Drew Petersen wins the 2017 American Pianists Awards' DeHaan Fellowship

Drew Petersen, winner of the 2017 Christel DeHaan Fellowship.
The  2017 American Pianists Awards' top prize — carrying a $50,000 cash prize and entailing much career assistance over the next two years as Christel DeHaan Fellow of the American Pianists Association — went Saturday night to Drew Petersen, a 23-year-old from Oradell, New Jersey,  and a master's degree candidate at the Juilliard School. The announcement capped two days of "Gala Finals" with five candidates for the award each playing a major concerto.

After three public series of events over the past seven months, Petersen and four other young pianists were assessed by three juries, culminating in Discovery Week, which included a new-music recital, a song recital, and chamber-music performances in addition to the concerto evenings at Hilbert Circle Theatre.

Petersen impressed me with a strongly projected performance of the commissioned work, Judith Lang Zaimont's "Attars" on Tuesday night at the University of Indianapolis (which now gets to call him artist-in-residence starting in September).

At Christ Church Cathedral on Wednesday, he gave a superb account of a two-movement Beethoven sonata (No. 22 in F major, op. 54) that displayed an astute individualism with integrity and insight. Even more impressive were the heights to which he and the Pacifica Quartet took Franck's Piano Quintet in F minor at the same concert.

Most daring and commanding of all was Petersen's playing of Prokofiev's thorny Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on Friday, playing under the direction of Gerard Schwarz.

Though he approached everything he played with evidence of thorough preparation, there never seemed to be anything rote or mechanical about his playing. He should confer further honor upon this splendid Indianapolis artistic tradition.


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