Some events tout themselves as “international” even when only two or three nations are represented. However, the New Orleans International Piano Competition, a peer-juried event being held here between July 24-31, can truly make that claim. Representatives of 28 nations were among the 186 applicants initially entered into the judging.
The NOIPC, sponsored by the Musical Arts Society of New Orleans, is in its final two rounds, having whittled the field down to a dozen pianists. The semifinal and final rounds, which are open to the public, will take place at the Roussel Performance Hall on the campus of Loyola University.
The two semifinal rounds, to take place between July 25-29, will further winnow the field to the top three finalists, each of whom will perform 50-minute public recitals on Sunday, July 31. The winner that day will receive a cash prize and a medal, in addition to the prestige of winning one of the world’s premiere piano competitions.
Among the 12 semifinalists competing in New Orleans are four pianists from China and the U.S., three from South Korea and one from the United Kingdom.
The competition, originally an annual and now a biennial event, coincides with the annual New Orleans Piano Institute Keyboard Festival. This year’s guest artists are Marianna Prjevalskaya, of Spain, and Danny Driver, of the U.K., both of whom will give public recitals during the festival and the competition.
“This competition has really put New Orleans on the map in the world of classical piano and the musical arts,” said Cara McCool Woolf, executive director of the Musical Arts Society.
“It has played an integral role in future careers and livelihoods of many top artists. We bring these emerging artists into our city to present these kinds of opportunities for everyone here in New Orleans and obviously for them (the artists), as well.”
Also at this time, Woolf pointed out, 32 student pianists from around the world are selected to participate in a piano academy that is now into its 17th year. “It’s an intensive solo performance program, and it includes private lessons with the faculty and master classes and special lectures in piano literature and performance and opportunities to perform,” she explained.
The winner of the academy competition receives a cash prize, as well as an invitation to come back in the fall and perform with the New Orleans Civic Symphony. “That is the largest educational component of MASNO. We’re really proud of this event and it happens every single year,” Woolf said.
“It’s so great that we can bring in these budding artists and help them with their careers through the piano competition and things like that, as well as bring in these established top artists,” Woolf said.
Prjevalskaya, who has performed internationally and with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra after winning the 2014 piano competition, will play pieces by Brahms, Chopin and Rachmaninoff during her recital on the festival’s opening day, July 24. She will also host a master class and, along with Driver, former society director Daniel Weilbaecher and three others, she will be a judge during the semifinal and final rounds of the competition.
A native of Moldova, where she gave her first concert with an orchestra at the age of 9, Prjevalskaya now lives in northwestern Spain.
“I feel great about coming back to New Orleans,” she said. “I almost feel like it’s my second home town. I built a very strong connection with people there, very lasting friendships that became very special to me.”
“The Musical Arts Society of New Orleans is doing absolutely amazing work," she said. "It gives more and more opportunities to young, aspiring musicians.
“MASNO is quite unique and has a vital and necessary value in the musical world, both in New Orleans and in the entire country,” Prjevalskaya said. “I think music is culture, and culture builds our future. And basically what MASNO is doing is building the future generations of people in New Orleans.
“I would just like to say that I feel very grateful to this organization, Prjevalskaya said.