Twelve semifinalists representing seven countries will compete for a top prize of $15,000 when the 27th annual New Orleans International Piano Competition gets underway this week at Loyola University.

The announcement of the 2018 gold, silver and bronze medalists on July 29 will culminate this year’s New Orleans Keyboard Festival and Piano Institute, which kicks off this Sunday with a guest artist recital featuring past NOIPC winner Alexandre Moutouzkine and his wife, Chloe Kiffer, on violin. The two of them will perform a program of pieces by Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel, including Stravinsky’s famous “Firebird Suite.”

Two semifinal elimination rounds will be held the coming week concurrent with open master classes and free concerts held in conjunction with the Keyboard Festival.

This year’s winner, in addition to receiving a cash award of $5,000, will also receive $10,000 for performing with three Louisiana-based orchestras — the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Baton Rouge Symphony and the Acadiana Symphony — along with a solo recital at New York City’s prestigious Merkin Concert Hall during their 2019-20 concert season.

All three prize winners will perform as featured soloists at LPO’s Concerto Showcase, to be held on March 30, 2019.

The Merkin Concert Hall solo recital for this year’s winner is a new addition to the competition, said Cara McCool Woolf, executive director of the Musical Arts Society of New Orleans, sponsoring organization for the event. The concert series at Merkin Hall is headed by Igal Kesselman, one of the six jurors judging the 2018 New Orleans competition.

The 12 semifinalists were selected from 153 applications internationally, Woolf said. “They’re all outstanding young pianists representing some of the best in the world.

“This competition is really special,” Woolf added. “It puts New Orleans on the map in the classical piano world. We’ve played an integral role in the careers and livelihoods of many top artists. It’s a treat for us to welcome these emerging artists here and present these kinds of opportunities for them, as well as get to listen to them.”

“It goes far beyond the music,"Woolf said. "It serves as a launching pad for these young pianists to get their careers on track. They get a lot of performance experience working with orchestras and program directors.”

The 12 semifinalists are Sung Chang, David Jae Weon Huh and Hyun ji Serena You from South Korea; Yixiang Hou, Lin Ye and Ziang Xu from China; Arisa Onoda and Misuzu Tanaka from Japan; Andreas Ioannides from United Kingdom; Scott MacIsaac from Canada; Alessandro Tosi from Italy; and Robert Levinger from the United States.

During their competition rounds the pianists will perform pieces of their own choosing, subject to time restrictions and other format criteria. Most of the pieces they’ve chosen are works by classic composers, but there are some recent compositions in there as well.

Apart from the competition, the Keyboard Festival and Piano Institute will feature a series of eight master classes coordinated by NOPI faculty members that are free and open to the public. Participants in this year’s NOPI will hold a concerto competition on July 26 and a showcase recital July 28.

Thirty-five students ranging from junior high school to college have registered for this year’s sessions.

Igor Resnianski, a co-director of NOPI along with Joni Jensen, is looking forward to returning to New Orleans where he won the 1996 piano competition.

An assistant professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania who also hosts a master class, Resnianski takes a flexible approach to his role, teaching his students the classics but also being open to learning and teaching newer works by contemporary composers.

“Sometimes my students will present me with works by composers I haven’t worked with and they tell me, ‘I really want to learn this piece,’ ” Resnianski said. “And I tell them, ‘OK, let’s do it, because we will be doing it together. You will be learning it and playing it, and I will be working with you and guiding you — but I will be learning it at the same time.’ It’s an interesting process.”

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2018 New Orleans International Piano Competition, Keyboard Festival and New Orleans Piano Institute

Sunday 

1:15 p.m. master class

4 p.m. guest artist recital: Alexandre Moutouzkine (piano) and Chloe Kiffer (violin)

Monday 

10:45 a.m. master class

2:45 p.m. master class

7 p.m. NOIPC semifinal round 1, day one

Tuesday 

10:45 a.m. master class

2:45 p.m. master class

7 p.m. NOIPC semifinal round 1, day two

Wednesday 

11 a.m. presentation by Jennifer Hayghe (piano)

2:45 p.m. master class

7 p.m. NOIPC semifinal round 1, day three

July 26

9 a.m. NOPI concerto competition

3:15 p.m. master class

7 p.m. NOIPC semifinal round 2, day one

July 27

11 a.m. Presentation: Meet the jury of NOIPC

2:45 p.m. master class

7 p.m. NOIPC semifinal round 2, day two

July 28

10:30 a.m. NOPI Showcase Recital (free)

July 29

2 p.m. NOIPC final round

WHERE: All master classes and presentations are in Room 240, Loyola University Music and Communications Building. All International Piano Competition rounds, guest artist recitals and the NOPI Concerto Competition and Showcase Recital will be held in the Louis B. Roussel Performance Hall on the Loyola University campus, 6363 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans.

TICKETS: All-event pass $140-$150; Semifinal Round 1, $17-$22; Semifinal Round 2, $22-$27; Final Round, $30-$35.

INFO: (504) 899-4826 or masno.org