by Henri and Lisa Polgar
“It’s like the Olympics. Its guiding principle is not just to win, but to be a part of it.” Those words by HE Tihomir Stoytchev, Ambassador of Bulgaria to the US, brought the 18th Washington International Piano Arts Competition to a successful end, as he added, “It’s such a great group of people who love music and music makes people unite to become better human beings.”
Indeed, the camaraderie and friendship of the piano artists who came to compete was only surpassed by their love of music and their dedication to refining their interpretative and pianistic technical skills. And WIPAC provided an equally beautiful venue in the gold-gilded salon of the Cosmos Club.
Ambassador Stoytchev commented that this year is a special one in that the WIPAC Founders, John and Chateau Gardecki, organized the event despite the pandemic. The initial 15 artists who travelled from throughout the US competed in the preliminaries, and the final six, Joseph Lipare, David Caldine, Yun Liang, Melinda Morse, Irene Longacre-Whiteside and Vincent Phillips had the opportunity to perform for the top three prizes on Sunday. The semi-finalists were recognized with an award donated by Dr. Wayne and Linda Sharp, who have been life-long patrons of the arts.
The first prize was awarded to Irene Longacre-Whiteside. The prize was donated by Dr. Joyce Hagel-Wright. Second prize was awarded to Dr. Vincent Phillips, donated by Portia and Michael Davidson, and third prize to Esfir Ross (donated by Judith Ramage and John Dassoulas).
Indeed, Irene Whiteside distinguished herself in all the rounds of the competition at a consistent level revealing her self assurance and pianistic skills, making her a formidable candidate from the beginning. Her final selections included a grand performance of the Chopin Ballade No 4 and the Prokofiev Sonata No 4, showing her abilities to master large and dramatic sonorities; and the Alborada Del Gracioso (from Miroirs) of Maurice Ravel, displaying her mastery in shaping the voluptuous musical contours of Ravel’s work.
Dr. Vincent Phillips presented his final offerings with the Mozart Sonata K315, the Maurice Ravel Tombeau de Couperin, and the Danzas by Alberto Ginastera. He captivated the audience with his performance of the Danzas, playing with fervor, melodic sensitivity, especially in the Danza de la Moza Donosa, which catapulted him as a leading contender.
And finally the third prize winner was awarded to Esfir Ross, an eclectic pianist, who gave a magnificent performance of Jules Massanet ‘s Meditation, the Haydn Sonata No 32 in B minor, and Chopin Nocturne Opus 48 No. 4. Esfir Ross is indeed a remarkable musician who reached great heights of artistry.
WIPAC also has a great tradition of recognizing all the pianists with special awards in many other categories besides the top three.
Recognition was given to Joseph Lepare for the Most Imaginative Programming: donated by John Williams and Rosalia Rodriguez-Garcia
Award for best performance of a romantic work: Nathan Coleman for Respighi’s Nocturne, donated by Clayton and Susanne Eisinger.
Award for best performance of Baroque period: Christina Biron for Jean-Henri d’Anglebert’s Prelude in D Minor, donated by Frances Berkman
Award for best performance of a classical period: Esfir Ross for Haydn Sonata No. 32 in B minor, donated by Pamela and Chris Wright
Award for best performance of a contemporary period: Vincent Phillips for Messiaen’s Premiere Communion de La Vierge, donated by Vickie Doyle
Award for best performance of a Bach work: Joseph Lipare for Bach-Busoni’s Chaconne, donated by Carolyn Fuller
Award for best performance of a Mozart work: Irene Longacre -Whiteside for Mozart Sonata K333, donated by Marietta Dantonio Fryer
Award for best performance of a Beethoven work: Simon Finlow, Bagatelle in B minor donated by Dr. and Mrs. Lloyd Huff
Award for best performance of a Chopin work: Vincent Phillips for Chopin Fantasy Op 49, donated by Dr. Wanda O’Brien Trefil
Award for best performance for a Paderewski work: Utako Tanigawa for Sarabande and Au Soir, donated by Dr. Wanda O’Brien Trefil
Award for best performance of a Liszt work: Simon Finlow for Le Jeux d’eaux a la Villa d’Este from Annees de Pelerinage, donated by John Williams and Rosalia R.Garcia
Award for best performance of a Latin American work: Melinda Morse for Villa Lobos’ Minstrel Impressions donated by Barbara and Leslie Fenton
Press Award went to Vincent Phillips, donated by Henri Polgar and Lisa McFarren- Polgar of the Panamerican-Panafrican Association in honor of the late concert pianist, Robert Starling Pritchard
The protocols of the Competition were guided with great ease and savoir-faire by the President of WIPAC, Portia Davidson, who eloquently acknowledged the many donors, contributors, and participants who, together, brought this event to realization. She acknowledged Lola Reinsch of the EG Reinsch Companies who was “thrilled to have supported WIPAC for many years because of her belief that early music education makes children into responsible adults.”
John Williams and Rosalia Rodriguez-Garcia were the gracious Co-Chairs of this year’s Competition and made sure the pianists received a warm welcome.
A very special guest and former WIPAC 1st prize winner, Keng Siong Sim, was recognized by John Gardecki for giving piano artists a platform to perform in a livestreaming FB program he created. All for the love of music.
WIPAC Founder Chateau Gardecki’s life-long dedication and passion for to the arts was evident as she shared her insights into the quality of the pianists, who she indicated should not be defined as “amateur” (in contrast to being “professional”) but rather as true “artists.”
The members of the jury who were challenged with the difficult choice of selecting the winners, were Prof. Frank Conlon, Janice Weber, Thomas Pandolfi and Stephen Gibson. Michael Davidson served as Chairman of the Jury. The Press Award was juried by Henri Polgar of FestivalDC and Claude Porsella, an independent journalist and former Chief of the Voice of America French Service.


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