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The Risk That Led to Carnegie Hall

Every three years, many of the world’s most outstanding pianists vie for Canada’s Honens International Piano Competition. The prestigious award carries a hefty cash prize — $76,000 (100,000 Canadian dollars) — as well as an artist development program in which the winner tours, performs, and records, thereby helping establish a musical career.

Pianist, composer, and Doctor of Musical Arts candidate Nicolas Namoradze (The Graduate Center, CUNY) had quite the journey to become the 2018 Honens Prize Laureate. “It was a lot of work, but such a special experience,” he says.

From hundreds of initial applicants, Namoradze made it through performances at the international quarterfinals in Berlin and New York, before landing among 10 semifinalists. During that round, he opted to play Chopin’s Étude Op. 25 No. 6 “Double Thirds,” arranged by the composer Leopold Godowsky. As Namoradze explains, Godowsky was “famous for arranging Chopin’s Études in a way that made them 20 times more difficult.” After moving the already-intense passage work from the right hand to the left, Godowsky “then add[ed] some other gnarly stuff in the right hand,” he says. “It’s just a finger breaker.”

But that choice paid off. “In that round, I really wanted to end with a bang,” Namoradze says. “I took this risk playing this piece, and, well, it worked out evidently.” He earned one of the three finalist spots in Calgary, performing with a chamber orchestra and the Calgary Philharmonic, before eventually being named the 2018 Honens Prize Laureate.

Namoradze will make his Carnegie Hall debut on Feb. 10, followed by performances at Wigmore Hall in London, the Konzerthaus Berlin, and other world-renowned venues. And beyond Honens releasing performances from the competition, he’ll begin recording with major classical labels. “At the beginning of March, I’m recording an album with Steinway, and later on in July, I’m recording for the wonderful British label Hyperion,” he says. “That’s a big part of what I’m doing and that’s really something I’m very much looking forward to.”

Namoradze will also play his degree recital at The Graduate Center on April 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Elebash Recital Hall.

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