The International Smetana Piano Competition 2023 tool place between 24th to 30th of April, in Pilsen, Czech Republic.
The competition category for the youngest participants under the age of 16 competed in a single competition round, the second category with participants under the age of 20 was a two-round competition, the competition program for the third category under the age of 30 was divided into three rounds.
The four finalists of the 3rd category presented themselves as soloists in selected piano concerts accompanied by the Pilsen Philharmonic, conducted by Valentina Shuklina. In the final, pianists could choose from several concertos for piano and orchestra. The choice was 3 concerts of the later period of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s work , all five concerts of Ludwig van Beethoven and five selected concerts of the Romantic period, which are acceptable for the cooperating orchestra and the soloist in terms of time-limited possibilities for rehearsals. This year’s competition featured Beethoven’s Concerto No. 3 , Grieg’s Piano Concerto, the second of Chopin’s 2 concertos and Liszt’sConcerto in E flat major. There was also a Schumann concerto to choose from. It was pleasant for the listeners that this time no work was performed more than once.
The program was dramaturgically structured in such a way as to be interesting. Matej Šabík, who is only studying at the Conservatory in Brno, was the first to introduce himself to the audience and the five-member expert jury. For his performance, he studied the 3rd Piano Concerto in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven. Pavol Praženica, a student of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, was the second to perform in Edvard Hagerup Grieg’s Concerto for piano and orchestra in A minor. After the break, Eva Strejcová, a student of the Academy of Performing Arts, presented herself as a soloist in Fryderyk Chopin’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in F minor. Finally, Anna Gaálová, a student of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, interpreted the solo part in Franz Liszt’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E flat major.
The Pilsen Philharmonic performed the challenging task of accompanying all the contestants in an excellent manner. Even the long duration of the entire performance did not reveal any fatigue of its players. Conductor Valentina Shuklina’s energetic gestures, carefully following the part of each soloist, led to a convincing performance of each piece.
After adding up the points, the jury announced the awards on the spot. The winner of the third age category of the competition was Pavola Praženica. Eva Strejcová and Anna Gálová received the second prize and Matej Šabík won the third prize.
Chairman of the jury prof. Ivan Klánský thanked for the calm cooperation with the other members of the jury and invited everyone present both to Sunday’s final Winners’ Concert and to the next year of the competition, which will be held in Pilsen in 2 years.