Don’t worry, it’s not the beginning of a new series by J.K. Rowling, just the story of a Polish pianist and one of the classical music world’s more peculiar prizes. Created in 1989 in honor of Irving S. Gilmore, The Gilmore Artist Award is given every four years to an outstanding pianist. Here’s the catch: candidates have no idea that they are being considered for the award. Judges surreptitiously attend live performances and listen to releases-they may even speak to the candidate in person. Then, one day, the pianist is informed that he or she has been chosen to receive the award- an amount of $300,000. Some compare The Gilmore to the MacArthur genius grants- I like to think of it more colloquially as the classical music world’s answer to Publisher’s Clearing House.
Rafal Blechacz was announced as the newest recipient of the award earlier this year, and, for many, the announcement will come as no surprise. After all, the twenty-nine-year-old Polish national has numerous awards and prizes on his shelf already. Most notable is his landslide victory in the 2005 Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition. He took home all of the Competition’s special prizes, and the judges were so impressed with his performances that they refrained from awarding 2nd place at all.
Blechacz showcases his affinity for the music of Frederic Chopin, on his new release through Deutsche Grammophon, Chopin: Polonaises.
Here he is playing the Polonaise No. 1 in C sharp Minor: