Three of the contestants were in their 20s. The fourth was 16. Sunday, February 24, 2013 was the Grand Junction Symphony Young Artist Competition Finals. As it happens, the two oldest were named winner and runner-up. It was a contest, after all, and somebody has got to win. All four young artists can leave Grand Junction with no regrets. They each turned in stunning, compelling performances at the keyboard.
In the mind of the judges, Joshua Sawicki, with his nuanced rendition of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Concerto No. 3 in C Major,” was the one who earned the grand prize. Sawicki has won the opportunity to perform with the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra next season.
Robert Buxton was named runner-up. A graduate student and teaching fellow, Buxton kept his fingers on the edge of the keys and the listeners on the edge of their seats with his dynamic performance of “Concerto No. 1 in E minor for piano” by Frédéric Chopin.
Though billed as a solo piano competition, two grand pianos were aligned on stage and in use for the duration. The primary piano-forte, a nine foot Yamaha, was backed by a second, shorter Yamaha placed to provide accompaniment in lieu of full orchestra.
The two winning young men were more than ably accompanied by Yale Work and Yu Ching Hsu.
Young artist contestant, Zoe Lu, age 21, opened the contest at 2 p.m. with Beethoven’s “Concerto No. 4 in G Major” and electrified the room with her skill and accuracy. Sixteen-year-old, Jiaqi Long of China impressed with his strength and passion. Long, winner of the 2012 Steinway Concerto Competition, will perform with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in 2014.
The one recurring sour note of the afternoon came not from the hands of the young musicians, but some noticeably too bright shrillness of keys and hammers in the upper octave of the nine foot grand. Next up? Perhaps a piano technician’s appointment for CMU. On the positive side, Jiaqi Long was heard to remark that the piano was, “easy to control.”