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French Pianist Wins Shock, Prestigious $300,000 Award

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The 26-year-old French pianist Alexandre Kantorow was not precisely certain what the person from Kalamazoo, Mich., needed when he invited him to lunch final spring in Italy.

So when that man, Pierre van der Westhuizen, the manager and inventive director of the Irving S. Gilmore Worldwide Piano Pageant, started to inform Kantorow that he had received the $300,000 Gilmore Artist Award, some of the prestigious prizes in classical music, he was shocked.

“I used to be completely simply on my knees,” he mentioned. “It was a bit like a ‘You’re a wizard, Harry,’ type of second, from ‘Harry Potter.’”

The Gilmore introduced on Wednesday that Kantorow would be part of the elite and eclectic group of pianists who’ve received the award, which is given each 4 years. (The pandemic triggered a yearlong delay; the final winner, Igor Levit, was introduced in 2018.)

The Gilmore just isn’t awarded as a part of a contest, so contestants don’t even know that they’re being thought of for it. As an alternative, a small, nameless jury of cultural leaders travels incognito to live shows all over the world, trying to find the successful artist with the potential to, in accordance with the prize, “make an actual influence on music.”

The award is usually regarded as the music world’s model of the MacArthur Basis’s “genius” grants: a prize that can not be utilized for or sought. The lengthy, confidential choice course of goals to evaluate pianists over a sustained time period, in distinction to the high-pressure ambiance of competitions.

Jury members had been attending Kantorow’s live shows with out his data for years, trailing him in Germany, Switzerland, Minnesota, Florida and elsewhere. In addition they listened to his recordings and watched movies of his performances. They had been impressed by his charisma, curiosity and “inquisitive nature,” van der Westhuizen mentioned.

“Nothing is ever the identical twice,” he added. “It’s at all times contemporary and at all times attention-grabbing. He has a lot to say. There’s nothing that holds him again in what he needs to say and the way he needs to say it.”

In 2019, Kantorow received the gold medal on the Worldwide Tchaikovsky Competitors, one of many world’s most necessary music contests. He additionally obtained the celebrated Grand Prix award there.

He’ll obtain $50,000 outright to spend as he needs and might apply the remaining to something that furthers his profession or artistry over a four-year interval, topic to the Gilmore’s approval. Kantorow mentioned that he was not but certain how he would spend the cash however that he hoped to create one thing “that lasts, that’s concrete.” He is considering a movie undertaking, or presumably creating an area the place musicians might apply and collect.

Different winners of the award embrace Rafal Blechacz, Kirill Gerstein, Ingrid Fliter, Piotr Anderszewski and Leif Ove Andsnes.

Kantorow was born in Clermont-Ferrand, France, to musicians, and commenced taking part in piano at age 5. He has recorded a number of albums, together with Saint-Saëns piano concertos and works by Brahms.

“His actions are free and free but exact, like a well-coordinated rag doll,” the journal Gramophone wrote final yr. “He is among the most relaxed pianists you can think about.”

Kantorow will carry out and converse in Kalamazoo on Sunday. In October, he’ll come to Carnegie Corridor, taking part in a recital of works by Liszt, Brahms, Schubert and Bach.

“That is the perfect type of reward a younger artist can obtain,” he mentioned. “I actually really feel I’ve wings for the longer term.”