New Zealand’s Classical Piano Competition Demonstrates A Healthy Asian Influence

The entry deadline for New Zealand’s only international piano competition is just one week away and already there is considerable interest from Asia.

John Jackets, Competition Director for the Kerikeri International Piano Competition, says countries such as Malaysia, China, Taiwan and South Korea have always been well represented.

“A high proportion of entrants are from the Asian region. In fact, Xuan He from China was a finalist in 2014 and Yeh Shih Hsien of Taiwan the winner in 2012.”

Singapore’s Albert Tiu is one of three people chosen to adjudicate in this year’s KIPC to be held from June 30th to July 3rd inclusive.

Mr Tiu is Associate Professor of Piano at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, University of Singapore. He was born in Cebu in the Philippines, studied piano at the University of the Philippines College of Music and at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and has a Masters of Music degree from the Julliard School in New York. He moved to Singapore in 2003.

It’s not Mr Tiu’s first visit to New Zealand.  He taught and performed at Victoria University in Wellington and was sole Adjudicator for the Kerikeri National Piano Competition in 2010, before it became an international event. This year he is joined by two other Adjudicators – Eleanor Wong from Hong Kong and Jan Jiracek von Arnim from Austria.

“I am glad that the competition has grown in reputation to warrant having three adjudicators, which is a most welcome development. I remember having a good time in Kerikeri, and enjoyed listening to the high level performances, particularly from the performers I deemed as winners,” he said.

“And it’s great for New Zealand to have a competition like Kerikeri because it puts the country on the map for musicians. For contestants it can be a confidence booster and a stepping stone for something bigger.”

Entries to the Kerikeri International Piano Competition close at midnight (New Zealand time) on 11th March, 2016.

New Zealand’s only international piano competition is a United Nations of classical pianists.

Nine countries are represented among the final 15 contestants. Of those, four call Australia home, two are each from South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand, and one each from USA, Ukraine, Canada, China and Hong Kong.

Nearly half the contestants were born in the USA, are currently studying in America, have earned their music degrees at a variety of American universities and music schools, or have performed in the United States.

Their arrival in the Far North at the end of June could be considered a newly-defined classical pianist tourist genre.

Australia’s Got Classical Talent too!

Brisbane, 17 July 2014

Aspiring music students refer to them as Julliard, Curtis or Oberlin, but these names signify the top music schools in the US and the world. It was against an international field of young pianists from such premier institutions, and other young Australians and New Zealanders of comparable local pedigree that Alex Raineri emerged as this year’s winner of the Kerikeri International Piano Competition.

In the beautiful setting of New Zealand’s renowned tourist destination, the Bay of Islands, the Kerikeri competition was established in 1987 and has steadily developed its reputation and appeal, this year attracting 54 entries from 15 different countries.

With a first prize of $15,000, it is not only a prestigious award but offers a significant boost to a young musician’s financial resources. In addition to being judged the overall winner, Alex also received the Jill Cottle award for the Best Sonata.

Competition patron and esteemed New Zealand concert pianist Michael Houstoun said

“Alex arrived ready to play and did so with tremendous assurance and mastery. The Berg sonata and Messiaen’s ‘Le Loriot’ were magnificent, both refined and played with great understanding. Also excellent were his Brahms Intermezzo, Vine Bagatelles and Granados piece. Throughout the competition Alex demonstrated a winning combination of hands, head and heart.”

Now back at home in Brisbane, on semester break from the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne (ANAM) where he is studying a Masters offered jointly with Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, Alex has time only to pause briefly to reflect on what his recent wins means for him.

He is then off to rehearse with local group Kupka’s Piano he helped found, for its next concert at The Judith Wright Centre in Fortitude Valley where ‘Kupka’s’ is also resident contemporary music ensemble, before heading back to Melbourne.

ANAM, currently led by Brisbane’s Paul Dean, pushes its students very hard – all are planning careers in performance – and Alex is enjoying the frequent and demanding opportunities the Academy gives him to work with both local and visiting artists of international acclaim.

“I have been a huge fan of Alex’s ever since I heard him perform in his early teens. His achievements at ANAM this year have been remarkable and his win in this prestigious competition is a great credit to his tireless hard work, and the great care of the piano department here at ANAM led by Timothy Young. Of course on a personal level I always hold a special cheer for my fellow Brisbane-­‐ites who continue to be successful all over the world and keep popping up in leading positions and on the podium for competitions all over.”

At the same time, he is also very appreciative of ‘the Queensland Con’ from which he graduated with a University Medal and First Class Honours in a Bachelor of Music (Advanced Performance) in 2013.

Indeed, two weeks prior to the Kerikeri competition he was thrilled to be awarded a $25,000 scholarship from Griffith University to assist in his Masters studies.

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For more info: www.alexraineri.com -­‐ or -­‐ call Penny Shehadeh: 0419 023 477

Impressions of the 2014 Kerikeri International Piano Competition

Just returned from the 2014 KIPC, I ponder what has kept me coming back to it time after time and now, from some distance.

Why do I? Because it is so worth it! There are many elements to the magic mix: terrific young talent attracted from all over the New Zealand and the world; (realistically, where else would you get to hear these musicians perform?); interesting, challenging and beautiful music played at an incredibly high standard; terrific venue – the Turner Centre is a treat in itself (great acoustic, all amenities and comfy chairs!).

But above all it’s the people who ice the cake that light all the candles: the KIPC team is a well-oiled machine these days, always professional, capable, organised, obliging and cheerful – hats off to you all. And then there are the local volunteers who offer the competitors accommodation with a properly tuned piano (or three!), food, transport and comfort when needed. Other volunteers staff the Turner Centre with enthusiasm and good humour; and this year, still more volunteers provided a ‘café’ with delicious food. If you need a leg-stretching walk there are many excellent cafes nearby.

The competition is spread out over four days if you do the lot, and you should – it’s easily do-able and reasonably, realistically priced. Sensible programming (with enticing extras such as master classes and interactive talks), top quality adjudicators (three this year), wonderful performances followed by intense discussion with audience neighbours comparing notes and impressions, and the buzz of excitement that builds towards the Finals Concert and announcement of results, all create an experience that will draw me back again in 2016 for sure.

Rose Chapman

‘Estrella’ at the Turner Centre

The recital given by ‘Estrella’ on Saturday, 10 August was a sell out. The quartet from Auckland provided a musical experience which will be long remembered by the large and highly appreciative audience at the Turner Centre. Performing on two grand pianos, Lorelle McNaughton, Somi Kim, Cindy Tsao and Judy Lee set the place alight with their dazzling playing. They lived up to their ever growing reputation as they performed music of solo piano, duet, 6-hands and of course 8 hands.

Their programme included a number of arrangements from the established piano repertoire but of particular interest and merit were the performances by New Zealand composers David Hamilton, Leonie Holmes and Gareth Farr with a number of pieces composed or arranged specifically for the Quartet.

The concert seating was ‘in the round’ giving the audience a special opportunity to be in close contact with both the performers and music. Another success for Kerikeri and KIPC.