Russian Pianist Hits Winning Keys

Russian Pianist Hits Winning Keys

Published: June 11, 2013 (Issue # 1763)

Bruno Vessiez

Winning the prestigious award will boost Giltburg’s career on an international scale.

The 2013 Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels came to an end on Saturday, June 1, with Russian-born, Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg winning the top prize. The prize includes 25,000 euros and an invitation to perform at numerous concerts in Belgium and abroad. Giltburg was also awarded the Public Award from Flemish public broadcaster VRT, which earned him a further 2,500 euros.

“It’s incredible. This feels fantastic. My performance must have been appreciated by the jury. I am very grateful to the jury for giving me first place. I will try to cherish this victory and get the most out of it,” he said upon receiving his award.

He also acknowledged a mistake he made in the semi-finals that almost sidelined him. In an interview following the awards, he expressed his gratitude to the jury for overlooking his stumble and instead focusing on his overriding artistic message.

The jury, chaired by Arie van Lisbeth, said that Giltburg had demonstrated perfect technical abilities, inventiveness and emotion.

Born in Moscow in 1984, Giltburg started piano lessons with his mother at the age of five. At an early age, he moved to Tel Aviv where he continued his studies. Over the years, he has received a number of awards from many international competitions. This win will further advance his international career.

Rotating every year between voice, violin and piano, the 75-year-old competition is arguably the most prestigious, most famous and the most difficult of its kind. It is also a favorite with the Belgian public: Three television channels provide full coverage of the finalists’ concerts, which span over a week.

Bruno Vessiez

Giltburg was applauded for his technical skill, emotion and inventiveness in Brussels.

This year, the piano took center stage. The competition received a record 283 applications, with room for only 85 pianists to participate. After two strenuous rounds, 12 finalists were then selected to perform at the 2,000-seat concert hall of the Palais des Beaux-Arts.

Among representatives of the 29 nations in the starting round, Russian musicians were the most numerous, with 11 musicians. Out of those 11, four reached the semi-finals and two made it to the finals. Other large contingents from the start included pianists from Belgium, China, Korea and Japan. China and Korea were well represented among the finalists, as was the United States, who reentered the competition after several years of absence.

From its inception, the competition has provided its laureates with a direct route to fame and an international career. A number of leading Russian soloists have been given their break over the years, going back to the days of Emil Gilels and Leonid Kogan, through to recent years with Vadim Repin, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Gidon Kremer and the winner of the last year’s violin competition, Andrey Baranov.

The most trying feature of the competition is its duration. Including one week of preparations for the finals, it lasts four weeks in total. Therefore, participants must possess enormous psychological and physical stamina.

The second major challenge of the competition is the requirement for musicians to perform, in addition to their prepared programs, two compulsory pieces — a sonata and a concerto. These are newly composed works for which no preparation is possible and the contestants must prove their skills as interpreters and teachers without any assistance.

This year, the composer of the 15-minute long concerto “In the Wake of Ea” was the Frenchman Michel Petrossian.

The other Russian finalist was Stanislav Khristenko, a graduate of the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory, who took fourth place. Khristenko is an accomplished performer on four continents who made his debut as soloist at the age of eleven.

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