San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Piano Students Face Off

Piano students from eight Latin American countries will take to the keys of a Yamaha C7 the last week in October, competing for cash and a chance to play in a gala concert Oct. 28.

This, the fourth María Clara Cullell International Piano Competition, is “an obligatory date for Costa Rican piano lovers,” according to event promoters. Those who miss it must wait two years for the next round.

Thirty-five competitors, ages 12-25, from Mexico, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia and Costa Rica will play a Costa Rican piece in the elimination round, Oct. 23 and 24, followed by one of Bach’s works and then a piece by another classical composer.

The playoffs start each morning at 9 in Room 107 at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) School of Music. Finals are Oct. 25 (ages 12-18) and 26 (ages 19-25). The latter group will play Granados, Chopin, Beethoven and a composer of the competitor’s choice.

The public is welcome to all events, but is especially encouraged to cheer on the winners Oct. 28, in a free, 7 p.m. concert at the National Auditorium in San José’s Children’s Museum.

The competition has a tradition of highcaliber international judges; this year’s hail from Brazil (Lilian Barreto), Spain (Agustín Cullell), Bulgaria (Krassimira Jordan), the United States (Richard Reber) and Hungary (Hedi Salanki). A trail of musical awards follows each of the five, who’ve performed or taught just about everywhere in the world. Jordan, Reber and Salanki now teach in U.S. universities in Texas, Kansas and Florida.

Four of the judges will give three-hour recital-conferences at the UCR School of Music Oct. 25 and 26 at 3 p.m., and Oct. 27 at 9 a.m.

This might be the only student-level international piano competition in Central America, said UCR’s María Clara Vargas, organizer of the event.Vargas is the daughter of María Clara Cullell, in whose honor the competition is held. Cullell was a Spanish pianist who performed and taught for many years in Costa Rica.


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