Another quiet success for Honens
Internationally acclaimed competition barely noticed at MRU
As much as everyone in the arts scene has loved beating the whole “Cultural Capital of Canada” title to death, it is still a shock that perhaps Calgary’s most talented arts event barely pops up on students’ radar.
The Honens competition ran from Oct. 17 to 26 this year, with the limited amounts of fanfare they’ve become accustomed to. Held in the EPCOR Centre once again, the event is recognized internationally as one of the leading piano competitions in the world.
Since its creation by Esther Honens in 1991, the competition has run every three years, attracting talented musicians from across the globe.
The event was conceived towards the end of her life, as Honens donated $5-million towards the creation of a competition that fostered the growth of young musicians.
Now, over two decades later, it is a great source of pride to local musicians as being unique to our city, as well as excellent stage for aspiring artists.
It also hosts the largest prize of any piano competition globally, with the grand winner taking home $100,000. On top of that, and many other prizes for finalists and semifinalists, one pianist will be selected as the Honens Laureate and awarded a $500,000 artistic and career development program.
On Oct. 18, the semi-finals were in full swing, with two pianists going head-to-head to make their way into the finals. The first, Italian Lorenzo Cossi, (pictured above) played a solid hour on the Calgary Philharmonic’s Fazioli grand piano.
Needing no score, his effort included the works of Brahms, Beethoven, Stravinsky and more with an incredible amount of passion and spirit.
“Art is linked to spirituality,” were the words he lives by and certainly plays by.
The second competitor of the night was 23-year-old Russian pianist, Pavel Kolesnikov. Playing on the Steinway and Sons grand, he was first joined by Amanda Roocroft, a British soprano singer, performing pieces by Wolf and Debussy.
Later, he performed Mendelssohn’s “Sonata for cello and piano No. 2 in D Major” with cellist Johannes Moser. Additionally, Geoff Nuttall joined Kolesnikov for one of the highlights of the night, “Beethoven’s Sonata for violin and piano No. 10 in G major Op. 96,” which was a fantastically playful banter between the violin and piano.
It is not an easy task to get to the finals, let alone the semifinals. The journey of the musicians starts with an extensive online application. From there, the top 50 applicants make the quarterfinals, where they undergo extensive taped interviews on top of a forty minute solo.
The jury looks for creative and intelligent choices in what the pianists play and the artist’s suitability for a musical career. Then, the top ten talented competitors are placed into the semifinal round, which are the first rounds in Calgary that the public are able to watch.
The pianists are required to perform a 60 minute solo recital, as well as a 70 minute collaborative recital. It is entirely up to the artists what they wish to play, although contemporary and pivotal pieces are suggested.
All of the collaborative recitals include the same cellist, violinists and singer performing various sonatas and art song.
By the last round, only five pianists return for the final. They have the opportunity to perform a concerto with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as another interview. The piece that they choose to play must be written after 1760, but is otherwise a personal choice.
The pianists that made this year’s final included both Cossi and Kolesnikov, as well as Russian Maria Mazo, South Korean Jong Hai Park and American Eric Zuber.Sadly, reading this article will be the first run in with the Honens for many Calgarians. Kolesnikov went on to be awarded as the Honens Laureate.
With multiple free events and very reasonably priced tickets, Honens is a great chance to become a little more culturally literate with some of the best the world has to offer.
If you are tired of the Stampede being the only international attention that Calgary is known for, circle the calendar three short years from now and you will be able to experience and support the Honens International Piano Competition.
Editor’s note: This article was published online on Nov. 2 and updated on Nov. 12. The sub-headline was changed from “Internationally acclaimed competition barely noticed in Calgary” to “Internationally acclaimed competition barely noticed at MRU” and the first sentence was changed from “…barely pops up on the city’s radar” to “…barely pops up on students’ radar” to better reflect the reporter’s intention to communicate that the student demographic is largely unfamiliar with the internationally-renowned Honens competition.