Presented in Partnership with Young Concert Artists and
Washington Performing Arts
Competition Seeks to Recognize Pianists Who Embrace Contemporary Music and Creative Programming
Public Invited to All Three Rounds in Seattle September 15–18
New Piece Written for the Competition by Kenji Bunch to be Premiered by All 8 Contestants
Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet to Serve as Chair of the Jury,
Part of a Season-long Seattle Symphony Residency
***Update on September 14, please note Marika Bournaki has withdrawn from the competition.
Eight pianists from an international pool of contestants have been selected to participate in the final three rounds of the first-ever Seattle Symphony Piano Competition on September 15–18. Through this French-American-themed competition, the Seattle Symphony seeks to promote and recognize distinctive up-and-coming pianists eager to embrace its vision for innovation, contemporary music and creative programming. Presented in partnership with Young Concert Artists (YCA) and Washington Performing Arts, the competition offers winners a comprehensive career overview and guidance on navigating the changing landscape of an international performance career. The winning pianist will receive a $10,000 cash prize; perform during the Seattle Symphony’s 2015–2016 Opening Night concert on September 19; an opportunity to perform with the Symphony during the 2016–2017 season; admission to the Semi-Final Round of the 2015 or 2016 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, as well as airfare and housing in New York for the Semi-Finals and Finals, if chosen; a future performance opportunity with Washington Performing Arts and consultation with YCA and First Chair Promotion on career development.
All three rounds are open and accessible to the public, who are invited to cast their votes for the Audience Favorite Award. Pianist and YCA alumnus Jean-Yves Thibaudet will serve as Chair of the jury, which also includes Music Director Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Symphony Principal Cello and YCA alumnus Efe Baltacıgil, Young Concert Artists Director of Artist Management Monica J. Felkel, Washington Performing Arts Director of Programming Samantha Pollack, First Chair Promotion Project Manager James Egelhofer and Seattle Symphony President & CEO Simon Woods.
Applicants worldwide submitted audio recordings of their performances to the Symphony earlier in the spring. A panel of reviewers chose nine pianists to compete in Seattle for the final three rounds of the competition, starting with a Recital Round on September 15, when each contestant will perform a piece by Ravel from the piano solo repertoire; Premonitions, a Seattle Symphony commission of a jazz-inspired piece by Portland-based composer and YCA alumnus Kenji Bunch composed specifically for the Competition; and one additional work of the contestant’s choosing. Six contestants will move forward to the Semi-Final Round on September 16, playing one American and one French piano concerto from a list of competition concerto repertoire (see below) with piano accompaniment.
Three finalists will be chosen to compete in the Final Round of the competition on September 18, when each contestant will perform either an American or French concerto with the orchestra, conducted by Ludovic Morlot. The public is invited to all three rounds. Complimentary tickets are available via RSVP for the Recital and Semi-Final Rounds and tickets to the Finals are available for purchase. Patrons should visit www.seattlesymphony.org/piano to RSVP and/or purchase tickets.
Seattle Symphony Piano Competition
Recital Round, Tuesday, September 15, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall
Session 1: 9:30–11:30 a.m., Session 2: 1–3:30 p.m., Semi-Finalists to be announced at 5 p.m.
Semi-Final Round, Wednesday, September 16, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall
Session 1: 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Session 2: 3–6 p.m., Finalists to be announced at 7 p.m.
Final Round, Friday, September 18, S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium at 7 p.m., Winners to be announced at the end of the evening
Concerto Repertoire (see above text for complete details):
Barber Piano Concerto
Copland Piano Concerto
Gershwin Piano Concerto
Poulenc Piano Concerto
Ravel Piano Concerto in G
Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2
1st Prize will include
2nd Prize will include
3rd Prize will include
Audience Favorite Prize will include
Major sponsorship of the Seattle Symphony Piano Competition is provided by members of Club 88: Nader and Oraib Kabbani, Betty Tong and Erika J. Nesholm.
The Seattle Symphony Piano Competition is made possible with support from the Steinway Piano Gallery of Seattle.
About the Contestants
KEVIN (WONG FENCHUNG) AHFAT
Acclaimed as a pianist of "exceptional breadth" whose "spirited, flawless performance stemmed from the very depth of his soul" (Estes Park News), Canadian-born pianist Kevin Ahfat is an artist recognized for his deeply passionate and highly compelling performances, possessing "a balanced mix of expressiveness and virtuosity" (Musical America). He has appeared as a solo and chamber artist in numerous venues nationally and internationally, including the Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center in Arizona, Boettcher Concert Hall in Colorado, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York, and Fumin Hall in Kyoto, Japan.
Ahfat has appeared with numerous orchestras across the United States, including the Arapahoe Philharmonic, Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra, Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Juilliard Orchestra. He has garnered numerous awards at several national and international competitions, among those being top prizes at the Arthur Fraser, Eastman and Schimmel International Piano Competitions, as well as the Juilliard Concerto Competition, resulting in his 2013 debut with the Barber Piano Concerto at Alice Tully Hall under Maestro Jeffrey Milarsky.
Currently, Ahfat is continuing his studies at the Juilliard School in New York under the tutelage of Joseph Kalichstein after having previously studied with Choong-Mo Kang.
With unparalleled technical, musical and communication skills, Marika Bournaki is at once, a world class performer, outstanding pianist and vivacious young woman. Her career and evolution as an artist was chronicled from age 12 to 20 in the 2012 award-winning documentary, I Am Not a Rock Star. Recent performances include a recital at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, a recital at Plaza Hidalgo in Mexico, a benefit recital for the Glenn Gould Foundation at New York’s Carnegie Hall, a guest solo appearance in Montreal with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, recitals at the National Arts Center in Ottawa, at the Flanders Festival in Belgium, the Konzert Accordate Series in Aachen Germany, the EMMA Concert Association in Florida, Chamber Music Northwest in Oregon and the Luminato Festival in Toronto. Other engagements include performances with the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra in Russia, as well as recitals in England, Italy, Romania, South Korea and Switzerland. Bournaki holds a master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music, where she studied with Yoheved Kaplinsky and Matti Raekallio. She participated in the International Academy Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, as well as the Internationale Mendelssohn Akademie in Leipzig, playing in master classes for Dmitri Bashkirov, Karl-Heinz Kammerling, András Schiff and Arie Vardi.
Born in 1993, Kenny Broberg has studied the piano since age six. A resident of Minneapolis, Broberg studied for nine years with Dr. Joseph Zins. Following high school, he moved to Houston, where he currently studies at the Moores School of Music with Nancy Weems. He has also taken private lessons from or been in masterclasses with Bernd Goetzke, Menahem Pressler, Abbey Simon and Arie Vardi, among others. Broberg has appeared as recitalist and concerto soloist in the U.S., Europe and South America. His most recent concerto performances have been Prokofiev with the Louisiana Philharmonic and Tchaikovsky with the Houston Ballet. Awards include the Bronze Medal at the New Orleans International Piano Competition, Silver and Bronze Medals at the Wideman International Piano Competition, the Gold Medal at the Mika Hasler Young Artist Competition, and the Silver Medal at the Young Texas Artists Music Competition. Solo, concerto and chamber performances have been aired on the radio on NPR and KUHF 91.7 Houston. Broberg is also in great demand as a collaborative artist.
Hailed by The New York Times as a pianist with "a graceful touch... rhythmic precision... hypnotic charm” (2012) and "sure, subtle touch," (2014) Han Chen is a distinctive artist whose credentials at a young age already include important prizes in competitions of traditional music as well as increasing respect in the avant-garde.
Chen recorded his debut CD with Naxos Records, which consists of all-Liszt operatic transcriptions, as the First Prize winner of the 6th China International Piano Competition. International Piano magazine (UK) praised Chen’s performance in the competition, stating that “[Chen] displayed extraordinary strength, talent and flair.”
As an enthusiastic advocate for modern music, Chen actively performs both 20th-century classics and works by emerging composers. His close collaboration with the Juilliard modern music ensemble AXIOM led him to the performance of music by composers such as Pierre Boulez and Steve Reich. He was appointed as one of the soloists in John Adam’s Pianola Music in the 2012–2013 season, and will be performing John Cage’s Concerto for Prepared Piano.
Chen graduated from The Juilliard School in May 2015, where he received his accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degrees under Professor Yoheved Kaplinsky’s guidance.
A native of Taiwan, Peng-Chian Chen, has gained recognition as an accomplished performer in both the United States and Taiwan. Her lists of achievements include First Prize in Taipei National University of the Arts Chamber Music, National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra International Youth Piano Camp Concerto Soloist, Taichung Music Contests of Senior Professional Degree and Concerto Competition in Stella Matutina Girl’s High School as well as many other awards and scholarships. As a soloist, she made her orchestral debut with Concerto Stella Matutina. Since 2013, she has been invited by Hualien government to hold several lecture recitals in Taiwan.
Chen holds her bachelor’s degree from Taipei National University of the Arts and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan in Piano Performance and Chamber Music with Professor Louis Nagel. Currently Chen is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance as a full scholarship student with Professor Evgeny Rivkin and she is also nominated for a teaching assistant at the University of Georgia.
CHUANG-CHUANG (PETER) FANG
Chuang-Chuang (Peter) Fang was born in Taiwan, and at the age 12 entered the Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University, where he studied piano with Alexander Sung. In 2010 Fang entered the Music Program of New England Conservatory at Walnut Hill School, studying under Professor Hung-Kuan Chen.
Fang frequently performs at Hsin Chu City Concert Hall, Taipei KHS Hall and Mozarteum in Salzburg. He appeared with Lev Klychkov, concertmaster of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, at the National Concert Hall in Taipei. In the recent years, Fang won the First Prize at the 2012 Steinway Society Competition in Massachusetts and performed at the Cohen Wing Symphony Hall in Boston. In 2014 Fang performed with the 2006 International Paganini Competition First Prize winner Feng Ning in his recital at NEC's Jordan Hall. Fang has received the 2015 Chi Mei Artist Award in Taiwan, and he also appeared as a soloist in the “Piano, Before and After Beethoven" and "Scriabin 100th Anniversary: Complete Piano Sonatas" series at NEC's Jordan Hall.
Fang is completing his last year of Bachelor of Music degree at New England Conservatory. He is currently studying with Meng-Chieh Liu and has previously studied with Hung-Kuan Chen and Alexander Korsantia.
A native of Orange County, California, pianist Vijay Venkatesh has been hailed in concert review for his “sublime phrasing, tremendous and powerful virtuosity, beautiful lyricism, and mature and sensitive interpretation” in performances “equaling that of Radu Lupu, Itzhak Perlman, and Andres Segovia.” At age 14, he made his orchestral debut with the South Coast Symphony. In addition, he has performed with the Symphony Orchestras of Eastern Connecticut, Pasadena, Rio Hondo, Roanoke, Transylvania, Vienna, YMF Debut, Brevard Festival and the Brevard Music Center. His 2015–2016 season is highlighted with performances with the Tuscia Opera Festival Orchestra, UCI Symphony, and solo recitals at Soka Performing Arts Center and Irvine Barclay Theatre. He is the 2008 Grand Prize Winner of the Los Angeles Music Center’s Spotlight Awards, and a 2008 Davidson Fellow, honored with an award ceremony and reception at the Library of Congress. A 2009 alumnus of NPR’s From the Top, he took First Prizes in the 2011 Zimmerli International Solo Piano Competition and the 2004 Russian International Solo Piano Competition. He is a recipient of the 2015 Parnassus Society Prize, 2014 Birte Moller Young Artist Award and 2013 Thornton Music Faculty Award from the University of Southern California where he studies with Norman Krieger.
As the bronze medalist of the Piano Campus International Piano Competition, Sean Yeh is an award-winning performing artist. His other achievements include First Prizes in the New Orleans International Piano Competition for Young Artists and the Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition at the Southeastern Piano Festival. He has also won Third Prize in the PianoArts National Piano Competition and was a national finalist in both the Yamaha and Baldwin Divisions of the MTNA Piano Competition.
At the age of 16, Yeh made his orchestral debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and has since then performed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the South Carolina Philharmonic. He has been invited to perform in the 10th World Piano Pedagogy Conference in Anaheim, California, as well as on radio broadcasts such as WFMT and From the Top. Yeh is also an avid chamber musician and has won awards in several competitions including the bronze medal at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition (as a violist).
Currently pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts at Northwestern University with Alan Chow, Yeh earned his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music at the Juilliard School, where he studied with Yoheved Kaplinsky.
About Young Concert Artists
Young Concert Artists (YCA) was founded in 1961 by Susan Wadsworth to discover and launch the careers of extraordinary but as yet unrecognized classical musicians. Over 54 years, YCA has launched the lifelong international careers of renowned soloists, Founders and Directors of music festivals around the world, singers who have had starring roles at the Metropolitan Opera; orchestra conductors; and illustrious mentors at conservatories, among them, pianists Emanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, Murray Perahia, and Richard Goode, violinists Anne Akiko Meyers and Pinchas Zukerman, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and the Tokyo and St. Lawrence String Quartets. YCA’s composers include Kevin Puts, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music, and Mason Bates, winner of the 2012 Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities.
YCA artists are chosen in the annual Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York which attract more than 300 applicants on all instruments and voice. The Winners are presented in recital debuts in New York and at the Kennedy Center. YCA then provides comprehensive and ongoing support and opportunities to the artists for three or more years. YCA books concert engagements, secures new commissions and performances of works by composers on the roster, and provides publicity materials, individual career guidance, and the experience of leading master classes and educational and community residencies throughout the U.S. This sustained commitment continues until the artists move on, but a close relationship between YCA and the artists continues throughout their careers.
About Washington Performing Arts
For more than four decades, Washington Performing Arts has created profound opportunities for connecting the community to artists, in both education and performance. Through live events in venues that span the landscape of the D.C. metropolitan area, the careers of emerging artists are guided, and established artists who have a close relationship with local audiences are invited to return. In this way, the space between artists and audiences is eliminated, so that all may share life-long opportunities to deepen their cultural knowledge, enrich their lives, and expand their understanding and compassion for the world through the universal language of the arts.
Washington Performing Arts is one of the leading presenters in the nation. The organization’s inherent belief in the complete spectrum of the arts is revealed in performances of the highest quality, including classical music, jazz, gospel, contemporary dance, international music and art forms, and works that bend genres in provocative ways. The commissioning of world premieres on local stages to support artists’ creativity is critical to the mission of Washington Performing Arts. Dynamic education programs in the schools and beyond are a hallmark of the institution. Set in the nation’s capital and reflecting a population that hails from around the globe, these abundant offerings both ground us in the great heritages of the world, and allow our imaginations to fly, evoking fresh perspectives on life.
Washington Performing Arts was honored by President Barack Obama with a 2012 National Medal of Arts for bringing world-class performances to our nation’s capital, becoming only the fourth D.C.-based arts group and the first arts presenter of its kind to be so honored. Washington Performing Arts also received the 2012 Mayor's Arts Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts.
About Seattle Symphony
Founded in 1903, the Seattle Symphony is one of America’s leading symphony orchestras and is internationally acclaimed for its innovative programming and extensive recording history. Under the leadership of Music Director Ludovic Morlot since September 2011, the Symphony is heard live from September through July by more than 300,000 people. It performs in one of the finest modern concert halls in the world — the acoustically superb Benaroya Hall — in downtown Seattle. Its extensive education and community-engagement programs reach over 100,000 children and adults each year. The Seattle Symphony has a deep commitment to new music, commissioning many works by living composers each season, including John Luther Adams’ recent Become Ocean, which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music and a 2015 Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. The orchestra has made nearly 150 recordings and has received 18 Grammy nominations, two Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades. In 2014 the Symphony launched its in-house recording label, Seattle Symphony Media.