Van Cliburn Blog

Cliburn audition world tour stops in Budapest for first time

A piano awaits Cliburn hopefuls inside the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest.
A piano awaits Cliburn hopefuls inside the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest.

Editor’s note: Cliburn CEO Jacques Marquis is blogging for Star-Telegram readers exclusive news and notes from the 2017 competition screening auditions, which will conclude in Fort Worth next month.

This was the first time we have held Cliburn Screening Auditions in Budapest, and we liked it very much. First, the auditions were at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, which is a mythic venue for all pianists. And the city itself is beautiful (do I have to mention that Budapest is one of Fort Worth’s Sister Cities?), and we could easily walk everywhere.

Let’s step back a little and ask ourselves: What does the Cliburn have to consider when choosing a screening city?

It goes like this: airport access, major piano schools, quantity of piano lovers, a quality venue with good pianos, good practice rooms, a good organization to coordinate the auditions, good hotels in close walking distance, costs, etc. Naturally, Tahiti, Bali, Hawaii and Greece, for example, also would be nice places for screenings. But they have fewer pianists than New York and Hannover.

The first day in Budapest, we began work later in the day. So screening jury members Janina Fialkowska, Pamela Mia Paul and Jamie Parker went out to tour the city on one of the worst weather days in Budapest in five years, and Janina caught a cold. But all is well now.

Competitors, by the way, aren’t the only ones who play the piano during screening auditions. This year, especially, our five jurors have concerts to play after the auditions, so they have been making time to practice.

As we travel, we are trying various restaurants and also are enjoying traditional local cuisines. In Budapest, this means goulash, chicken paprikash and sour cream. Comfort food!

If you ask me about the candidates or the level of performances, I would say that I am happy. So much music to hear! I am still very impressed with the technical abilities of these young women and men.

It’s like finding the best chef. There’s more to being a great cook than having the best ingredients and the best tools — many people can have those. We’re looking for that something extra that results in the best and most enjoyable meal.

Next stop: Moscow. Stay tuned.