Baylor holds annual Concerto Competition

Pianist, Cezary Karwowski, wins Baylor's concerto competition by playing Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Luke Araujo | Staff Writer

Baylor’s Concerto Competition is an annual gathering of some of the best and brightest musicians Baylor has to offer. The winner of this year’s competition was Grażyna and Kiejstut Bacewicz Academy graduate Cezary Karwowski, 23, from Łódź, Poland. Karwowski’s winning concerto performance was Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor by Frederic Chopin.

In the competition, contestants are expected to play “a complete solo concerto with orchestra, chamber orchestra,” or “a substantial work for solo instrument and orchestra, chamber orchestra or wind ensemble.” These contestants are split into five divisions: strings and harp, brass, woodwind, piano and organ and percussion. The length of each concerto must be between 12 and 40 minutes.

Karwowski, who has played the piano for 16 years, said he had to ramp up the amount of practice he did to prepare for the competition.

I usually practice at least five or six hours every day,” Karwoski said. “I still have to keep my playing on a good level, and I have had so much playing to do, so I practice a lot. But before the contest I had to practice a lot more than usual.

As a part of the competition, Karwowski had to advance through two rounds. The first round was the piano division, and the second round consisted of all the finalists.

“I’m really pleased and excited I got to play,” Karwowski said. “I played my favorite piano concerto and by my favorite composers. I’m very excited by the idea and future of playing a concerto here in the States.”

As contestants are expected to play their concerto with an accompanying orchestra, Baylor contestants practice with the Baylor Symphony Orchestra to prepare for the day of the competition.

Stephen Heyde, director of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra, said it is a great honor to play as a soloist with the orchestra.

“It’s a very unique and rare opportunity to play with any orchestra,” Heyde said. “Every serious musician plays concertos, but usually they play them with a piano accompaniment. You just don’t get the color, the sweep, the power and the majesty of what the composer really wrote. So, the opportunity to play it with an actual orchestra is very significant.

Heyde said that because of COVID-19, the competition finalists of previous years will return to play again to make up for the lack of an orchestra in 2020. The winner of this year’s concerto competition will play next year under normal circumstances.

“There was a full year where we didn’t have an orchestra at all because of COVID,” Heyde said. “In March of this year, we’re going to feature the winner from 2020. She will come back to campus to play. We will have rehearsed the piece without her, and then have about two rehearsals with her.

The next concerto competition is expected to be held in 2023.

Being a test of one’s ability, the concerto competition asks its contestants to master several skills to make it through to the end.

“It tests them in their musicality, it tests them in their technique,” Heyde said. “Concertos always are designed to showcase the talents of a player. If you’re going to showcase something, you need a piece that demonstrates that a player has a great sound, technique, can play notes fast, and can play whatever the requirements of the piece are.”