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Music: The Musical Life

2 minute read

The surprise excitement of last week’s Tchaikovsky Competition (see above) was supplied by the slight, dark-haired girl who finished second—Philadelphia’s Susan Starr. At 20 one of the youngest of the competitors, Pianist Starr ripped into the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto with such dazzling virtuosity that the audience erupted in applause at the end of the first movement, and the orchestra and conductor joined in at the close.

Daughter of a Philadelphia Orchestra violinist, Pianist Starr was pleased but not overwhelmed by her fine showing. “I didn’t really want to go to Moscow,” said she to the New York Times, “but the Institute of International Education raised the money for the trip. Of course, a good showing is important toward launching a career, although it’s pretty unlikely that the Van Cliburn experience will ever be repeated.” One annoyance of the competition, Susan found, was “learning a lot of repertory that I wouldn’t otherwise have bothered with. There was a piece composed for the contest by a young composer named Pirumov that was pretty tricky, and I may keep it in my fingers for a while. But there were also pieces like the Tchaikovsky Sonata (in G Major) that are awfully long for their content.”

Moscow, she observed, “isn’t as sophisticated a city as, say, Leningrad, and I noticed that people wouldn’t even applaud for a work by Bach.” According to Pianist Starr, the jury distinguished “three distinct ‘schools’ of piano playing: American, French and Russian. And the thing that seemed to set the Americans apart was what they called ‘overemotionalism.’ “

Pianist Starr missed two things while in Russia: a good shampoo and her husband, Pianist Kenneth Amada. “The Russians are a very musical people,” said she, “but they don’t know beans about handling a bouffant hairdo.” Said her husband, to whom she has been married for only three months: “We’ve spent much too little time together. That’s the musical life for you. But if we give some two-piano concerts, perhaps we’ll see each other a little more often.”

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