Deserved applause in Beijing

7th Chopin International Piano Competition finishes in Beijing, bringing together young pianists from six countries

By Inessa Pleskachevskaya

The programme for under 16s covered exclusively the works of the outstanding Polish composer, with just six out of twenty entrants reaching the finals. A student from the Belarusian Academy of Music’s College was among them: Special Presidential Fund scholarship holder Andrey Shichko.

We chatted to Andrey in a quiet Beijing street, full of sunlight, just after his final performance. He admits that he loves playing the piano and gains much creative satisfaction from his music but also stresses that he has much to learn. His teacher is Natalia Tashchilina but Andrey notes that he has also learnt much from the other entrants at the Beijing event. “I’ve accumulated so much experience here, listening to others and to jury members. I’ve discovered the stylistic peculiarities of Chopin’s music for myself,” notes the young pianist.

“Of course, the music is easier for those of Slavonic nationality — Poles, Belarusians and Russians,” muses Andrey. “We’re closer to this culture so it’s easier to feel the nuances of Polish nature. Chopin’s music boasts so many national aspects and motifs, embracing Polish dance and images. Of course, if you’re talented and gifted, guided by a good teacher and truly devoted to music, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Chinese or American. It’s not difficult if you have your heart set on understanding the music.”

Certainly, not only Slavs wanted to play Chopin’s works and win the contest. The six finalists included Chinese and Japanese musicians, alongside one Belarusian and two Russians.

Alexey Sokolov, a jury member and Professor at the St. Petersburg and Tianjin Conservatories of Music, noted backstage, “People spoke about your boy being a genius when he was 14. It’s especially interesting for me to listen to him now, because much of what seems brilliant in a 14 year old becomes the norm by 16. They say he is already playing Rachmaninoff and Brahms.”

“Yes,” I respond. “He’s played Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto with the Belarusian Symphony Orchestra.”

“Third? This is a very serious level,” asserts Mr. Sokolov.

Meanwhile, ‘serious’ Andrey Shichko dreams of becoming a concert pianist with a world famous name; it’s a dream he could fulfil, having  already received ovations in St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Paris and Vienna. This time, Beijing applauded him, with the judges of the prestigious competition calling Andrey a virtuoso and forecasting a brilliant future.

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