Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia (SIPCA)

This competition, held every four years, begins on Thursday.

I have attended a reasonable portion of all of these competitions, except for the 2000 competition, when I was living elsewhere.

I am ambivalent about competitions, but they do at least provide an opportunity (and here I am repeating myself) to hear a lot more piano music than one otherwise gets to hear live. There is also a kind of fascinating dive down the tunnel of time as I see the Sydney pianistas en masse.

I am going on Wednesday with my friend, Dx, to the opening recital, given this year by last time’s first prize winner, John Chen.

The competition is in stages. In the first two stages, held from Thursday to Sunday, all 35 (should be 36 but there seems to be one no-show) of the competitors play twice, in 10 sessions over all. The third and fourth stages are quarter finals and semi-finals, where the number of competitors reduces to 20 and 12 in 5 and 6 sessions respectively. Stage IV includes a piano trio. The finals are “Stage V,” and are made up of first a Mozart concerto and then a 19th or 20th century concerto by each of 6 finalists, held over 4 concerts at the Opera House.

I booked a while ago for the 19th and 20th century concerto finals. Today I went to the Seymour Centre to book for the preliminary rounds which are held there. I would like to go to all of them, but I do have a job, and a life (not to mention a blog) to attend to. Instead I have had to be selective. I have decided to hear all of the pianists in one stage I or stage II session. After that, I may buy more tickets depending on who is playing when, but have presently restricted myself to the evenings when I am free. That still adds up to 8 sessions.

The tradition in this competition is that the order of playing is determined by a starting point in the alphabetical order of the players. This is chosen by lot – though I’m not sure how transparently this is done. Apparently owing to industrial action by Qantas engineers, Qantas flights from Europe and North America have been delayed for 24 hours. Some players were not arriving until 6 am on the morning they were first due to play. Consequently, the playing order has had to be re-arranged at the last minute to put those who are already here (mostly those from Australia or Asia) first.

It is likely that I will write a few more posts about what I see and hear.

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