EVEN before Philippe Bianconi won the Silver Medal at the 1985 Van Cliburn Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, he was considered one of France's bright young talents - a performer thoroughly schooled in the qualities of French pianism, yet able to do full justice to the German Romantic and Russian literature as well. Among other notable achievements had been first prize in the Robert Casadesus Competition in Cleveland in '81, a New York recital debut in the same year, and recordings of Schubert song cycles with famed German baritone Hermann Prey on the Denon label.
Mr. Bianconi makes his Carnegie Hall recital debut tonight, as part of the elaborate schedule of performance dates the Cliburn Competition guarantees its medal winners. He noted in a recent interview that, while certain competitions get you performance dates because of the prestige of the prize, the Cliburn literally fills up your calendar.
This crowded schedule has given Bianconi a chance to get to know the United States, to perfect his English (which is excellent), and, with all the time spent in airplanes and hotel rooms, to pursue one of his hobbies - reading. He played 40 dates last year, and will play 40 this year and a few more next season. On the average, two-thirds of his concerts have been recitals and the rest performances of piano concertos with orchestras. His broad concerto repertoire includes two by Mozart, Beethoven's Fourth, Brahms's D minor work, the Liszt in A major, and Chopin's in F minor.
As for the competition itself, he says, ``It was a great experience. It was very hard; the tension was difficult to deal with. I had not been in competitions since '81, at the Casadesus Competition. That was very good for me to position myself in the concert world. The [Cliburn] program is very big - comparable to the Tchaikovsky [in Moscow], Queen Elisabeth [Belgium] ....