A young woman from California carried off the top prize in this year's International Piano Festival and Competition at the University of Maryland.
Mariorara Trifan, 29, was the undisputed favorite of the judges as well as the audience gathered in the uncomfortably hot Tawes Theatre Saturday night after she gave a stunning account of Sergei Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Sergiu Commissiona.
Trifan's two competitors in the finals were in many ways no less impressive. Twenty-seven-year-old Britisher Ian Hobson, who placed second, already has an impressive list of pianistic and conducting credentials. He gave a big, flashy virtuoso account of Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto. The third-place winner, 23-hear-old Michael Blum of New York City - a fellow just oozing musicallity - was alternately masculine and then tender in the Schumann Concerto.
The final night of the ninth annual Piano Festival at Maryland University was the culmination of a week of masterclasses, preliminary competitions and recitals by some of the world's foremost keyboard artists.
Twenty-eight young pianists competed for the seven prizes - the top prize being a cash award of $4,000 along with a number of performance engagements.
The second- and third-place winners also received substantial cash awards as well as recital engagements.
In addition to being the first-prize winner, Trifan also carried off a special $500 prize awarded by the Organization of American Staets as the highest-ranking artist from the Americas to participate in the competition.
Each of the three finalists performed a work very much suited to his temperment. Blum's choice of the Schumann Concerto - certainly the most musical as well as the infest concerto offered - bought out his subdued but heroic manner of interpretation. Hobson, extroverted and showy, reminded one of a very young Van Cliburn in the Rachmaninoff. Trifan caught the angularity of the Prokofiev work masterfully with complete command of its rhythmical and lyrical difficulties.