Sergei Babayan, a former winner of the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition and current juror, was interviewed about competitions and young pianists today. He provides an interesting perspective about the realities and trials of being a pianist.

Some young pianists might dream that once they win a certain competition, a miracle will happen and that lots of concert managers will contact them, saying the famous conductor in their orchestra cannot wait to perform with them. But that will not happen in reality. A pianist must have the strength to keep going and must have an important message to deliver as a musician. Being depressed or inactive is not an option. Only those who are dedicated musicians and can keep practicing under any conditions can survive as a pianist.

Some young pianists succumb to superficial rivalry and choose fast, showy pieces in order to try to win over others. When I encounter a performance that reflects this, I am disappointed and wonder what the pianist is going to achieve. Even if the work is by Bach, Beethoven, Schubert or Chopin and has profound content, it has no meaning unless the pianist can convey a message to the audience through the work. I can easily tell which contestant is just trying to win the competition and which truly loves the music. The prize money in musical competitions does not compare with that given in major sports events, so it does not mean much for a musician’s life.

I think true “competition” begins at the end of the competition. It is in their everyday living that musicians are tested as to whether or not they are a true artist and able to create music which can touch the audience’s hearts. Read more…