16th WIPAC Piano Competition: Preliminary Rounds of A Signature Washington Musical Event

There was a flurry of activity today in the hallways and practice rooms of the Music School of George Washington University, as the Washington International Piano Artists Competition launched its sixteenth annual Festival of Music. It is the longest running annual competition for non-professional piano artists in the USA.

Participants were intensely warming up to take their turn in the preliminary rounds which started in the morning. Throughout the day, the first fifteen contestants performed for an audience of piano music devotees and for the distinguished members of the WIPAC jury.

Pianist and retired physician, Robert Biber, was the first to perform in the finest tradition embodied in the meaning of the word “amateur.” His performance of the Scherzo No 2 of Frederic Chopin and the Arabesque of Claude Debussy were sensitive and creative in their approach. Throughout the day, the exceptional musicians who excel in their respective professions and demonstrate a high degree of pianistic ability expressed their devotion to and love for piano performance. 

In the world of the performing arts, a distinction is made between pianists who are considered professional by virtue of earning a livelihood through piano performances and those whose avocation as pianists is purely an expression of their “love of” the art of piano performance. Historically, the “Amateur Artist” reflected a high degree of accomplishment and this year, as in all previous 15 competitions, WIPAC has created a venue in which the pianists are held to a high standard of achievement in order to compete. 

The highlights during the preliminary rounds for this listener were Martin Gallegos’s performance of Astor Piazzola’s Invierno Porteno. His deeply passionate interpretation and artistic ability should make him a leading contender in the competition. Also, Jeanne Craig’s performance of the Vallee d’Obermann of Franz Liszt was memorable in the intensity of her musicianship. Judy Darst’s performance had a gentle, pensive, and innocent quality in Franz Liszt’s Consolation No 4 and No 5. Andre Leonard’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Sonata Opus 2, No3 (1st Movement) was clear, concise, and performed with great energy. Simon Finlow played the Brahms Rhapsodies Opus 79 No.1 and No. 2, with depth in its musical thought.

While there were many other memorable performances throughout the day, the audience looks forward to the continuation of the preliminary round awaiting another great musical experience.

Indeed, the second day of the preliminaries continues the vision of the founders of the WIPAC Chateau and John Gardecki, who created the organization with a mission to “Promote International Friendship and Cultural Understanding though the Art of Classical Piano Music.”


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