THREE AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITIONS: THE PIANO WORKS THEY COMMISSIONED BETWEEN 1962 AND 2012
Iheadindu Gandy, Christiana Loredana
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Over a period of 50 years—between 1962 and 2012—three preeminent American piano competitions, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the University of Maryland International Piano Competition/William Kapell International Piano Competition and the San Antonio International Piano Competition, commissioned for inclusion on their required performance lists 26 piano works, almost all by American composers. These compositions, works of sufficient artistic depth and technical sophistication to serve as rigorous benchmarks for competition finalists, constitute a unique segment of the contemporary American piano repertoire. Although a limited number of these pieces have found their way into the performance repertoire of concert artists, too many have not been performed since their premières in the final rounds of the competitions for which they were designed. Such should not be the case. Some of the composers in question are innovative titans of 20th-century American music—Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, John Cage, John Corigliano, William Schuman, Joan Tower and Ned Rorem, to name just a few—and many of the pieces themselves, as historical touchstones, deserve careful examination. This study includes, in addition to an introductory overview of the three competitions, a survey of all 26 compositions and an analysis of their expressive characteristics, from the point of view of the performing pianist. Numerous musical examples support the analysis. Biographical information about the composers, along with descriptions of their overall musical styles, place these pieces in historical context. Analytical and technical comprehension of this distinctive and rarely performed corner of the modern classical piano world could be of inestimable value to professional pianists, piano pedagogues and music educators alike.