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June 7, 2002
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Arts/Entertainment: Overnight
Cliburn Amateur: Semifinals narrowed to skill


By OLIN CHISM / The Dallas Morning News

With Friday's semifinals, the International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs should take on a consistency missing in this week's preliminaries. Listeners can confidently expect something approaching – at times exceeding – professional standards.

The clear crowd favorite, Debra Saylor, will open the semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday with music of Debussy, Ravel, Schumann and Chopin.

Also Online
The Third International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs takes place June 3-8 at Ed Landreth Auditorium, Texas Christian University, University and West Cantey in Fort Worth.
Complete packages: $105
Semifinals, finals and awards: $60
Individual sessions: $10 for preliminaries, $20 for semifinals and $35 for finals and awards.
Call Central Tickets, 817-335-9000 or 1-800-462-7979.
Preliminary round (June 3-5): Seventy-five applicants will each present a program not to exceed 12 minutes.
Preliminary round schedule
Semifinal round (June 7): Eighteen semifinalists will each present a program not to exceed 20 minutes.
Semifinal round schedule
Final round (June 8): Six finalists will each present a program not to exceed 30 minutes.
The Competitors
The Jurors
First prize: $2,000
Second prize: $1,000
Third prize: $500
Other prizes: Press jury award; audience award; awards for the best performance of a work from the baroque, classical and romantic eras; best performance of a modern work; most creative programming award; and jury discretionary awards.
On the Web
WFAA Video: Amateurs attracting more attention
International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs
Cliburn Foundation official site
Included will be Ravel's beautiful Pavane for a Dead Princess – just the sort of music she's excelled at in her previous appearances at the Fort Worth event. Ms. Saylor has favored music that sings rather than thunders, in sharp contrast to some of the other contestants.

The range of skills in the preliminaries was very wide. Some of the competitors were technically weak. Some, even among those who played well, were plagued by that old amateur bugaboo, memory slips. The only thing they consistently shared was an enthusiasm for music.

The selection of the 18 semifinalists pretty well assures that everyone will be able to handle the notes. The range of musical personalities remains quite wide, and some of those playing will make a kind of vivid impression that not even the pros consistently achieve.

Among those will almost surely be Ms. Saylor. Her magical performance of Debussy's Claire de lune in 2000 is something that everyone who was there to hear her play still talks about. Later in her program and again this week she gave marvelous performances to prove that the magic wasn't freakish. She's got the goods.

She wasn't the only musical conjurer in the preliminaries. Immediately following her on Tuesday evening was Victoria Bragin, who managed not to be submerged in Ms. Saylor's wake. In fact, she gave a fabulous performance of Haydn's Sonata No. 23 in F that had everything: technical security, wit, the communication of sheer joy in playing. It was fully professional in every way except that the player makes her living in chemistry, not music. Ms. Bragin, a Californian, will play music of Bartók and Debussy in her semifinal performance at 8:40 p.m. Friday. This is one to look forward to.

Michael Hawley, a researcher and assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was named a semifinalist after his performance Wednesday night.
Here are a couple of other semifinalists who made vivid impressions in the prelims:

• Paul Romero, a California CD-ROM game composer, was grandly entertaining in a trashy musical obstacle course by one Alex Grunfeld. Whether Mr. Romero will succeed in more conventional music by Scarlatti, Rachmaninoff, Liszt and Ginastera remains to be seen.

• John Markey, a North Carolina accountant, was anything but a dry numbers man as he polished off two Liszt pieces. Next we'll see how he handles Bach arrangements.


The third International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs continues through Saturday at Ed Landreth Auditorium, Texas Christian University, University and West Cantey, Fort Worth. Semifinals from 2 to 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 to 11 p.m. Friday. Finals and awards ceremony from 3 to 7:45 p.m. Saturday. Complete ticket packages are $105; tickets for semifinals, finals and awards are $60; individual sessions are $20 for semifinals and $35 for finals and awards. Call Central Tickets at 817-335-9000 or 1-800-462-7979 (toll-free).

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