Valdosta Daily Times

April 25, 2013

No Brahms lullaby

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — One may think a difficult piece such as Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto may be a breeze for the 2011 winner of the prestigious Cleveland International Piano Competition, but even pianist Alexander Schimpf finds the work challenging.

“The Brahms presents many different challenges,” says Schimpf who will perform the work Saturday night with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra.

“It is a deep kind of music,” says the German native who is making Valdosta one of the stops on his U.S. tour. “All of the emotions are there and it asks for a virtuoso on piano. It is one of the most difficult pieces for piano.”

Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto has four long movements. The second movement is difficult, but the fourth is the most technically daunting, especially coming at the end of the performance.

But Schimpf is a man of patience, a musician who knows how to pace himself, one who possibly performs better under pressure.

Take his performance at the Cleveland International Piano Competition. Of the four finalists, Schimpf was the fourth pianist to take the stage. He played another challenging work that day. Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto.

“It was a big deal to go to the finals that meant I was going to play with the Cleveland Orchestra,” he says.

Upon finishing, Schimpf received what he refers to as a kind reception from the audience. He received a standing ovation, but Schimpf notes that such ovations are more common with American audiences than with Europeans.

Between playing the last chord of the Beethoven piece and the winner’s announcement, Schimpf had to wait about 30-40 minutes. He had little time to weigh the merits of his performance, or how his life might change should he win. And in winning, everything changed.

“Winning the Cleveland competition was a life-changing thing for me,” says Schimpf who by the time of the 2011 Cleveland competition had already won the 2008 German Music Competition and first prize in the 2009 International Beethoven Competition in Vienna.

Cleveland opened a door to U.S. audiences. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in December 2011. He has toured throughout Europe. He has recorded and his performances have been broadcast on radio.

For an international piano star, Schimpf was something of a slow starter. At the age of 5, he took informal piano lessons from his mother. At 8, he received more piano instruction. At 14, he had his first lessons with a professional.

Schimpf says he did not become serious about piano until the age of 20-21, when he decided to study music at university. He entered serious competition at the age of 25.

Now in his early 30s, with his second tour of the U.S. underway, Schimpf keeps a busy schedule but ensures he has time to enjoy the American countryside, people and culture.

He gave this phone interview Monday afternoon, prior to performing a concert in Tuscaloosa, Ala. On Tuesday, instead of flying from Alabama to Valdosta, he drove the distance between the two cities.

“When I am in the U.S.,” Schimpf says, “I like to drive as much as possible.”



Valdosta Symphony Orchestra presents pianist Alexander Schimpf playing Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto in B-flat Major. The VSO is also scheduled to perform Bates’ “White Lies for Lomax,” Strauss’ “Don Juan,”

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 27.

Where: Whitehead Auditorium, Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood.

More information: Call VSU College of the Arts Outreach, (229) 333-2150; or visit