The fourth in our series of interviews with the jurors for the Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia.
Sydney International Piano Competition juror Noriko Ogawa has achieved considerable renown throughout the world since her success at the 1987 Leeds International Piano Competition. Ogawa frequently appears with all the major European, Japanese and US orchestras and recent and forthcoming engagements include performances with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Czech National Symphony Orchestra and the Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra. Ogawa is also renowned as a recitalist and chamber musician and toured Japan with the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Ensemble and the leader of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Rainer Honeck. In addition to recording and performing, Ogawa is a sought-after presenter, both on radio and television, recently appearing on BBC Worldwide in ‘Visionaries’ as an advocate for Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, as well as in programmes for NHK and Nippon Television in Japan.
1. As a juror, what do you look for in a pianist taking part in a competition?
Nowadays, young pianists have amazing technical abilities. I will be looking for a pianist who can interpret what composers have written down in manuscript and communicate this through music.
2. Did you ever compete, yourself, and if so, what do you recall as being good and bad about the experience?
I was the third-prize winner in Leeds International Piano Competition. It was truly good for me because I was totally unknown to the classical music world then. It was simply exciting for me to prepare the programmes thoroughly for the competition and to perform to a British audience. When the result is good, there is no bad memory!
3) What advice would you give to competitors?
When you get good result, it’s wonderful. Getting a prize at a competition is just like passing a job interview. You are there to start a career. If it’s a sad result, forget about it and move on.
4) Do you think competitions are always a good thing, and what advantages do you think they give to winners?
For unknown youngsters, competitions are the best venue to prepare pieces to perfection and to introduce themselves to the world. Competitions are not always a good thing, but young pianists these days are tough and strong. I am always amazed by how well they take in things.
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’?
Ashkenazy, Argerich, Pollini. But we no longer talk about their competition successes and that is the ultimate goal for every competition, I think. And Kissin – the hard way.
Tickets for the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia are now on sale.