Death of Van Cliburn’s rocket launcher

Martha Rowan Hyder, who has died at 89, did more than anyone to make Van Cliburn Piano Competition international.

A member of the competition’s executive committee of the competition from 1962 to 1993, she toured the world forging relationships with performing and academic institutions to ensure that Fort Worth got a good flow of talent.

She sat on the boards of the National Symphony in Washington, New York City Ballet and the Friends of Carnegie Hall.

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  • Indeed, Martha Hyder was generous to a fault, and she came to the aid of many needy pianists. However, as the old saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions — and thus her efforts grew the Cliburn
    Competition into a monstrous steam-roller that crushed many young, fragile talents before they had a chance to mature and refine their skills. As with most of the Cliburn’s wealthy donors, they don’t understand that “bigger” doesn’t mean “better”.

  • Also regrettably, the “international piano comeptition” as a genre has been devalued by massive proliferation, primarily for the financial benefit of juries and organizers and to the detriment of young pianists.
    The Alink-Argerich website database shows about 150 piano competitions having taken place from Jan-Aug 2017. Italy clearly takes the lead with 30 dime-a-dozen competitions, followed by USA and Germany with 18 each, France with 13, Spain with 12, and Poland with 7. The remaning 33 countries contributed between 1 and 3 competitions.
    I shudder to think how many performances of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in B flat minor took place to produce these statistics.
    Assuming each competition produces at least 4 prizewinners (there are double or triple winners of some prizes), we are looking at over 600 aspiring laureates with more than a third of the year still to go. Good luck to them all in getting high-profile concert engagements.

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