Sofya Gulyak Wins William Kapell International Piano Competition

Classic Arts News   Sofya Gulyak Wins William Kapell International Piano Competition
27-year-old Sofya Gulyak of Kazan, Russia has won the 2007 William Kapell International Piano Competition, held in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Gulyak performed Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto in the event's last round on July 21, which also included Americans Sara Daneshpour, age 20, and Spencer Meyer, 29.

Daneshpour placed second with Tchaikovsky's First Concerto, and Myers third with Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

The top three prizes carry awards of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000.

Gulyak has won several international competitions, including the Artlivre International Piano Competition and the International Liszt Competition. She last won the 2007 Schumann International Piano Competition in Italy, where she studied with Boris Petrushansky until 2006. Gulyak is also a former pupil of Alfya Burnasheva and Nailya Khakimova of the Kazan Conservatory.

Daneshpour was born in Washington, D.C. and studies with Leon Fleisher at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Meyer, a Juilliard and Oberlin graduate from New York, finished a doctoral degree at SUNY Stony Brook in 2005.

The winners were among 25 competitors chosen from a pool of 200 applicants between ages 18 and 33.

Audience members at the final round selected the recipient of the competition's first-ever Audience Award. The $1,000 prize was given to Gulyak.

Another first this year was the inclusion of two compulsory American works. "It seems to me a crying shame that some of the fine pieces in our native literature are not played more often," Kapell the pianist once wrote to Virgil Thomson. The required works were the second movement Aaron Copland's Sonata (1921) and Robert Palmer's Toccata ostinato (1945) (the latter written by the composer from Syracuse and not the singer of Bad Case of Loving You).

A festival as well as a competition, the two-week Kapell event also featured talks and performances by composer Philip Glass, jazz pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal, the cello-piano duo David Finkel and Wu Han, and pianists Garrick Ohlsson and Anne-Marie McDermott.

The jury was headed by former Kapell competition winner Santiago Rodriguez and included pianists Nina Kavtaradze (Denmark), Peter Roesel (Germany), James Tocco (U.S.) and Ilana Vered (Israel); and Donald Manil, curator of the International Piano Archives at Maryland, and English writer and broadcast personality Bryce Morrison.

Posted on the competition's website are "On-line Jury Results," which for the final round place Daneshour at first (63% of votes), followed by Myers (25%) and Gulyak (12%). 2,294 votes were cast.

William Kapell, after whom the competition is named, was an American pianist born on the Upper East Side of New York City in 1922. He studied with Olga Samaroff, attended The Juilliard School and won the Naumburg Award. A strong technician, Kapell was successful with showy works (most notably Khachaturian's Concerto), but also gave refined performances of Mozart and Chopin, and ardently supported current composers such as Copland. En route to California after an Australian tour, Kapell was tragically killed in a plane crash at age 31.

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