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International piano competition to open in Cleveland

CLEVELAND - Young virtuoso pianists from around the globe will be arriving in this Lake Erie city starting next week to vie for big money, fame, and a chance to play with one of the best orchestras in the world in its renowned concert hall.

It's an odd-numbered year and thus time for the Cleveland International Piano Competition, a biennial event established in 1975 that has earned the highest marks among the 600 or so piano contests around the world.

This year's field of 28 contestants was winnowed from more than 200 applicants, musicians in most cases already gaining renown in concert halls in Europe and Asia. Their countries of origin include Korea, China, Italy, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, the United Kingdom, and, yes, the United States.

Players from age 21 to 30 have prepared several full programs drawn from the huge piano repertoire, the better to show their best stuff to a panel of judges in a series of elimination rounds starting Wednesday and winding up Aug. 1 in the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave.

Moreover, each contestant will have memorized a major concerto in anticipation of becoming one of the final four, each of whom will perform with the Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall, 11001 Euclid Ave., on Aug. 5 and 6. The winner is to be announced following the Aug. 6 concert. An award ceremony and winners' recital is set for Aug. 7.

Croatian pianist Martina Filjak won the 2009 competition. Her awards included $50,000 in cash - the Mixon First Prize and the largest award of any piano contest anywhere. Filjak, who has won other performance contests before and since, also was given a series of performing engagements, two years of management service, a compact disc recording on the Naxos label, and a New York recital debut in Alice Tully Hall of Lincoln Center.

This year's judges are as international as the contestants: Hungarian pianist Peter Frankl, Korean recitalist Hyoung-Joon Chang; 2007 Cleveland prize winner Alexander Ghindin (Russia); Thierry Huillet (France), Faina Lushtak (Russia), John Owings (United States), HaeSun Paik (Korea), and Xu Zhong (China).

Piano music fans and those who love the thrill of competition can watch the entire event in person or via Webcasts.

The first round, July 27-29, will comprise 30-minute programs starting at 1 and 7 p.m. each day in the Cleveland Play House. Second round performances will be 40 minutes apiece, also starting at 1 and 7 p.m. July 30-Aug. 1 in the playhouse. Semi-finals will be 60-minute performances starting at 1 and 7 p.m. Aug. 2 and 3 in the playhouse.

Tickets for all the above events are $15-20 at 216-795-7000 or

The Cleveland Orchestra and four finalists will perform at 8 p.m. Aug. 5 and 6 in Severance Hall. The award ceremony and final recital will begin at 3 p.m. Aug. 7, also in Severance. Tickets for these events are $20-55 at 800-686-1141 or

The contest will be Webcast starting with the first round and continuing through the semi-finals. For the Web address, visit early next week. The entire contest also will be archived and posted on YouTube.

Contact Sally Vallongo at:

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