NEW YORK—Hundreds of thousands of Facebook users tuned into live video feeds to see accomplished pianists taking part in a three-day competition held at Baruch College from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.
“Classical music changes people for the better; it changes the world for the better,” said Hrant Bagrazyan, an Armenian contestant in the semifinals of New Tang Dynasty Television’s 2016 International Piano Competition.
It is the fourth such event that NTD has held since 2008, and is part of its Competition Series showcasing and promoting other traditional arts such as classical Chinese dance and martial arts.
Over 40 pianists took part in a round of preliminaries on Friday, Sept. 30. Those chosen as semifinalists and finalists performed live, playing compositions of their own choice ranging from the Baroque to the Romantic eras. In addition, each contestant performed a commissioned piece.
Two contestants from China, Long Jiaqi and Li Weiyan, received the Best Rendition Award of the Commissioned Composition for the piece titled “Glorious Realm.”
“In fact, when I first got this piece, I thought: ‘Wow, it’s really easy. There’s just an arpeggio with the left hand, then a melody with the right; it’s really beautiful,’ and then that was it,” Li said. “But the more I practiced, I rapidly discovered that there were actually very many subtle details, so many variations of tone, with a Chinese style of melody, so it strongly reminded me of my homeland.”
Long Jiaqi, who is 19 years old and studying at the Juilliard School in New York, said “Glorious Realm” could not simply be played key by key, but needed to flow out like the sounds produced by the guzheng, an ancient Chinese instrument.
“This piece is free and at ease. In the four or five minutes that it took, it was as though I returned home, ” he said. “It flows out of you; the piece is like water, it’s like wind.”
Taking the gold prize and $10,000 award this year was Ukrainian-Canadian pianist and composer Dmitri Levkovich, who has performed in dozens of European concerts, won multiple awards, and was praised for “artistic sophistication far above the ordinary” by the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and “understanding of the music far beyond most young pianists” in the American Record Guide.
When Levkovich received the notes for “Glorious Realm,” he at first felt that this Chinese-style piece was mocking some aspect of him.
“The more I practiced it, the more I got to like it,” he said. “And eventually, I actually really loved it. I have to say that there was this one time that I ran through it, and I felt that I just transformed into a Chinese person for this four minutes that this piece lasts.”
The silver and bronze prizes went, respectively, to Russian pianists Evgeny Starodubtsev and Oleg Khudyakov.
Outstanding performers were Hrant Bagrazyan of Armenia, Elizaveta Ivanova of Russia, and Daniel Parker from the United States.
Contestants who performed in the live rounds and the finalists will have the chance to feature in episodes of NTD’s upcoming series “The Appreciation of Music.”