XVII International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

I’ve been wanting to have more of my friends write for this blog, and this week’s post has been graciously contributed by my wonderful pianist friend Lauren! Enjoy…

When someone mentions a “Chopin competition,” there is inarguably only one that comes to mind, and that is the Chopin Piano Competition, held in Warsaw, Poland, every five years since 1955. If you haven’t kept up with what’s been going on, for the month of October these marvelous musicians have been competing in what is probably one of the most momentous and memorable experiences of their lives. Many of the performers from previous years–Martha Argerich, Maurizio Pollini, Garrick Ohlsson, to name a brief few–have gone on to fabulous careers and established a name for themselves as a result of participating in this competition, so I have high hopes for some of these phenomenal young artists. I’ve been incredibly engrossed in performance-watching (belated), scoring, artist bio research, interviews, and personal budgetary restrictions for the next five years in hopes of attending the XVIII.

1st: Seong-Jin Cho, South Korea
2nd: Charles Richard-Hamelin, Canada
3rd: Kate Liu, United States
4th: Eric Lu, United States
5th: Tony Yike Yang, Canada
6th: Dmitry Shishkin, Russia

Dmitri Alexeev
Martha Argerich
Akiko Ebi
Philippe Entremont
Nelson Goerner
Adam Harasiewicz
Andrzej Jasiński
Yundi Li
Garrick Ohlsson
Janusz Olejniczak
Piotr Paleczny
Ewa Pobłocka
Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń
John Rink
Wojciech Świtała
Dang Thai Son
Dina Yoffe

Included is a very detailed ticket pricing of exactly how much you would need to sell your soul for to watch this live, plane fare and housing not included:

Polish Zloty

4000 Polish Zloty converted is $1033.25. These seats better result in some tear-jerking performances–whether induced by the remarkable musicianship or my impending destitution, I can’t be certain.

Although everyone will have different opinions on who should or should not win, the Chopin Competition website provided audiences with some extensive insight into their scoring system. Across the top row is each jurors’ initials and his/her respective scores for each participant, on a scale from 1-25 for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd rounds, and 1-10 for the final concerto round. Those with an “s” are/were students of the juror and are therefore not allowed to be rated. “Yes/No” refers to whether or not the juror thought the competitor should advance to the next round.

In the final round, let it be noted that although Seong-Jin Cho has the highest average ratings, Kate Liu is the only one who received three 10’s (each juror cannot give out more than one 10). In other bizarre and noteworthy mentions, Philippe Entremont was the only one who provided the glaring “1” outlier to Seong-Jin’s performance, and on top of that wrote “no” for his 2nd and 3rd rounds. 10/10 for blatant, unveiled opinions.

Concerto Round Rating

Final Round: Concerto (all played No. 1, except Charles Richard-Hamelin)

I don’t think the Chopin Competition realized how dangerous it was that they provided me, the public, with this information. Case and point: I’ve cross-examined these sets for hours, because, well, it’s interesting, and when you combine numbers and music together, the former becomes slightly more exciting. But really, you can see who liked who, pity the people that have a line of 17 “no’s,” create various scenarios for why a judge would give such a number based on someone’s playing, see if the judges’ votes improved in successive rounds, practice pronunciation of European names, etc. Here’s a snippet of the first round, just so you have an idea:

First Round

First Round: I just want to point out that Kate Liu received five “no’s” to passing the first round, yet came out on top in the end. If only her name was Rachel Naomi Kudo (listed above her), I could’ve made a great pun. Kudos to you, Kate.

One competitor in this first round got rated an 8 out of 25, that being the only single digit rating I saw. I had high hopes it was a typo for 18, but soon stumbled across a 5 for someone else in the second round…

I won’t even get started on my own performer preferences, but regardless of what I like, this is extremely high caliber playing and some of music at its finest. Five years from now, if I don’t make it to Poland, I am going to host a Chopin Competition party. Okay, maybe not a month long one, but there’ll definitely be some veggie platters, fried chicken, chips and dip, and various other artery-clogging goodies. You know, staples of the American diet. We can be pretend-Marthas and hand out scores on personalized cards while simultaneously placing bets on who the jury will pick as winner. This will become my ritual in place of the typical Super Bowl party. And we can all watch 10 people (give or take) play the same concerto for hours. There’s a 50% chance it’ll already be E minor.


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