Cleveland International Piano Competition Concert Series:
Eric Zuber with Mark Dumm & Bryan Dumm in Mixon Hall,
by Mike Telin
How does an organization like the Cleveland International Piano Competition, a bi-annual event, remain part of the musical fabric of the community once the international buzz of the competition has died down? This is a question CIPC executive director Pierre van der Westhuizen along with the organization's board and staff have been asking themselves. One answer was the creation of the CIPC concert series, which continues on Sunday, September 30 at 7:30 pm at the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Mixon Hall.
Sunday’s concert features the 2011 CIPC third prize winner, Eric Zuber, performing Schumann's Kinderscenen, Op. 15, Chopin's Six Etudes, Op. 10, Nos. 1, 3, 5, 8, 11, 12 and Rachmaninov's Preludes, Op. 32, Nos. 10, 12 & 5, and Op. 23, No. 2. Following intermission, Zuber will be joined by guest artists and Cleveland Orchestra members Mark Dumm, violin, and Bryan Dumm, cello, in Mendelssohn’s Trio in d minor, op. 49.
It's probably a misnomer to call Mark Dumm a guest artist: while he's been invisible during every competition since 1997, his talents have not. Yes, Mark Dumm is CIPC’s video producer — the man behind the wall making it possible for audiences to enjoy an up close view of each contestant's hands and facial expressions.
Mark says that he and Bryan, who are cousins, were invited by Pierre van der Westhuizen to perform on Sunday’s concert following his appearance with Westhuizen during the tribute concert for retiring CIPC executive director Karen Knowlton. “I hit it off with Pierre from the time he arrived, so I asked him if he would like to play a movement of a Brahms sonata with me on that program. It was nice, I got a chance to play for a group of people who only knew me as a video producer and Pierre got a chance to be a musician as well as the executive director. Later, Pierre talked to Bryan and me together about this concert so it was his idea to team us with Eric”.
Pianist Eric Zuber sees Sunday’s concert as an opportunity to show another artistic side of himself as well. “I love playing chamber music because I am someone who likes being around people. As a solo pianist we are always practicing by ourselves and then we go on onstage by ourselves. But playing chamber music is great because you get to go out with other people and it is a more collaborative effort. I’m really looking forward to it, it will be fun”.
We spoke to Eric Zuber and Mark Dumm separately by telephone. Eric filled us in on his successes at recent competitions as well as some insightful thoughts about competing. Mark talked about how his career as a video producer began in earnest making videos of friends' recitals. He soon discovered that with a little bit of thinking an economical solution could be developed that allowed for multiple cameras set at different angles to be operated by one person. We begin with Eric Zuber.
Mike Telin: Good to talk to you. How is everything?
Eric Zuber: Very busy. I got a call two days ago telling me that I had been accepted into the Honens International Piano Competition in Calgary, and there’s a chamber music round that I am desperately trying to learn. I have to leave on the 12th of October for the competition. I was an alternate, but the person who won Leeds pulled out. They only invite ten people so it is very difficult to get admitted but I was fortunate this time.
MT: Speaking of the Leeds competition, congratulations on your success there.
EZ: Thank you and I did OK. I did make it into the semi-finals.
MT: Having covered a few competitions I always admire how people manage to keep their focus as the competition progresses.
EZ: That’s what makes it especially difficult when you have to play so much repertoire in such a short period of time. Sometime you may only get two days between recital rounds. So you know that you are playing in a very stressful environment and there really is no way to be completely prepared for that.
MT: I think competitions are somewhat like figure skating: there are two very distinct sides that need to be focused on.
EZ: I think it is similar to figure skating in that there is both an artistic and technical element. But unlike figure skating where if you bobble your triple lutz then you receive an automatic deduction, it’s not quite that clear for piano, but there is an element of that. That’s one of the frustrating things in a way; you’re never quite sure what members of the jury place importance on, and sometimes if you do get eliminated from a competition you’re not quite sure what the reason was.
MT: So why do you put yourself through this time and time again?
EZ: Good question! But for a young pianist looking to make a living either playing concerts or eventually getting a job at a major university or conservatory it really helps to have won some prizes at competitions. Of course, winning first prize enables the concerts.
MT: Is there a specific period of the literature that you prefer?
EZ: I tend to gravitate towards 19th century music. It speaks to me and I feel like I can speak to the audience a little easier. I hate to use the word easier but there is a connection to the audience that is more direct, emotional and meaningful in that period of music.
MT: What do you do when you're not playing the piano?
EZ: These days I don’t have a lot of free time, but I do enjoy playing ping-pong. When I was an undergraduate I played a lot. And less frequently tennis, because it is tough to find people to play with. And I’m a die-hard Ravens fan.
Mike Telin: How did you become involved with video production?
Mark Dumm: Little by little. Like many people I got my first video camera when my first son was born. Then, because I had a nice camera, I recorded a couple of friends' recitals. You know how that looks with one camera at the back of the room — it’s not very interesting to watch. So I started dreaming of how one could do a better job recording concerts.
The key thing to making something look interesting is to have multiple cameras set at different angles. But the thought of organizing a lot of people in order to use multiple cameras just for friends' recitals was a little too much. So I started thinking: what if I could build a little remote control for one or two cameras? [One thing led to another] so I started working on computer software that would operate the remote controls so that one person could control a larger number of cameras. I could also watch all of the different angles and choose which one I wanted at any point, just like they do in a regular broadcast production. But this is much more economical.
So I pitched this to Karen Knowlton at CIPC years ago. She liked the idea so I have been doing it ever since. My first competition was in 1997.
MT: Will there be any challenges when the competition moves to the Art Museum, other then the simple fact that it will be a new space?
MD: That’s right, it’s just a new space. I was very comfortable at the Playhouse because for my purposes it was particularly easy. I had a lot of camera angles to choose from because of the multiple balconies around the stage so the challenges at the museum will just be different.
Also, in the past we have recorded in standard definition. This will be a big expensive transition but we will move to High Definition for the next competition. This is exciting. The museum has some very nice projection equipment so we should be able to put up some pretty dazzling pictures
I think the overhead projection adds a lot for the audience. It takes away the need for everyone to sit on the keyboard side, and I like to show close-ups of the pianists' hands and faces.
MT: Has being a musician helped you with video production?
MD: Absolutely it has, but there are times when I am so consumed with the technical aspects that I’m not always drawing on my musical background. But there is a baseline understanding of what’s going on on stage that’s always going to help. But the technical thing does come first.
MT: I seem to remember you also had someone assisting you backstage.
MD: That was my brother Tim — and don’t say assisting, we’re partners! During CIPC he is as in tuned as I am with the technical things. He’s an architect so he brings a slightly different set of skills, but we are in complete agreement about the shots that we like and he has an excellent eye for those aspects.
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Published on ClevelandClassical.com September 25, 2012
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