- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WARSAW, POLAND (AP) - A jury of the world’s leading pianists will decide Wednesday if one of the 78 contenders in this year’s Chopin Piano Competition award deserves the top prize in one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious classical music competitions.

Held only once every five years, the competition involves three grueling weeks of performing the works of Poland’s beloved 19th century composer, Frederic Chopin. It culminates in concerts of the 10 finalists performing with an orchestra.

The contest is known for its tough judging _ in 1990 and 1995 none of the contestants was deemed good enough for the top prize. This year’s winner will receive a gold medal and euro30,000 ($41,500). Winning the title opens the doors to the best concert halls around the globe and deals with recording companies.

“We had many very good pianists in terms of virtuosity, temperament and creativity,” Andrzej Jasinski, the head of the 12-member jury told the Chopin Gazette, a competition publication.

“I have to say, though, that even the best group is not as diverse as to make it possible to predict who will claim the first, third or the fourth prize,” said Jasinski, who taught 1975 Polish winner Krystian Zimerman. “I won’t be sure until the last moment … and that’s very good.”

This year’s jury, including past winners Martha Argerich, Fu Tsong and Kevin Kenner, will also name five runners-up who will receive medals and money awards ranging from euro25,000 to euro7,000 ($34,600 to $9,600)

Among the favorites creating buzz among concertgoers are Ingolf Wunder, a 25-year-old Austrian who began his musical career with the violin and turned to piano at the age of 14; Moscow-born Lukas Geniusas, 20; and Bulgaria’s Evgeni Bozhanov, 26.

Four of the other finalists come from Russia: Daniil Trifonov, 19, Miroslav Kultyshev, 25, Nikolay Khozyainov, 18 and Yulianna Avdeeva, 20. Helene Tysman, 27 and Francois Dumont, 25, represent France in the final stage and Pawel Wakarecy, 23, represents Poland.

The contestants spend three weeks playing technically demanding Chopin works, from studies and preludes to large forms like the sonatas and, finally, concertos, performed on stage.

Chopin, born in 1810 of a Polish mother and a French father, drew widely from folk and Polish national dance music, like the quick-tempo mazurka, or stately polonaise. The emotional aspects, combined with technical challenges and changing tempos make Chopin’s music especially tough to perform.

The competition started in 1927 and has been held every five years since, except for a hiatus during World War II. Past winners include Maurizio Pollini of Italy, Argentina’s Argerich, Poland’s Zimerman and Rafal Blechacz.

The prize winners are to perform at gala concerts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.



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