American Classical Orchestra Announces Winner of First Annual
Sfzp International Fortepiano Competition, Juilliard Student David Belkovski
Second Place Awarded to University of Michigan Student Gabriel Merrill-Steskal
with an Honorable Mention to Cornell University Student Shin Hwang
New York, NY (March 12, 2019) — American Classical Orchestra (ACO) announces that David Belkovski, current Masters of Music in Historical Performance student at The Juilliard School, has been named winner of the first annual Sfzp International Fortepiano Competition co-sponsored by American Classical Orchestra and the Academy of Fortepiano Performance in Hunter, New York. Second prize has been awarded to University of Michigan student Gabriel Merrill-Steskal and an Honorable Mention to Cornell University student Shin Hwang.
The final round of the Sfzp International Fortepiano Competition took place on Saturday, March 9, 2019 at the Ethical Culture Society in NYC and was judged by ACO Music Director and Founder Thomas Crawford and lauded fortepianists Malcolm Bilson, Steven Lubin, Dongsok Shin, Yi-heng Yang, and Eric Zivian. In addition to a $5,000 cash prize, David Belkovski will be awarded an appearance as featured soloist with the American Classical Orchestra during its 2019-20 season at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall; a solo appearance on the opening concert of the Academy of Fortepiano Performance in Hunter, New York; and a professional concert engagement at the Valley of the Moon Music Festival in Sonoma, California in summer 2019. Second prize winner Gabriel Merrill-Steskal be awarded a $2,500 cash prize, as well as a solo appearance on the opening concert of the Academy of Fortepiano Performance. All five final round finalists (David Belkovski, Shin Hwang, Gabriel Merrill-Steskal, Mao Omori, and Yuehan Wang) will receive a full scholarship to the Academy of Fortepiano Performance in Hunter, New York, to take place May 25 – June 2, 2019.
With the goal of attracting young keyboardists to the study of fortepiano, The Sfzp Project brings together today’s master performers and teachers—including Malcolm Bilson, Robert Levin, Steven Lubin, Vladimir Feltsman, and Alexei Lubimov—as mentors to the next generation of pianists. Internationally-renowned artists such as Sylvia Berry, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Claire Chevalier, Bart van Oort, Jiayan Sun, Yi-heng Yang, and Eric Zivian are also slated to perform in Sfzp Project concerts.
Through its fortepiano competition, master classes, and concert presentations, The Sfzp Project will elevate the fortepiano to the forefront of the HIP (historically-informed performance) community, players and public alike. The Sfzp Project will run in three cycles:
Cycle I, 2019 – Classical Period: W.A. Mozart, Domenico Scarlatti, Johann Christian Bach, C.P.E. Bach, and Josef Haydn
Cycle II, 2020 – Beethoven
Cycle III, 2021 – Romantic Period
About David Belkovski
Eastman School of Music – BM in Piano Performance, 2016
University of Michigan – MM in Piano Performance, MM in Fortepiano Performance, 2018
The Juilliard School – MM in Historical Performance (Fortepiano and Harpsichord), in progress
Born in Skopje, Macedonia, David Belkovski’s journey as a musician has taken him from early ventures into Balkan folk music and jazz, to the vibrant beginnings of a career as fortepianist, harpsichordist, and modern pianist. Following his success in the 2015 Eastman Concerto Competition, David performed Mozart with Neil Varon and the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra. He has since received first prize in the Ann Arbor Camerata Competition and was a finalist in the Berkeley Fortepiano Competition. As an early musician, he has recently performed works of solo and chamber music in Montisi, Italy and the Marquês de Pombal Palace in Oeiras, Portugal. In addition to historical performance, David’s work on harpsichord has found him in the 20th and 21st centuries. He was featured in a 2017 performance of Manuel de Falla’s Harpsichord Concerto for the music festival, En Español: Sounds from the Hispanosphere. The following year, he premiered Paul Brantley’s The Royal Revolver with musicians from the University of Michigan’s Symphony Orchestra. As a fortepianist, David performed in masterclasses for Malcolm Bilson and Kristian Bezuidenhout, and has been coached by Robert Levin and Richard Egarr. This winter, David will be performing Mozart’s C Minor concerto on fortepiano with Juilliard415 and Monica Huggett. David holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan. He currently studies fortepiano and harpsichord at The Juilliard School and is slowly falling in love with New York City.
About Gabriel Merrill-Steskal
University of Michigan, MM piano performance, MM fortepiano performance (both expected May 2020)
Whitman College, BA summa cum laude in music (piano performance) and chemistry (with departmental honors in both majors)
Gabriel Merrill-Steskal is a pianist and fortepianist from Ellensburg, Washington. He currently studies with Logan Skelton and Matthew Bengtson at the University of Michigan, where he is pursuing two masters degrees in performance (piano and fortepiano). He graduated summa cum laude from Whitman College in 2018, where he studied piano with David Kim and completed a double major in music and chemistry. His pianistic pursuits range from historically informed performance on period instruments to the Second Viennese School to jazz, and his research interests include the historical performance practice of improvised preluding and ornamentation. In his free time, Gabriel enjoys spending time outside running and rock climbing.
About Shin Hwang
DMA in Performance Practice, Cornell University (current)
MM in Harpsichord, Musikhochschule Freiburg (2015)
MM in Piano-Fortepiano, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2012)
BM in Piano, University of MIchigan, Ann Arbor (2010)
Shin Hwang, a prize-winner of the 1st International Westfield Fortepiano Competition, is a versatile keyboardist who has won recognition in both modern and historical performance. After completing his Masters degree at the University of Michigan with Penelope Crawford and Arthur Greene, he received the prestigious Fulbright Grant to study in the Netherlands at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. In 2011, he was invited to perform at the United States Library of Congress for the American Musicological Society Lecture Series: “What the Autograph Can Tell Us: Beethoven’s Sonata in E major, Opus 109”. Other significant performance engagements include solo and chamber performances in the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw, Vredenburg Leeuwenbergh in Utrecht, Het Bethanienklooste in Amsterdam and the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Schokland. As a recipient of the DAAD Grant, he completed additional studies with Robert Hill at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Musical Arts in Performance Practice at Cornell University under the guidance of Malcolm Bilson.
About American Classical Orchestra
Described as “simply splendid” by The New York Times, the American Classical Orchestra (ACO) is a leader in the field of historically accurate performance. A period instrument ensemble devoted to preserving and performing the repertoire of 17th, 18th, and 19th century composers, ACO recreates the sound world of the masters using priceless historic instruments, as well as era-specific performance techniques. Comprised of the world’s top period instrumentalists, the ACO provides audiences with the opportunity to experience classical music in the specific way it was intended to be heard.
Highlights of the ACO’s history include a concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in collaboration with the Museum’s exhibition Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825 – 1861, a debut concert on the Lincoln Center Great Performers Series, a sold-out 25th Anniversary performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and a staged performance of Handel’s opera Alceste as part of the ACO’s Handelfest 2014.
Founded by Artistic Director Thomas Crawford in 1984 as The Orchestra of the Old Fairfield Academy in Fairfield, Connecticut, the American Classical Orchestra moved to New York City in 2005, emerging as the City’s premier period instrument ensemble.
The ACO is dedicated to the appreciation and understanding of classical music through educational programs, and spreading historically-informed performance practices to new generations. In order to provide audiences with first-hand insight into the music, MusicDirector Thomas Crawford gives informative concert previews with live musical examples from the orchestra prior to each concert. Through its immersive in-school program, Classical Music for Kids, the orchestra has inspired hundreds of thousands of young students and musicians. For this work, the ACO was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant and Early Music America prize. For more information, visit www.aconyc.org.