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Chicago Native an Audience Favorite at Chopin Competition

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Last night, the finals of the Chopin Piano Competition began in the national concert hall here in Warsaw, Poland. For the last three weeks, this hall has been the center of great speculation, emotion, excitement, disappointment and music, culminating in ten performances of concertos by Chopin’s great national hero.

On this first night of the finals, there was a clear winner, at least according to the audience’s response, and that was Winnetka native Kate Liu. Of four performances of the same concerto (Chopin’s first concerto), Liu performed fourth. And while many in the hall looked a bit tired after hearing the same piece for the third time, the audience and orchestra perked up and the few remaining empty seats filled up as the Music Institute of Chicago alumna touched the keys of the Steinway.

The orchestra didn’t even finish playing its final notes before yells of excitement were heard and about half the audience rose to their feet, which did not happen for the other performers.

The critical response by the brutally honest press here in Poland has been positive. After her third round performance, Dorota Szwarcman of the weekly magazine Polityka wrote that other performers were “eclipsed by Kate Liu.” Music lovers and music press alike have been surrounding Kate, wondering whether she’ll be crowned the next Chopin champion in less than 48 hours.

WFMT’s live broadcast of the Chopin Competition winner’s concert from Warsaw begins at noon CST Wednesday. Live daily 9 am reports continue through Tuesday. (wfmt.com/chopin)

  • Chris Case

    In the first round of the Chopin Competition, I was struck by the high
    quality of virtuosity common to almost all the 84 participants, but one
    stood out for me as of extraordinary sensitivity and mesmerising
    lyricism. She seems to play from almost a trance state, with a total
    poise that in no way mitigates the passion in appropriate places, but
    which permits the hushed delicacy that is so often called for in
    Chopin’s music. Compared to the (sometimes exciting) tension manifested
    by many of the young virtuosi, her playing seems effortless, and the
    sound never harsh or clangy, surrounded by an aura of ecstatic silence.
    Someone more expert than I could perhaps articulate better what is
    special about Kate Liu’s
    playing, but it seems I was not imagining it, judging from the standing
    ovation and bearhug from the conductor that greeted her radiant
    performance of the concerto in the final round.

  • El

    cudna dziewczyna i pieknie gra