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UNISA PIANO COMPETITION SEMI-FINALISTS (article first published : 2008-01-31)

Twelve young pianists representing eleven countries were last night selected to go through to the semi-finals of the Vodacom-sponsored 11th Unisa International Piano Competition, being held in Pretoria. They include a South African, 24-year old Ben Schoeman, whose success was warmly applauded by a large crowd that had stayed up late to hear the names of the semi-finalists in this prestigious international event.

The bespectacled 17-year old Chun Wang, a graduate of The Music School at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, is the only teenager in the dozen semi-finalists, with the other 11 all being in their twenties. Only one country has more than one representative – the USA - an unusual feature in a Competition which, in recent years, has been dominated by Russia.

The 12 semi-finalists are Martina Filjak (29) from Croatia, Ching-Yun Hu (28) from China Taibei, Szczepan Konczal (22) from Poland, Pallavi Mahidhara (20) from the United States, South Africa’s Ben Schoeman (24), Elizabeth Schumann (26) from the USA, Ishay Shaer (25) from Israel, Italy’s Alessandro Taverna (24), Viktor Valkov (27) from Bulgaria, Liebrecht Vanbeckevoort (23) from Belgium, Alexey Yemtsov (25) from Australia, and China’s Chun Wang (17). Collectively the semi-finalists have won 54 international awards in their careers hitherto: competition is thus bound to be keen in the semi-final stage and the finals next week.

Commenting on the semi-finalists, Dot Field, Chief Communications Officer of the Vodacom Group, said the wide international field and young age average was indicative of the broad popularity of classical piano music. “Not only has this Competition once more illustrated the wide interest amongst South Africans, but the participation and success by gifted young artistes from across the world bears testament to the reputation of Unisa Music Foundation as a musical institution of international stature, and our country as one that is determined to maintain its rich, diverse cultural heritage. Vodacom is proud to be associated with such a global event,” she added.

Interest in the Competition is extremely keen, with better-than-usual audiences attending the preliminary rounds. Demand for tickets for this weekend’s semi-finals is high, while tickets for the finals, to be staged from Tuesday next week (February 5, 6, 8 and 9 respectively) are almost sold out. The main prize money for the Competition totals R650,000.

The young pianists are being judged by an international panel of jurors, all of whom are international artistes in their own right. They include Bao Huiqiao of the People’s Republic of China, William Chapman Nyaho, a Ghanaian American, Sergio Perticaroli from Italy, Surendran Reddy, a South African now living in German where he practices as a composer and teacher, Jean-Paul Sevilla from France, Dame Fanny Waterman from the United Kingdom, and South Africans Diane Coutts and John Roos. The panel of jurors has a non-voting chairperson, Japie Saayman, who is head of the Directorate of Music at Unisa.

Tickets for the semi-finals, which start tomorrow (January 31) and conclude on Saturday night, are available at the door before the start of the performances, which will be held in the Z K Matthews Great Hall on the Unisa Main Campus, Muckleneuk Ridge, Pretoria.

Information about ticket prizes and performance times is available from the Unisa Music Foundation, on 012 429-3336 / 3344 / 3311.




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