It was a fortuitous meeting at a private home after a concert (Josh played with orchestra, and I was not part of the concert that night). The pianist Cristina Ortiz was there. She was a friend of the host, and passing through Sao Paulo. We greeted each other as if old friends, that strange condition of "celebrity" (within the classical music world, at least) making our life story familiar to the other, our faces instantly recognized, and yet never having met, not knowing how tall the person would be, the turn of the voice, the physical presence.
Our conversation went quickly to our common thread - the Van Cliburn Competition. It was by chance that I had just attended one of the nights of the finals only a few days before in Fort Worth, TX, and so the results of the competition were still fresh - I still had little bits of news that had not reached the general knowledge banks yet.
We commiserated on the daunting task in front of the two first prize winners - Haochen Zhang, 19 years old, and Nobu Tsujii, 20 years old and blind since birth - something that she experienced herself as the young winner of the 1969 Van Cliburn. During her competition, Cristina was hosted by the Sampsons, well before Alann Sampson became the Chairman of the Van Cliburn Foundation board, before she became involved with the competition besides being a host to candidates. It is so interesting to see how careers develop in unforeseen ways.
We noted the fact that the top three winners were from China, Japan and South Korea. I think this marks the official domination of Asia in what used to be a traditionally Western art form.
I was heading to Paris in a couple of days, and Cristina was also heading to France, the Southwest, and we tried to figure out if she was going to be going through Paris on the day of my concert, so that she could at least say that she had heard me play! She was not. I'm sure the next time we cross paths will be many years from now. What a strange world, this tiny universe of Classical music...