It certainly took some of the proverbial practice, practice, practice…. to get to Carnegie Hall, on the part of the 23 years old Alexej Gorlatch, who is continuing his studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover, Germany; but it almost certainly took a lot more than that. All that practice, as well as his immensely abundant natural pianistic technique and musical talent, still does not usually lead directly from Hannover to Carnegie Hall, or does it?

There is no doubt that the international piano competition circuit has become extremely important to fostering and rewarding young artists with the opportunities of performance experiences, and launching their professional careers in the process.

Tonight’s recital was part of the first prize, awarded to Gorlatch as the winner of the Dublin International Piano Competition, in 2009. Gorlatch winning First Prize in Dublin.

Founded in 1988 and sponsored by a private benefactor, the competition joined the Alink-Argerich Foundation in 2004 and is recognized as one of the finest International piano competitions worldwide. A member of theWorld Federation of International Music Competitions, it attracts a wide consortium of international competitors during its triennial events. Chaired by Irish pianist and piano pedagogue John O’Conor, who is also the competition’s artistic director, the competition relies heavily on its distinguished international jury.

In 2009, when Gorlatch competed successfully, Veda Kaplinsky, Piano Chair of the Juilliard School, whom I spotted in the audience tonight as well, was part of the Jury that awarded him the winning prize in Dublin.

While competitions are often criticized for their demanding training grounds, taking young and impressionable students out of more nurturing hubs to expose their creative talents to rigorous rivalry and struggle for the medal, some of the competitors seem to develop positively during these taxing times.

And the profit can be great for the ones who flourish naturally, even under the strain of competing.

Of course once entered successfully, competitors usually begin making the rounds at various competitions. Different competitions enjoy  different reputations, depending on who you ask. Some are known to be harder to win, some have an aura of being more artistically rewarding… but all have one thing in common. They support the unknown young artist on his road to becoming a performing artist, creating a name known to a jury, critics and an audience; and  introducing these young artists to their first public appearances.

Born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1988,  Gorlatch has been rewarded with numerous honors since age 11 because of his early detected talent. He  won another first prize at the prestigious Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan, as early as 2006.

As a pupil of renowned piano pedagogue Professor Karl-Heinz Kämmerling in Hannover, he also particpated in the International Chopin Festvial in Duszniki-Zdroj, and the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival and has performed as soloist with numerous orchestras in Japan, the Ukraine and Germany. In New York he performed (in February of 2010) at the People’s Symphony Concerts . (Gorlatch, who had no problem also impressing his New York audience with his solid winning program, especially through his subtleness of tone and velvet like quality of touch in its second half, which included Chopin’s Barcarolle in F-sharp major, Op.60 and Four Mazurkas from Op. 67 and Op. 68. One felt put at ease by his relaxed stage manner and secure sovereignty at the keyboard, garnering him two standing ovations. The evening’s successful and well attended recital was presented for the Dublin competition by the prestigious management of Kirshbaum, Demler&Associates Inc.

Even though Gorlatch was accompanied by the Executive Director of the competition’s board’s executive committee, Adrianne Carolan, as well as artistic director John O’Conor himself, Gorlatch had a bit of regret that his father was not able to join him and his mother for this special evening in New York. The good news is, there will be many more chances to hear this up and coming artist, I am sure.

On May 18th, 2011 he will give his  solo recital debut, in London’s Wigmore Hall.

By Ilona Oltuski

Ilona Oltuski was born in Berlin (Germany), the city her family returned to after her grandmother’s escape to Palestine. Through her parents – the father from Krakow in Poland, the mother from Berlin – Ilona experienced cultural diversity early on in life. Growing up Jewish in post-war Berlin and Frankfurt would add to this. Although deeply connected to German culture, Ilona was always acutely aware of the differences between herself and her environment. Perhaps it was the search for her very own identity, which led her to study art history and complete her doctorate on the Bezalel Art Movement, a part of her investigation into the existence of an explicitly Jewish art. Besides art history, Ilona studied piano at the Hoch’sche Conservatory - the Frankfurt music school founded by Clara Schumann. After moving to New York with her husband, she continued to study her favorite instrument and met and befriended many pianists - from amateurs to professional performers. A passionate amateur herself, Ilona decided to combine her love for the piano and the world of music with her interest in writing and the sharing of ideas, resulting in her first articles on Next was her German blog, ‘Wohltemperiert aus New York’, which she continues to write for Naxos Deutschland (; see the ‘Naxos America’ link for Ilona’s English blogs). Her English-language blog,, can be found on Facebook’s blog network; it recently migrated into the collection of blogs on her own website, She also still maintains her ‘Piano Salon’ group on Facebook, connecting pianists and their friends. Forever interested in an exchange of information and ideas, Ilona hopes that her very own website will provide a wide platform for a conversation among readers, performers and music lovers. “Reinventing my creative side by writing about my diverse encounters in the world of music, about inspiration and artistic expression, and the very human side of these endeavors, reaching right under my skin - that’s my shtick”, she says. Ilona lives in New York City with her family.

2 thoughts on “Presenting: Pianist Alexej Gorlatch, Winner of the 2009 Dublin International Piano Competition”
  1. Like Richard, I’m confused. Fortunately, most of what you read on Seq 21 presents much healthier alternatives to this competition circuit. Rivalry and competition are antithetical to making music.

    I’m happy for this young man, though and don’t want to take anything away from him. Hey, maybe he’ll check out some of the composers we write about here?

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