The 2025 American Pianists Award Finalists

American Pianists Award 2025 Finalists


Emi Ferguson: Hello. I'm Emi Ferguson, and tonight we're featuring the five finalists for the 2025 American Pianist Award here on this edition of the McGraw Family's Young Artist Showcase.


Emi Ferguson: Now in its 47th year, the Young Artist Showcase is generously underwritten by The Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. Tonight, we'll be hearing performances from the five finalists for the 2025 American Pianists Award. Now, this summer, the world is gearing up for the Olympics in Paris with athletes training for years and going through rounds and rounds of qualifications to earn a coveted spot.

In our feature tonight, share similar intense training and rounds of qualifications for young American pianists. Once every four years, the American Pianist Association picks five superstar pianists to compete in a 13-month competition for the prize of the Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship, awarded to a single American pianist. All of the artists on today's show are fast-rising stars. The 2025 finalists are Michael Davidman, Avery Gagliano, Sasha Kasman Laude, Elliot Wuu, and Angie Zhang. The performances you'll be hearing tonight are from the sneak preview of what lies ahead as these five musicians battle it out over the next 12 months.

We're kicking the night off with a performance from hometown pianist Michael Davidman, who currently lives here in New York City. Michael began his piano studies at the Greenwich House and Manhattan School of Music before completing further studies at the Curtis Institute, the Juilliard School, and the International Center for Music. Michael is no stranger to competitions and has been named the winner of the Long-Thibaud piano competition and the Gina Bachauer competition, amongst others. You might have seen him performing concerti with orchestras around the country, but in his spare time, Michael delights in uploading rare and historical opera recordings to his YouTube channel called Puccini MD.

Here is finalist Michael Davidman performing Chopin Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Opus 23.

[MUSIC - Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23]


Emi Ferguson: Pianist and opera enthusiast, Michael Davidman, performing Chopin's Ballade No. 1 in G minor. This performance and all of the others you'll hear tonight comes from the American Pianist Award sneak preview concert held here in New York City at Steinway Hall. Our next competitor is 22-year-old pianist, Avery Gagliano.

Avery hails from Washington, D.C., and studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In the fall, she'll join Sir András Schiff's performance program for Young Pianists at the Kronberg Academy in Germany. She's been known to play some mean Chopin, winning the 2020 National Chopin Piano Competition, and featuring the composer's works on her 2021 album Reflections, alongside works of Haydn, Schumann, and Adès, but tonight she's going to wow us with some Ravel. Here's pianist Avery Gagliano performing II. Mouvement from Ravel's Sonatine.

[MUSIC - Ravel: Sonatine, II. Mouvement de menuet & III. Animé]


Emi Ferguson: Two movements from Ravel's Sonatine performed by pianist Avery Gagliano. I'm Emi Ferguson, and this is The Young Artist Showcase. Tonight, we're listening to a recital given by the five finalists of the 2025 American Pianist Awards. Each finalist receives mentorship from pianist Michelle Cann, the organization's inaugural Christel DeHaan Artistic Partner. Michelle oversees all artistic aspects of the competition, including managing the nomination process, jury selection, and concert programming. If you've heard Michelle's incredible performances and read about her work, you'll know how lucky these five finalists are to work with her.

Our next finalist is Pianist Sasha Kasman Laude who loves to champion works of living composers. A native of Moscow, Russia, Sasha began her musical studies with her parents and has since studied at universities around the United States. She's now a teacher herself as a member of the faculty of Utah State University, and piano is not the only sport that Sasha competes in. She's a frequent winner in the game of chess, especially against her husband.

Here's Sasha Kasman Laude performing two selections by Russian composer Nikolai Medtner, one of his Forgotten Melodies and his work, Winter Evening, originally for voice and piano, but tonight arranged by Sasha herself for solo piano.

[MUSIC - Medtner: Forgotten Melodies 1, Op. 38, No. 6, Canzona Serenata]

[MUSIC - Medtner: (arr. Sasha Kasman Laude): Two Poems, Op. 13, No. 1, “Winter Evening”]


Emi Ferguson: Pianist Sasha Kasman Laude performing Nikolai Medtner's Canzona Serenata and her own arrangement of his piece, Winter Evening. We're going to take a quick break, but when we come back, we'll hear more exhilarating performances of music by Debussy and Granados from the 2025 finalists of the American Pianist Awards, here on the McGraw Family's Young Artist Showcase.

Welcome back. I'm Emi Ferguson, and on this week's edition of the McGraw Family's Young Artist Showcase, we are in the thick of the Piano Olympics, also known as the American Pianist Awards. We are hearing performances from a sneak peek preview concert given by the American Pianist Association, showcasing the five young pianists they've selected as finalists. Unlike other competitions that usually take place over a compressed time period, the 13-month span of the competition is designed to give the five finalists a chance to show a variety of skills. These include performing, teaching, and more.

The fantastic thing is that the jury's final selection of a winner doesn't hinge on a single performance, but instead the culmination of all of their activities over the year. Make sure to look out for the announcement of their 2025 winner, one of these five fantastic candidates we're hearing tonight this time next year. Next up is Pianist Elliot Wuu, and if you're a longtime listener of the Young Artist Showcase, you'll remember that he's been featured on the Showcase several times before as a winner of the Hilton Head Piano Competition and the Salon de Virtuosi Career Grant.

In fact, the first time we heard him play on the Showcase was over 10 years ago in 2013 when he played Rachmaninoff's two preludes. Since then, he's gone on to receive both a bachelor and master's degree in music from the Julliard School. Tonight, he'll be sharing two pieces by Claude Debussy, the iconic Claire de Lune, and L'isle Joyeuse. Here's Pianist Elliot Wuu performing Claude Debussy's Claire de Lune and L'isle Joyeuse.

[MUSIC - Claude Debussy: Claire de Lune from Suite Bergamasque]

[MUSIC - Claude Debussy: L'isle Joyeuse]


Emi Ferguson: Debussy's iconic works for solo piano Claire de Lune and L'isle Joyeuse performed by Pianist Elliot Wuu. Our final finalist for the 2025 American Pianist Award is Angie Zhang. Angie is a fourth-generation musician who hails from Princeton, New Jersey. Angie enrolled at the Juilliard school's pre-college program at the age of 10, and studied there for over 14 years, earning her bachelor's and master's degrees before going on to get her doctorate from the University of Michigan this past spring. Angie also enjoys playing the historical forte piano, the grandfather of the piano you'll hear her play tonight. Here's Pianist Angie Zhang performing Granados' Los Requiebros from his Goyescas collection.

[MUSIC - Granados: Goyescas, I. Los Requiebros]


Emi Ferguson: Pianist Angie Zhang with Granados' Los Requiebros, rounding out our five spectacular finalists for the 2025 American Pianist Award. All of our performances have been live from Steinway Hall here in New York City. Over the next year, these five finalists will be in and out of the American Pianist Association's headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana.

They'll be playing with a variety of ensembles and sharing a new commission by Brittany J. Green, all between October 2024 and April 2025. All performances will be live-streamed from the American Pianist Association website, so you can check them out from afar. Tonight, that's it for our show on the American Pianist Awards.

As we say goodnight, let's listen to a performance by finalist Michael Davidman from the Gina Bachauer 2019 Competition winners' recital. This is Rachmaninoff's Piano Sonata No. 2, Opus 36, Allegro agitato. The Young Artist Showcase is generously underwritten on WQXR by the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation. Here's Terry McGraw with more.

Terry McGraw: Good evening, everyone. It's great to be with you, and it's always great being with the Young Artist Showcase and to hear these really wonderful and inspiring musicians as they continue to share their incredible gifts with us every week. I can't wait to hear the fabulous talent coming up on the Showcase, and I am so pleased to be able to support the series all through its well over four decades on WQXR, and there's so much more to come.

Emi Ferguson: Thank you, Terry. Many thanks to our WQXR production team, Laura Boyman and Max Fine. Our generous program underwriter is The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation. I'm Emi Ferguson. Goodnight.

[MUSIC - Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata No. 2, Opus 36, Allegro agitato]

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