Choosing Competition Repertoire in a Time of Pandemic

Choosing repertoire to play in a competition always requires some thought. Staying within the repertoire parameters, if any, of the given competition is of course a necessity. But my eternal advice to our nominees at the American Pianists Awards has, and always will be, choose what you love, and what resonates deep within you—NOT what you think the judges want to hear.

The 2021 American Pianists Awards presented challenges we have not had previously—and do not want to have ever again! That said, despite the reduced format of the Awards that we designed in response to the pandemic, our artistic core remains, requiring our five finalists to select quintets and concerti for Celebration Weekend. Normally the Chamber Music series, which typically runs Monday through Friday of Discovery Week at noon, would be produced with each finalist playing a different quintet with a guest string quartet. This year the entire series has been reduced to one evening with the Dover Quartet. The finalists were still able to choose a quintet but had to deeply consider time length and choose a movement (or movements) within a maximum of 20 minutes. In some cases, the first movement of a quintet fit quite well (Brahms Quintet). In others, care had to be given in choosing appropriate multiple movements that ideally provided some contrasts or were related via key or thematic considerations. Given the circumstances, there are no right or wrong choices—but a challenge nonetheless.

2017 Awards winner Drew Petersen with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra

Similar, but greater, concerns were present in choosing a concerto to play with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Normally the concerto concert would take place over two evenings, with each finalist playing a full-length concerto—generally one of the bigger, large-scale works, such as those by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov or Prokofiev. As with the chamber music program, we are limited to only one evening—not two. Thus, there is no time for all five finalists to play full-length concertos, as the evening would run three hours or more. But the other matter the pandemic forced upon us is one of social distancing. In this case, one cannot fit the entire Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on stage and still maintain social distancing. Our limit this year is only 50 players, and that seriously limits the repertoire possible and rules out the “big” ones. What to do? I worked with the finalists to consider movements of standard concerti that had strong, “stand alone” first movements, or works that were more or less composed as one movement (there are more of these than one might think!). But in all cases, the works had to be such that they could be performed with a symphony orchestra of limited size. After reviewing the numerous choices, I believe the finalists chose well and that our Concerto Evening will be a thrilling night of music. Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination—but it is still superb music played by superb pianists with a fine ensemble conducted by our good friend, maestro Gerard Schwarz.

Pandemic be damned. Art will prevail!


Repertoire for Chamber Music Night - June 25, 2021 - all performances with Dover Quartet and livestreamed here


Mackenzie Melemed, piano

From Piano Quintet in G Minor, Op. 34 by Juliusz Zarębski

III. Scherzo: Presto

  1. Finale: Presto — Allegretto

Sahun Sam Hong, piano

From Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 81, B. 155 by Antonín Dvořák

  1. Allegro, ma non tanto

III. Scherzo (Furiant): Molto vivace

Kenny Broberg, piano

From Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34 by Johannes Brahms

  1. Allegro non troppo

Michael Davidman, piano

From Piano Quintet in F Minor by César Franck

  1. Molto moderato quasi lento – Allegro

Dominic Cheli, piano

From Piano Quintet in E♭ Major, Op. 44 by Robert Schumann

Scherzo: Molto vivace

  1. Allegro ma non troppo


Repertoire for Concerto Night - June 26, 2021 - all performances with Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gerard Schwarz and livestreamed here


Mackenzie Melemed, piano

From Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven

  1. Allegro con brio

Dominic Cheli, piano

From Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 by Ludwig van Beethoven

  1. Allegro moderato

Kenny Broberg, piano

Variations symphoniques, M. 46 by César Franck

Poco allegro
Allegretto quasi andante
Molto più lento
Allegro non troppo 

Sahun Sam Hong, piano

From Piano Concerto No. 5 in E♭ Major, Op. 73, “Emperor” by Ludwig van Beethoven

  1. Allegro

Michael Davidman, piano

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E♭ Major, S. 124 by Franz Liszt

  1. Allegro maestoso
  2. Quasi adagio
  3. Allegretto vivace — Allegro animato
  4. Allegro marziale animato






Sign up for our Newsletter
Our diverse world shapes our music, the artistic language of our contestants. It delights, informs, and inspires us all. It is in this spirit that the American Pianists Association welcomes people of any race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and gender identity, as well as people with disabilities. We commit to learn from diverse talents, ideas, and voices. We pledge to create an environment for our artists, audiences, community partners, board, and staff that is based on the values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Further, we commit to enacting strategic and annual plans that provide focused, measurable strategies for living out these values every day.