I am delighted to welcome pianist, artistic director and Steinway Artist Aisa Ijiri to the blog. She has written the following guest post highlighting this year’s Montecatini International Piano Competition, of which she is the founder and artistic director.
The Montecatini Competition is open to pianists of all nationalities and age groups. There are a selection of classes from which to choose and an impressive array of prizes on offer, including a Schott Music Prize, where entrants will play my music; either one piece from Simply Driven, or two from No Words Necessary, both volumes of which are published by Schott.
In 2016, I founded the Tokyo International Piano Association & Festival with a dream of creating a place where young students and artists would all be able to come together to study, perform, enjoy concerts and share in the joy of music-making, whilst also exploring the local culture, arts, cuisine and scenery. The festival was held across five major cities in Japan; Kyoto, Osaka, Otsu, Yokohama and Tokyo. It offered a wonderful full 5-day piano experience consisting of concerts, masterclasses and workshops, and it featured both international artists and young talents. The festival was held in collaboration with Steinway & Sons Japan and the Shiga Bank.
This successful event led to the further privilege of launching a new piano festival & competition in Italy in 2019; the Montecatini International Piano Festival & Competition was held in a beautiful old Spa town, Montecatini Terme, located in Tuscany. Montecatini is also known for its stunning Italian Art Nouveau architecture. Over the years, it has been visited by great artists and composers such as Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Richard Strauss as well as the fashion designer Christian Dior.
Our celebrity artists included; Sofya Gulyak (International Concert Pianist and the Professor of Piano at the Royal College of Music), Emanuel Salvador (Concertmaster of the Baltic Neopolis Orchestra), Martin Tillman (EMMY nominated Hollywood film composer), Melanie Spanswick (Composer & Author at Schott Music), LP DUO (neo-classical piano duo from Belgrade and Official Artist in Residence at Universal Music), Swedish cellist Kristin Malmborg, and myself as Steinway Artist. We offered an attractive series of individual lessons, masterclasses, composition workshops, chamber music coaching sessions and evening concerts, which allowed our audience to enjoy both outstanding performances and post-concert cocktail receptions – all in beautiful Tuscan style!
For me, the highlight of the week was the competition. We had so many talented young pianists attending from the USA, Canada, Russia, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China and all over Europe. It was very exciting for us, the jury members, to listen to the high standard of playing, as well as to invite these young players into our music community; the winners received a prize of concert engagements and artist promotion. The competitors demonstrated phenomenal technical skill as well as beautiful artistry, the latter of which touched me the most. I felt enormously encouraged by the great feedback from everyone who entered the competition, and this experience has given me a new mission to support those young talents on their journey to make their dreams of becoming a concert artist come true.
I believe the most important thing in musical performance is that we bring a message from our heart to share with others. Music is a very powerful tool to move people’s hearts and to make us all feel united beyond any differences in nationalities, languages or historical and cultural backgrounds. This is the true gift of music! Since the pandemic hit us all in 2020, it has been a most challenging time, especially for musicians whose lives are all about sharing music. While we long to fully return to ‘live’ performances, but we have also learned how much we can actually achieve online by live-streaming concerts, online masterclasses and lessons, wherever we are in the world.
We are gradually going back to ‘normality’ in 2021, yet still there are ongoing complications with international traveling, unexpected change in circumstances and uncertainty. To offer future musicians encouragement by the way of opening a new door to possibilities and opportunities during this time, I have decided to hold the Montecatini International Piano Competition 2021 (Online Edition | 27th November – 20th December 2021) and application admissions open today.
The competition is committed to supporting the most outstanding young musicians by recognizing their full potential. The winners’ prizes provide young talents with an international concert opportunity at the Tokyo International Piano Association and the Montecatini Piano Festival, as well as a prestigious recording contract with GRAMMY nominated executive producer Chris Craker (former Senior Vice President of SONY) on Karma Classics, and professional media promotion as a crucial steppingstone towards a professional concert career.
With the support of our international partners, Steinway & Sons, Karma Sound Studios, Pianist Magazine, Schott Music and Nomea, we share a joint vision dedicated to cultivating talented artists, building digital innovation and creating a music festival community, attracting large, diverse audiences, music lovers and artists from around the world.
I look forward to welcoming you on our exciting musical journey!
You can find out much more about the Montecatini International Piano Competition, here.
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
For more information, please visit the publications page, here.