Santiago Rodriguez, the chairman of this year's William Kapell International Piano Competition, won first prize in the 1975 piano competition held at the University of Maryland. After the 1986 death in a plane crash of the great American pianist William Kapell, the event was named in his honor. It continues to support young pianists chosen from candidates worldwide every four years. This year's candidates come from Canada, Chile, China, France, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine and the United States.
Currently on the faculty of the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, Rodriguez performs frequently in the Washington area, most recently with the Alexandria Symphony, and looks forward to returning to the University of Maryland in the fall. The chairman of the competition judges, he opens this year's festival Saturday with a solo piano recital in Gildenhorn Recital Hall. Other noted artists performing in recital throughout the festival include Leon Fleisher, Gloria Cheng, Vijay Iyer, Jeremy Denk, Richard Egarr and Anton Kuerti.
"In addition to works by Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Debussy, I've chosen several Spanish selections," Rodriguez said. "I've looked forward to my first time back in Maryland for quite a while and will dedicate these favorite works of mine to close friends I knew here who are no longer with us.
"This will be an exciting experience for the 29 pianists. They were chosen around the first of the year from the recordings they submitted. All the recordings are heard by a panel of judges who know the pianists only by number and have no idea where they studied or the identity of their teachers. The judges spent days listening to and discussing the recordings before reaching a decision."
|The William Kapell International Piano Competition and Festival|
|Where: University of Maryland Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center|
|When: Saturday through July 21|
|Info: recitals: $35 subscriber/U.Md. staff, $28 Senior/U.Md. Alumni, $10 students/youth; final round: $50 subscriber/U.Md. Staff; $40 Senior/U.Md. Alumni, $10 students/youth; 301-405-2787; claricesmithcenter.umd.edu|
The public announcement of the nine semi-finalists is posted at 4 p.m. on July 12, following three days of the preliminary competition. They next will participate in the semi-final solo round from Friday through Sunday. Then comes the semi-final chamber round pairing each pianist with either violinist Melissa White or cellist William De Rosa. They may choose from one of four sonatas White and De Rosa have designated.
The three finalists selected from the nine semi-finalists will perform a concerto with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra led by British conductor David Lockington.
"Competitions are vital because they provide a road into the business of music and are the only way young musicians can establish themselves quickly and well," Rodriguez said. "I want the audiences to see where young musicians are now. Those coming up today are at an advanced level of performance and bring new insight into old works at their very young ages. Because they are not jaded or overly confident, they come upon older music with wonder and excitement and express it with great joy."