The third in our series of interviews with the jurors for the Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia.
Ewa Kupiec was born in Duszniki-Zdrój, Poland and studied in Katowice, at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 1992 she won the ARD International Music Competition in the duo piano/cello category. She is currently Professor of Piano at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover. She regularly performs at the world’s leading festivals and also with major orchestras, which in recent seasons have included the Munich Philharmonic, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Danish Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Orchestre de Paris. Kupiec is a dedicated interpreter of contemporary music. Her Berlin Konzerthaus performance in 2005 of Schnittke’s First Piano Concerto with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra was the first performance of this work since 1964. Her recital and chamber music programs often include contemporary works, and a number of composers have dedicated pieces to her.
1. As a juror, what do you look for in a pianist taking part in a competition?
It is a difficult question and one cannot answer it in general. It depends on the competition and the participants in the particular moment of the competition. When it comes to the Sydney International Piano Competition, I am definitely looking for a pianist who is not only a personality on a stage, but also a person who is prepared to deal with the pressure of an intense concert schedule and the lifestyle that follows it.
2. Did you ever compete, yourself, and if so, what do you recall as being good and bad about the experience?
Yes, I did, and I remember I was terribly nervous and terrified. Of course, it came good when I won the ARD International Music Competition in Munich (in the cello/piano category). It opened a lot of doors for me, to an international career.
3. What advice would you give to competitors?
I would advise them to believe in their musical personality and identity and to play their best without speculating.
4. Do you think competitions are always a good thing, and what advantages do you think they give to winners?
I was strongly against competitions, but with time, teaching my own students, I changed my opinion. The Competition gives these young people a chance to display their talents on the international platform and the collective experience of a ‘tournament’ gives them plenty of adrenaline to excel. This is basically preparation for the life of a concert pianist, which follows. An advantage of being a winner, first of all, is the confirmation of talent and hard work. What happens after, though, really depends. I wish competitions provided more concerts, opportunities for CD recordings, getting a music agency, etc.
5. For you, who are the greatest examples of pianists who have benefited from competition success in the past? Conversely, are there examples of great pianists who achieved recognition ‘the hard way’?
It is always the ‘hard way’ in this profession. The difference is that all of us pianists love to work hard. There are so many pianists – I don’t want to go into name-dropping. What really counts is sustaining the life-long love and dedication to being a pianist. And this is the encounter with yourself, which you have to face every day – in daily discipline, overcoming internal and external obstacles. There are definitely a few pianists who managed that and they are great examples for us all.
Tickets for the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition are now on sale.