Every four years, 30 of the most talented musicians from around the world arrive in Fort Worth, Texas to participate in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, May 24-June 9. The young pianists, whose ages range from 19 to 30 and hail from Russia, Poland, Italy, Chile, China, and the U.S., among other countries, are gifted, of course, armed with prodigious technique, and musical personalities that belie their years. They also possess the energy of thoroughbreds.
By the time six pianists advance to the Final round of the competition they will each give three solo recitals, two during the Preliminary round and one in the Semi-finals, the latter of which includes a commissioned work (by American composer Christopher Theofanidis), and a second performance: chamber music with the Brentano String Quartet. The six finalists still standing perform not one—but two—piano concertos with the Fort Worth Symphony. Oh, and most every bit of it (excepting the chamber music) from memory! Grace under pressure, defined anew. Nothing, of course, replaces the experience of hearing these exceptional young musicians live and in the concert hall. However, a very, very close second is following the competition via the web: all performances are streamed live in their entirety and available on-demand at Cliburn.org, which makes it possible to take in the excitement of the competition and this truly global talent, whether you are in Texas or in Tongo.
Mario R. Mercado is the arts editor at Travel + Leisure.