Asians flock to Poland for Chopin pianofest

Fri Oct 1, 2010 6:48am EDT
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By Gareth Jones

WARSAW (Reuters Life!) - Some of the world's most talented young pianists are flocking to Warsaw for the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition that opens this weekend, and Asians are especially prominent among them.

The competition, the oldest of its kind in the world, is held every five years in the Polish capital and is avidly followed by lovers of Chopin everywhere but has built up a particularly enthusiastic following in China, Japan and South Korea.

The Asians are becoming increasingly dominant as performers of Western classical music, a cultural trend that parallels the eastward shift of economic and political power in what is being billed as the new Asian century.

"Asia is the new power on the horizon. There are 30 million young pianists there learning to play the piano," said Waldemar Dabrowski, the general director of Warsaw's opera house and head of the Chopin 2010 celebrations committee. Of the 81 finalists in the 2010 competition, 16 are from Japan, 13 from China and four from South Korea, he said.

Russia, the United States, France and host country Poland are also well represented in the competition, which this year coincides with celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth. Dabrowski said the level of interest in this 16th competition underscored the universal appeal of a composer who wrote only for the piano and who died in Paris aged just 39. His entire oeuvre, which ranges from elegiac sonatas to lively Mazurka folk dances, can be played in just 24 hours.

"In the first half of 2010 alone, there were some 3,000 events, and not only concerts, dedicated to Chopin worldwide in honor of his anniversary," he told Reuters.


"Chopin defined romanticism in the most beautiful way... In China and Japan he is especially valued for his nostalgia for a lost paradise," Dabrowski added.   Continued...

<p>Huang Shih-wei of Taiwan walks off the stage after an official draw during auditions at the 16th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw September 30, 2010. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel</p>