“A significant new strain of the Big Serious Piano Competition has risen up, and it is a considerably different animal,” writes Douglas McLennan an article in Sunday’s (6/12) New York Times. “This is a new age of the amateur, and these amateurs are challenging our notions of quality, established practice and process. The recent Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs held in Fort Worth provokes questions not only about the kinds of artistry competitions reward but also about changing notions of what defines quality. … Crowd sourcing is being used for more and more things these days, often with some remarkable results. … Tips from Facebook friends routinely beat the ability of professional critics to drive an audience. … At the recent Cliburn competition, for which I was chairman of the press jury, the level of playing was quite high, far above that of the typical piano student. Could the pianists compete on a professional level? Most of them couldn’t. Did it matter? Not really. … The eventual winner, Christopher Shih, a gastroenterologist from Maryland, was the most conventionally professional of the contestants, and he stood out. His performances were effortless, his control consummate.”

Posted June 13, 2011