Van Cliburn

Several amateur pianists stand out in the quarterfinals of the Cliburn

Colleen Adent of the United States performs during the Quarterfinal Round of the Seventh Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition in Van Cliburn Recital Hall in Fort Worth.
Colleen Adent of the United States performs during the Quarterfinal Round of the Seventh Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition in Van Cliburn Recital Hall in Fort Worth. Cliburn Foundation

Tuesday was a time for confirming or rebutting initial impressions at the seventh Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition. All 68 competitors had been heard Sunday and Monday, and now it was time for the 30 quarterfinalists to play for the judges for a second time.

Initial impressions were by and large confirmed in Tuesday afternoon’s session.

That was certainly the case with the performance of Thomas Yu of Canada. He had made a major impact in the preliminaries with his countryman David McIntyre’s Butterflies and Bobcats. Now, with more conventional repertoire, he repeated the feat. In music of Debussy, Chopin and Schumann by way of Liszt, he played like a pro, giving clean, flowing, atmospheric performances that displayed confidence and musical know-how.

He, like all the quarterfinalists, had more time available to display his talent. In the prelims the competitors were given six to eight minutes to perform. In the quarterfinals, they were allowed 15 to 18 minutes.

Yu was not the only standout Tuesday afternoon.

Matthias Fischer of Germany was strong in the prelims with a program of Rachmaninoff and Scriabin. He moved westward, musically speaking, with Chopin and Mendelssohn in the quarterfinals. This was equally impressive.

One of my favorites in the prelims had been Jeanne Backofen Craig of Virginia for her clean and stylish performances of music by Bach and Debussy. Tuesday she switched styles and charmed with pieces by Grieg, Haydn and Liszt.

Joseph Mercuri of Minnesota offered Liszt and Mendelssohn as another noteworthy quarterfinals entry, but there were others who gave the judges something serious to consider.

Tuesday night’s session brought some more musical pleasures.

I was particularly taken with what Colleen Adent of Vancouver, Wash., presented for her quarterfinals recital.

This included a brisk performance of the playful allegro movement of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 18, a Chopin nocturne, and something called Pasquinade by Louis Moreau Gottschalk. This is a chipper, cheer-me- up work that seems a surefire cure for the blues. Adent’s performance was bubbling with personality.

Gordon Cheng of San Diego followed up his exhilarating preliminary session with an atmospheric Jeux d’eau by Ravel (a favorite piece of this competition) and a grand Andante Spianato etc. of Chopin.

Imposing performances by Noah DeGarmo of Dallas, Tessa Knipe of South Africa and Shinji Wada of Japan were other highlights.

In comparing the Cliburn Amateur with the big Cliburn, there is one noticeable difference: In a less-tense atmosphere, the amateurs seem more congenial with one another than younger contestants typically are. There is a lot of fraternizing, with the amateurs listening to, applauding and encouraging their follow contestants.

Twenty of the 68 contestants have competed in the Cliburn Amateur before. The chance to meet and mingle with old friends is one positive cited by senior contestants.

The quarterfinals will continue Wednesday at 2 and 7 p.m. before the field is narrowed to 12 semifinalists.

Seventh Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition

  • Through Saturday
  • Van Cliburn Recital Hall and Bass Hall, Fort Worth
  • $10-$60
  • 817-212-4280;
  • Performances are webcast at and