International Piano Competition Returns To Westport

After a hiatus of 2 years, one of the nation’s most important piano competitions is back.

And — though it’s flown under the radar since it began — it’s back in its hometown: Westport.

The Heida Hermanns Piano Competition returns from January 13 to 15,, at MoCA Westport. It originated with the Connecticut Alliance for Music. For many years it was sponsored by the MoCA’s predecessor — the Westport Arts Center — and held at Town Hall.

The event brings 4 of the world’s top pianists to Westport. Finalists were selected through an extensive international application process, including video submissions.

Though global in scope, the event has a true local flavor. Staples High School 1983 graduate Alexander Platt — whose career as conductor, music director and curator in symphony, chamber music and opera have taken him around the world — will serve as artistic director for the competition.

Alexander Platt conducts the Minnesota Philharmonic.

This year’s finalists include Americans Katharine Benson, Nathan Cheung and Aaron Kurz, and Russian Artem Kuznetsov. They’ll play on MoCA’s vintage Hamburg “D” grand piano, newly restored by the technician who took care of it at Carnegie Hall.

The winner earns $10,000. The other finalists receive $2,500 each.

Judges includes noted pianist Sahun Hong, Zhenni Li, and 2019 Heida Hermanns winner Priscila Navarro.

The 2022 Heida Hermanns International Piano Competition spotlights the neglected music for solo piano of African American composer Nathaniel Dett. He is regarded as a trailblazing Black composer of classical music.

In addition to the finalists’ performances, the 3-day event includes master classes at the Westport Library, and performances by the jury.

Tickets are available for individual events or a 3-day package. Click here for more information, and to purchase.

Heida Hermanns

Heida Hermanns was born in Germany in 1906. She debuted on the piano with the Berlin Philharmonic at age 18, and toured Europe through the 1920s and ’30s.

She immigrated to the US in 1936, and made her Town Hall debut in 1942. In the late 1940s she moved to Westport and helped start the Friends of Music, to present chamber concerts.

She also founded Performers of Connecticut, which later became the Connecticut Alliance for Music. Click here for much more on Heida Hermanns.

PS: There’s one more Westport connection. One of the previous winners — Frederic Chiu — now lives here. For the past 10 years, he and his wife Jeanine Esposito have sponsored and led Beechwood Arts’ Immersive Innovation series.

Frederic Chiu: former Heida Hermanns winner. (Photo/Dan Woog)

3 responses to “International Piano Competition Returns To Westport

  1. mary schmerker

    Reading about Heida Hermann I knew when I saw the words: Connecticut Alliance for Music if I read far enough, I would see the name Ruth Steinkrause Cohen. So, I cheated and forwarded. I will go back and read it all later.

  2. Dan — that’s presumably a Hamburg Steinway model “D” piano. [Steinway is a New York firm, but they have long had a second factory making pianos to the same designs in Hamburg, Germany. Much controversy as to whether the Hamburg instruments are better than the New York instruments.] Is this the piano featured in the recent performance of the Beethoven “Choral Fantasie” at the 2021 Staples Candlelight Concert?

  3. Alexander Platt

    Dan, thank you so much for this wonderful article about the Heida Competition — and yes, the piano in question is indeed a Hamburg Steinway “D”, beautifully restored; and yes, it was recently featured at last month’s Candelight Concerts at Staples. As a former Staples Choir member (I actually was the assistant conductor of the Choir, my senior year), I was so pleased to see that happen.
    Alexander Platt, Concerts Curator
    MoCA Westport