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Senior Zhiyi Wang Garners Top Prize in Franz Liszt International Competition for Composers

Time: 2012.02.05      Source: Oberlin Conservatory Backstage Pass      Reads:892
A self-described "wide-range listener" who cites Bach, the Beatles, Ligeti, and Richard Rodgers among his influences has won the top prize in the Premio Franz Liszt International Competition for Composers.

Zhiyi Wang, a graduating senior composition major from Suzhou, China, shared the award with English composer Paul Tucker. First and second prizes were not awarded in the competition, which was open to composers up to the age of 45. Wang is 23.

This is his first time as an international laureate. His winning composition, Etude for Concert No. 1, is written for solo piano.

"This is surely a big encouragement," says Wang. "The recognition of experts brings me not only a prize, but also confidence in my career. I am always trying to be better in what I am pursuing; this prize is just a beginning."

Domenico Bartolucci, composer and faculty member at Rome's Santa Cecilia Academy, presided over a jury that included Italian critic and composer Silvano Sardi, English composer Michael Stimpson, Italian composer Italo Vescovo, and pianist and composer Roberto Russo, who also was artistic director of the competition.

Wang has been accepted to the composition program at the University of Louisville School of Music, where he was awarded a two-year Grawemeyer Fellowship, one of the school's highest honors. Funded by the same endowment that supports the Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition, the fellowship will cover Wang's full tuition and paid health benefits for two years, as well as provide a stipend of $10,000 for each year of his fellowship. After completing the master of music degree at Louisville—the highest degree offered there—Wang will apply elsewhere to pursue the PhD.

Wang calls himself a "wide-range listener."

"From Bach to the Beatles, from Ligeti to Richard Rodgers, I can always learn something," he says.

"I think it is especially important for a composer to encounter different types of music, because every type of music has its own characteristics and strong points. It's just like writing; if you want to be a good writer, you cannot only read poems—you have to read extensively to make yourself learned and experienced. I am, however, partial to the French style—Ravel, Debussy, and Takemitsu—and film music (John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith, etc.)"

Another source of inspiration for Wang is his teacher, Professor of Composition and Music Theory Randolph Coleman, who, he says, is always prodding him to broaden his vision and creativity. "He always urges me to think from different angles and to jump out from what I used to think. And since I am still in the course of studying, I do try to write different kinds of music—atonal, serial, music that goes against my own style and conceptions."

As for his own style, Wang says that he devotes himself to finding a balance between music and technique, "which means I won't give up tonal quality while developing my technique."

Oberlin audiences had the opportunity to hear Wang perform his own music at the Commencement recital. He played excerpts of his piece for soprano and piano, Three Art Songs, with Heidi Wells '04 as vocalist. Wang's work was the only one selected by the composition department for performance at the commencement recital.