Art and competition: a clash of cultures? Not at this music competition in Bonn. Four rounds, nine days and many notes later, there will be one main winner — and several more.
After two years, it's time again for the International Telekom Beethoven Competition Bonn (ITBCB). Founded in 2005 and taking place biennially, the competition is now in its eighth edition. It's a forum for pianists between the ages of 16 and 32 to gain recognition and win cash awards and several other distinctions.
The evening before Round One, the reigning champion from the 2017 competition, Italian pianist Alberto Ferro, gives a Welcome Concert, after which this year's 23 participants from 11 countries pick lots to determine the order of their performance.
All rounds are open to the public and are usually heavily visited by local music lovers. Those who cannot be physically present can follow the entire process via video livestream — and are invited to participate in determining who can climb the next rung of the competition ladder.
Beethoven as the centerpiece
Lasting nine days, the competition takes place in four rounds at Bonn's Telekom Headquarters. Piano music by Ludwig van Beethoven is the central theme throughout. The assignment in Round One is to perform one of Beethoven's last three piano sonatas, an additional Beethoven work and a prelude and fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach. Each participant is given 45 minutes to demonstrate their prowess.
In Round One, lasting three days, each of the nine members of the jury headed by the pianist Pavel Gililov may award a point to 12 participants. Eleven of the 12 who receive the most points advance to Round Two. The 12th is selected by the livestream audience. Should their voice go to a contender not chosen by the jury, that individual will go on to contend in the next round.
Moving up the ranks
Round Two then begins on Monday, December 9 and lasts two days. This time participants can play a sonata from Beethoven's middle period and an additional work by a Beethoven contemporary such as Joseph Haydn and/or that of a Romantic composer such as Robert Schumann or Franz Liszt. This time, each participant is given a maximum 60 minutes. Six of the 12 will then go on to Round Three.
Beginning on December 11, that round features a Beethoven sonata and a work of more modern music by a composer such as Bela Bartok or Paul Hindemith. The maximum allowed time is 40 minutes per participant.
Three of the six semifinalists will be eliminated after the jury announces its decision that evening.
This time, there is a two-part finale. In part one, on December 13, the three finalists will perform a piano trio by Ludwig van Beethoven and a composition dating from after 1980, accompanied on the violin by Grigory Alumyan and on cello by Mikhail Ovrutsky. This is the only evening on which the musicians may play from a score; everything else before then must be performed by memory.
In Part Two of the finale, on December 14 in the Telekom Forum, each of the three will perform a piano concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven, accompanied by the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn under the baton of Dirk Kaftan.
A cash award of €30,000 ($33,300) goes along with first prize, second prize is €20,000 and third prize €10,000. Awards also go to the audience favorite and to the contestant who performs best in the trio ensemble. Additional prizes are awarded for the best rendition of a piano concerto and the best interpretation of a contemporary piece. A Beethoven House Prize and the Deutsche Telekom StreamOn Beethoven Award round out the picture.
1. HwaYoung An (South Korea)
2. Alexander Bernstein (USA)
3. Paul Cartianu (Romania)
4. Stefan Chaplikov (Bulgaria)
5. Alessandro de Salvo (Italy)
6. Marie Rosa Günter (Germany)
7. Hee Jun Han (South Korea)
8. Knut Hanßen (Germany)
9. Shih-Wei Huang (Taiwan)
10. So Hyang In (South Korea)
11. Ye-Eun Kim (South Korea)
12. Yoonji Kim (South Korea)
13. Rachel Naomi Kudo (USA)
14. Yunjae Lee (South Korea)
15. Shihyun Lee (South Korea)
16. Adela Liculescu (Romania)
17. Jizhe Mu (China)
18. Federico Nicoletta (Italy)
19. Kazuya Saito (Japan)
20. Philipp Scheucher (Austria)
21. Yuto Takezawa (Japan)
22. Cunmo Yin (China)
23. Re Zhang (China)
1. Pavel Gililov (Ukraine/Austria/Germany)
2. Dmitri Alexeev (Russia/Great Britain)
3. Michel Béroff (France)
4. Hyong-Joon Chang (South Korea)
5. Hisako Kawamura (Japan)
6. Paul Schenly (USA)
7. Ilona Schmiel (Germany)
8. Henri Sigfridsson (Finland)
9. Natalia Trull (Russia)