on Saturday. “We’re judging based on all three rounds. So a lot of what the audience heard tonight is just one-third of the decision. There were incredible things and not-so-incredible things in each of them that made us hesitate just a little bit, and that played itself out.”
Corbett Auditorium at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music was nearly full (about 700 listeners) for the finalists’ performances of three big, romantic concertos. Mark Perzel of classical radio station WGUC-FM (90.9) was the mellifluous-voiced host. Cameras were stationed in the hall to film the performance for future broadcast on WCET-TV (Channel 48) as well as for a live webcast on the competition website, www.cincinnatiwpc.org.
All three pianists poured heart and soul into their performances and were rewarded by three standing ovations. Chen, the son of an engineer and an accountant in Beijing, impressed for his expressive powers as well as for his rock-solid security in Rachmaninoff’s massive Concerto No. 3. He tackled its cascades of virtuosities with a big, relaxed technique and found poetry in the music’s intimate moments. The scherzo (playful) passages sparkled. Of the three, his was the most satisfying collaboration with the orchestra. Eddins gave the pianist plenty of freedom, and the sonic glory of the orchestra in Corbett Auditorium was something to behold.
Tetzloff, 22, a Minneapolis native and the only American to advance, dazzled in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major. A popular contestant who connected with the audience, he played the Liszt showpiece with an easy virtuosity and magical tone. As his artistry continues to mature, he is a young American to watch.
Bian, 26, a native of Chengdu, China, brought impassioned playing to Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1. His hands were a blur in adrenalin-charged cadenzas, sometimes at the expense of accuracy.
In fact, each of the soloists rushed at times, but on the podium, Eddins was an alert partner who unfailingly stayed with each artist.
Interest in the 58-year-old piano competition has increased since its merger last year with CCM and the Cincinnati Symphony. Chiu and fellow juror Ursula Oppens noted during the week-long rounds that the level among the piano competitors was as high or higher than last year – not an easy feat given the other major competitions that were occurring at the same time.
“I think they drew a lot of talent because of the success of last year,” Chiu said. Besides Chiu and Oppens, the other jurors were Hee Sung Joo, Yoshikazu Nagai and Andrey Pisarev.
Spotted in the hall: Cincinnati Symphony music director Louis Langrée, who said he was especially impressed by tone displayed by Tetzloff.
Audience members followed their favorites all week and were able to vote for them by text. Before the medal ceremony, artistic director Awadagin Pratt announced the audience favorite awards. Those went to CCM graduate Kara Huber (first round), Tetzloff (semifinal round) and Chen (final round). This year, Pratt introduced a new element by requiring each pianist to perform at least nine minutes from a list of contemporary American works. A new award for best performance in that category went to Sung-Soo Cho of South Korea, for his performance of Rakowsky’s “A Gliss is Just a Gliss.”
Executive director Mark Ernster was pleased with the season, calling it “a great build on last year.” Besides the week-long competition, more than 1,200 children and 600 seniors were treated to free piano performances during the year through outreach programs, something Ernster hopes to increase.