Hi again, Everybody.
Well, for better or for for worse, here is my report on the competition. Sorry it's kind of long, but I wanted to get most things down before I start forgetting.
So now it's Monday, the competition is over, and the first thing I will say is that I had the best time and I will definitely do it again!! I heard so much great music, made many new friends (as well as observed some 'interesting' characters
), and learned so many things that will help me next time around.
The piano was 7'6" Fazioli 228. Beautiful piano! I am so spoiled now!! It sounded and played like a dream piano - smooth, full and rich tone, keys weighted just right, the una corda pedal was especially something that was so incredible to me - the way it changed the tone of the piano but in such a subtle way. Just gorgeous - I can't say enough about how wonderful that piano is and boy do I wish I could have one! Here is a photo of me with it.
And here is a funny sign outside the recital hall that I took a picture of, which shows why I probably never will have one!
So anyway, the first round consisted of 60 players. As you already know, my turn to play was on Thursday at 11:36. They gave us a practice room for two hours prior to our playing time and so I practiced a little during that time, but was too antsy to stay in there for long periods. I periodically walked out and into the recital hall to listen to other competitors, but that made me even more nervous so then I'd have to just go out into the hallways and pace around for a while. Finally it got close to my time and they directed me to the green room (waiting room behind the stage), which really is green - a terribly awful color green - yuck - probably aided in making me feel nauseous. Three or four people were in there - the announcer, the recording technician, and a woman - a rather plump woman whose job was I think to make sure that contestants actually got onto the stage. In my case, as I sat in there and the announcer-man was asking me how to pronounce my name, another man was asking me if I needed a page-turner and things like that, I literally was so scared and almost ran out of the room. But that woman kept trying to calm me and giving me pep talks, and then when I heard my name being called I think she may have actually gently shoved me out the door so that I had no choice but to go forward with my turn to play.
Okay, so now I am standing there at the piano and do my little bow, and then sit down at the Fazioli. Minutes before I went on stage I arranged for the page-turner man to turn my pages. Since I saw that many other competitors were using music, I felt that it was fine. I didn't look at the music, though, except for one time when I stumbled - it was in the Chopin mazurka and funny that it wasn't in the place that I feared, but a different spot. I'm so glad I had the music up there, because I would have been pretty screwed otherwise. As to my playing in general - remember I took beta-blockers - I started off pretty well but out of the blue one hand completely forgot what it was supposed to do and stopped playing. In other words, a pretty big slip. It lasted about two or three measures. However, the other hand kept playing and then all of a sudden the 'weird' hand started up again and everything was fine again. I think it happed twice - each during different pieces. But I really think that the beta-blockers saved me, because I know how I freak out when something like this happens - both hands usually stop playing and I'd basically freeze. And also even though I had those couple of mishaps, I was actually enjoying sitting there and playing! My mind was telling me how much fun I was having, how nice that I was getting to play on such a fine instrument, how beautiful the music sounded, etc. That's never happened to me before! It really was just so surreal. When I was done and walked off the stage, that nice woman was there and gave me a big hug - like what I real mom would do. She did that with everybody.
It's weird, but now I can't even remember how I played. I know I made those two mess-ups, but I can't recall how my actual playing was, like technique and stuff like that. They recorded everything and I'm supposed to be able to get to hear it all once they finish the processing. Not sure I want to hear myself, but you know of course I really do.
What's nice is the judges (five of them) all made comments on everybody and we were given those comments (except I can't read most of their handwritings). I'm going to try to decipher them later.
Some of the things I learned is that competitors can change their repertoire right at the last second - right before they go play if they want to. Several of them did that. Also, I was a little concerned that perhaps I had chosen pieces considered too easy for a competition, but other people had pieces in a similar vein; some were harder than mine, but some even easier than mine. One of my pieces was Chopin's Mazurka in A-flat op. 59, no. 2 and three other competitors also played it.
So after two days of preliminaries, the judges narrowed the field down to 12. That was very interesting and surprising - some of us felt that certain players should not have advanced and other players should have. Saturday afternoon was then the semi-finals and I sat through most of it and enjoyed listening to all the great music; most of which I knew, but some I did not. Really interesting to actually see firsthand all the different techniques utilized by so many different players!
Yesterday (Sunday) was the finals - again more surprises regarding the selection of the finalists. Sunday morning was a brunch at a nearby building where the Fazioli piano store is located, which also holds another recital hall. Competitors who did not make it into the finals were allowed to sign up to play in a sort of impromptu recital. Originally there were about ten slots available and players could play anything for about ten minutes. But turned out that about 20 people signed up to play. I signed up to play and almost regretted it later because the group at the brunch/recital were all top-players and sort of 'famous' in the world of amateur pianists. For me it was a little more nerve-wracking than playing for the judges! But I did it anyway - only played one piece - Granados' Spanish Dance no. 5. It actually went well and I received some nice comments from the others. (by the way - it was another Fazioli piano
) Something funny was that several of these people are really big piano hogs! You can't get them off the piano! Everywhere we went there were of course pianos and these people were practically fighting each other to sit down at the bench. Also, it amazed me that lots of them have so much repertoire in their heads - that they can just sit down and play pieces by memory whenever they have a piano at their disposal. And I'm talking 'big' pieces!
Anyway, after the brunch came the afternoon Finals concert. The five finalists played for a half-hour each. Afterwards, while the judges deliberated, the competition organizers allowed the rest of the competitors sitting in the audience to use the time (about 45 minutes) by taking turns going up to the piano and playing something. I did not raise my hand for this one. But funny again, because the same piano hogs went to the piano and wouldn't stop until somebody practically dragged them off so that another person could have a chance to play.
Regarding the outcome of the Finals - the pieces that they played were Chopin Sonata no. 3, Liszt B-minor Sonata, Boulez Sonata no. 2, Prokofiev Sonata no. 7, Haydn Sonata no. 55, and Schumann Phantasiebilder Op. 26. The best part is that a 71-year-old grandmother won first place!! Yay!!! The other finalists were nearly half her age. And Wow - the playing all around was amazing - such top-notch playing from so many people!
Afterwards we all went to a restaurant for a party. And now today - I am starting to come down from all the excitement and feel a little like I have just come home from summer camp. I enjoyed so much conversing with such interesting and talented people, and most of us said we'd all meet with each other again at the next competition. The Chicago organizers are currently debating whether to have the next competition in two or three years. Whenever it is, I will be there! I really wish very hard and hope that some of you can join me
p.s. This is photo of me and one of my new friends taken at the party last night. His name is Abel and he was one of the finalists and came in third. He's from Spain but currently lives in Boston for at least the next year or so and then he goes back to Spain. Really a great player! He actually approached me earlier in the competition because he recognized my name from Piano Society! He said he has visited our site in the past, and I told him to come back and visit us again. He's a really nice guy!
And here is a photo of some more new friends. The woman on my right was like me - first-time competitor and all that. We hung around together the entire time. The woman across from me is very, very talented, and so is the guy sitting on my left. But very nice, interesting, and fun people!