Sean Chen becomes 2013 APA Classical Fellow 

click to enlarge 2013 APA Fellow Sean Chen
  • 2013 APA Fellow Sean Chen

Some went home, but most stayed. This was at the Circle Theatre on Saturday night, following two piano concertos played respectively by Sean Chen and Andrew Staupe with the ISO, conducted by Gerard Schwarz. They stayed to hear who won; who was the new APA Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow?

Well, DeHaan, speaking from the Circle stage, told us herself: Sean Chen, 24, of New Haven CT. Unlike most music competitions, there are no second-or-third-place winners; the remaining four finalists each get $10,000. They are Staupe, Eric Zuber, Claire Huangci, and Sara Daneshpour. Chen, however, gets $50,000 plus engagements, recordings and other inducements worth at least $100,000.

Though I was very impressed with Chen in his debut performance during the APA's Premiere Series last fall, I have to qualify my first sentence in that herein linked review. My allusion then to Chen's possibly walking away with the prize indicates no prescience nor infallible judgement on my part. (No musical judgement is infallible for that matter.)

The sets of jurors--one for the initial audition CDs, another for the Premiere Series and yet a third group for the just concluded Discovery Week--heard far more of these five artists in a wider repertoire. Whereas I only heard the five Indiana History Center Premiere recitals/concerts and the two Circle Gala Finals concerts. I did not attend the other Discovery Week events.

Therefore, I may or may not have picked Chen if I had been exposed to everything the jurors heard. Following the first Finals concert on Friday, I was inclined toward Daneshpour and her superlative account of the Chopin E Minor Concerto. She had done equally well in her Premiere recital/concert.

The next evening, Chen played Bartók's Concerto No. 2 (1931), a work filled mostly with craggy, rapid chords and no soul. I could not assess Chen's playing in that work, excepting for his supreme technical abililty to bang out those chords.

The APA's next big venture will be its Jazz Fellowship Awards--in 2015. April 20; Hilbert Circle Theatre

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