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Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition 2019
Sussex seaside town hosts world-class classical piano event
By Michael Burland
One of the UK's most prestigious international music prizes, the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition (HIPCC) has been won by Fumiya Koida from Japan. His performance of Ravel's jazz-infused Piano Concerto in G major gained him a cash prize of £15,000 plus future concerto performance engagements with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) and additional performance opportunities in both the UK and the USA.
A record young 176 pianists from 26 countries auditioned in the USA, China, Japan, Italy and Britain before the competition's artistic director Frank Wibaut and his colleagues. 49 were selected to compete in Hastings between February 21 and March 2, including ten Americans [featured here]. Sadly for The American the US contestants did not make it through to the finals, which we attended. The six finalists, however, gave a stunning display of technical skill and understanding of sometimes complex concertos. Each of them played a full concerto with the RPO, one of the world's most admired orchestras. Ably and genially hosted by Classic FM DJ John Brunning at the White Rock Theatre, the two-night finals were great entertainment as well as top quality music.
Second prize was awarded to Maxim Kinasov from Russia, who played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor Op.23. It's perhaps an over-familiar piece, but Maxim got to the heart and soul of it. His performance won him a cash prize of £7,000. He also received the special ‘Orchestra Prize' voted for by players of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra along with future performances.
Third prize winner Eric Guo from Canada, age just 16, gave a spirited rendition of Chopin's Piano Concerto No.1. Fourth prize went to Yunanfan Yang from Edinburgh, Scotland, whose Prokofiev concerto was finely controlled and won him a Special Prize of £1,000 awarded to a British Contestant reaching the Final. The other finalists were New Zealander Sylvia Yang whose passionate Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 was a crowd-pleaser and Alexander Yau from Australia who performed Rachmaninov's epic Piano Concerto No. 3, with its long unaccompanied passages, with power.
Hastings has hosted a music festival for over 100 years and a piano competition existed from its early days. The piano class was dropped, but reinstated in 2005 and has since gone from strength to strength, becoming one of the most highly regarded in the world. Past HIPCC winners have gone on to win prizes at other prestigious competitions and built a career in classical music, so this year's finalists are names to watch out for.
After this year the competition becomes a biennial event, the next happening in 2021, and its relationship with the RPO will continue. In the intervening years Hastings will hold a music festival.