Things are hotting up in Moscow with the piano selections are now underway.  All the manufacturers have been working diligently on their instruments, and now is the test as to which piano the competitors will choose to play in the competition rounds.

The drawing of the playing order of the pianists are drawn with every competitor walking onto the stage as their name is called and picking up a card off the table, holding it up and showing the cameras amongst the applause of the gathered audience.  Once this ceremony is complete, the pianos are lined up. As there are 5 this time, they cannot be positioned on the stage in the ideal position so there is a further drawing as to which piano is situated in which position on the stage. Once this is set the pianos will be rotated after every 5 selections.

All is quiet as the first contestant enters the stage.  Before he begins, he has a ritual by which he sits and adjusts each bench to his ideal height and then commences to try out each instrument.  Each competitor has their own methods, some look for the extreme volume while others try for tonal colour. For me this process is the most interesting part of the competition from a technicians standpoint, as we can now compare the sounds and playing abilities of each piano back to back.  The first 5 pianists are done so there is a mad scramble on stage to move the pianos into their next position allowing just 5 minutes each for a touch up and then back into the selection process.

This finishes at around 8PM and each piano is allocated a time overnight to prepare for their next onslaught.

On the second day there are 15 contestants who will make their choice. Same procedure follows as each one goes through the motion of placing each piano to the test. In the audience there are nervous teachers, friends and even other competitors trying to assist and utterly confusing the pianists. One new aspect is the texting. Some pianists are continuously receiving and sending texts from members in the hall, about which one they find better or which piece they should be trying. Many are unable to decide and agree to compete by the end of the day. There is major uncertainty as to which pianos will be chosen.

The evening finally finishes at 10pm and we are all now keen to commence work on the pianos as expected overnight however, we are informed that there will be no work in the hall until after the opening ceremony the following evening. Why? Well, the hall will now go into lockdown as security and preparations are made for the opening. Why the security? There are rumours that Putin will be attending….

Opening Gala is really an event in itself. Firstly, there is the wreath laying ceremony in front of the Conservatorium at the Tchaikovsky statue. While the audience gathers in the grounds a large military band plays with amazing precision. Audience scurry to meet the dignitaries, judges and competitors. Finally, we are all ushered into the concert hall – but no Putin, instead the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is there to officiate.

A fabulous concert follows to a packed audience with several encores by Daniil Trifonov after playing the Tchaikovsky piano concerto No1.  Ceremony over we move into the lushes’ garden cafe opposite the conservatorium for drinks.

Off to bed now as my turn on the piano is from Midnight to 2am. Followed by a touch-up at 10.

More to come as the competition commences in the afternoon.