Anti-Competition Pianist Stacks Up Big Victories

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Pianist David Korevaar may not be a great believer in competitions, but his convictions have not prevented him from attaining some impressive victories in these high-powered musical contests. Last month, he took top honors in the William Kapell international piano competition, whose final round was held in Washington’s Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

“Any system which sets artists up to be judged either against each other or against an arbitrary standard is anti-artistic,” Korevaar said, “and it is unfortunate that presenters and audiences are so heavily dependent on such a system.”

In 1985, the La Jolla native won the Peabody-Mason award, a two-year, $40,000 grant that gave him time to work on new repertory, but prevented him from entering competitions during its duration. From the William Kapell competition, which is administered by the University of Maryland, Korevaar received a $10,000 award with no strings attached. He was mildly miffed, however, that winning the Kapell prize was marred because the judges decided for the second year in a row that they would not award the $15,000 first prize.


“Because of the number of speeches made beforehand about last year’s failure to award the first prize, I had already begun to suspect that it might be the case again this year.”

Nevertheless, Korevaar did receive favorable notices for his Kennedy Center performance, in which he played Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat, K. 271, with the Rochester Philharmonic and for his solo recital program that featured works by Maurice Ravel and Max Reger.

The Washington Post’s Joseph McLellan wrote, “The recital and concerto programs showed Korevaar to be the most imaginative program-builder and interpreter among the finalists,” while the Baltimore Sun described Korevaar’s interpretation this way: “His style recalled the late Glenn Gould, quirkily intellectual in its stance and drawing its persuasiveness from a seemingly inside-out understanding of the music.”

Korevaar also took a degree of satisfaction in that the competition’s juries were made up of performers such as Gary Graffman and Bella Davidovich instead of piano teachers.

“A piano teacher looks for how he wants a piece to sound, but a performer listens for how well the piece comes off on its own terms,” explained Korevaar. For the last year Korevaar has worn both hats as an artist-teacher at the Westport School of Music in Connecticut.

With no special fanfare, Korevaar slipped into town last weekend to marry Elizabeth Stahl at La Jolla’s Darlington House. They have settled in Norwalk, Conn., and, according to Korevaar, have no plans to return to the West Coast.


“I still want to keep my finger in the New York pie,” said Korevaar.

The young virtuoso’s last local appearance was in November, 1986, when he performed with the La Jolla Civic-University Orchestra under resident conductor Thomas Nee. San Diegans will have to wait a season to hear Korevaar again, however. He is slated to play a solo recital in the La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s 1989-90 season.

Another prize winner is San Diego Symphony violist Karen Elaine, a.k.a. Karen Sanders, who took first place in Brazil’s Bruno Giuranna international viola competition on Aug. 15. At age 22, Elaine is the youngest member of the orchestra. Last season, Elaine served as the symphony’s acting principal violist. With the Brazil victory under her belt and viola in hand, she left town last week to compete in the Lionel Tertis viola competition on the Isle of Man, Great Britain.

Radio station KPBS-FM and producer Dave Arnold have scored a coup by recording English harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock’s recital at St. James Episcopal Church, La Jolla, last April. The popular Baroque specialist has been spending so much of his time guest conducting and recording with the English Concert, a chamber orchestra he founded in 1973, that he has fallen behind in making new solo harpsichord recordings. Also, he is not slated to make another North American recital tour until 1990.

At first Pinnock was apprehensive about allowing anything from the La Jolla recital to be used, but Arnold wrangled permission from Pinnock to use a 45-minute segment for broadcast. Although he was not pleased with much of his playing on the program and some portions suffered from premature eruptions of applause, Pinnock gave his blessing to a group of French Baroque works by Rameau, Balbastre and Duphly.

The Pinnock program will be broadcast at 11 a.m. Sept. 12 on KPBS-FM (89.5).

The mystery surrounding Geoffrey Brooks’ new career following his resignation as executive director of the La Jolla Chamber Music Society has been solved. While Brooks has been uncharacteristically closed-mouthed about his future plans, the current catalogue for UC San Diego Extension lists Brooks and Eric Bromberger, longtime program annotator for the La Jolla society, as teachers of a course called “A Concert Lover’s Guide to Classical Music.” Welcome to the hallowed halls of academia, Professor Brooks.