First-time Philippine representatives win top awards from international youth piano competition in Guangzhou, China

Serina Mara D. Alonzo
July 18, 2020

First-time Philippine representatives at the international grand finals round of the 2019Pearl River - Kayserburg International Youth Piano Competition are Zion P. Montebon, Michael Angelo N. Valenciano, and Hansel Harel L. Ang.

Awarded on November11, 2019—Zion P. Montebon, 4th place out of 72contestants in the Amateur Category for ages 13 to 16; Michael Angelo N. Valenciano, 5th place out of 46 contestants in the Professional Category for ages 18 to 32; and Hansel Harel L. Ang, Merit Awardee in the Professional Category for ages 14-17. The awarding ceremony took place at the Xinghai Conservatory of Music Concert Hall. On top of winning 5th place, Valenciano is the first foreigner to ever place in the Professional Category. This is the Philippines’ first year at the competition.

Montebon is a Grade 8 student at the Philippine High School for the Arts in Mt. Makiling, Laguna, under the tutelage of Prof. Anthony Yu Say. This is his first international piano competition, as well as his first local piano competition prior being selected as a national finalist. His competition repertoire comprised of M. Moszkowski - Etude de Virtuosité, Op. 72 No. 5; W. A. Mozart - Piano Sonata in A-major, Andante Grazioso; and E. Grieg - Lyric Piece Op. 65 No. 6 “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen”.

Valenciano is a third year piano performance student at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music, under the tutelage of Prof. Najib M. Ismail. His competition repertoire comprised of C. Debussy - Etude No. 11 “Pour les Arpèges composés”; J. Haydn - Sonata in C Major Hob. XVI: 50; and F. Chopin- Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53. He was also the second prize winner of the2018 National Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) Junior Category.

Ang is a college preparatory student trained in piano performance under the tutelage of Prof. Carmencita G. Arambulo. His competition repertoire comprised of F. Liszt- Grande Etudes De Paganini No. 3 “La Campanella”; W. A. Mozart - Sonata No. 10 in C- major, K330; and F. Chopin - Ballade No. 1 in G-minor, Op. 23. He was also the grand prize winner of both the 2018 Steinway & Sons Junior Piano Competition and the 2016 National Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA)Junior Category.

Montebon, Valenciano, and Ang were the finalists and first-place winners of Categories A, B, and C of the Philippine audition round, held on September 26, 2019, and the Philippine semi-finals round, held on October 4, 2019, both held at the Abelardo Hall, University of the Philippines College of Music. Category A is the Amateur Category for ages 13to 16 years old, Category B is the Professional Category for ages 18 to 32years old, and Category C is the Professional Category for ages 14 to 17 years old.

PH contestants at the competition venue

The Competition

The Pearl River - Kayserburg International Youth Piano Competition is the biennial international youth piano competition jointly organized by the Guangzhou Pearl River Kayserburg Piano Group Co. Ltd., the China Committee for Promoting Art Education, and Xinghai Conservatory of Music. This was held from November 8 to 11, 2019,and there were over 10,000 competitors from all over the world during the semi-finals round. A total of 360 youths consisting of both local Chinese and foreign participants, gathered at the Xinghai Conservatory of Music to individually practice their repertoires at least a day before the competition proper, inside the competition rooms or any of the designated piano practice rooms of the conservatory’s sizeable five-story practice building, equipped with facilities and air-conditioning in each room. All competition venues were provided with 9-feet grand pianos.

Hansel Ang at the practice venue
Michael Valenciano
Zion Montebon

Guangzhou Pearl River Kayserburg Piano Group Co. Ltd.

The Philippine delegates were generously and efficiently accommodated, sponsored, and toured around the smart and industrial city by the Guangzhou Pearl River Kayserburg Piano Group Co. Ltd., a government-owned piano manufacturing company that fosters unwavering support for art education by continuously providing the youth with opportunities and world-class pianos. The Pearl River Piano Group with more than 60 years of designing, building, and perfecting fine pianos for all levels of musicianship, remains one of the largest piano manufacturers in the world. Its commitment to excellent standard and focus on quality at every stage of the piano production process has led them to produce a new piano standard, based on German precision, craftsmanship, and the most current worldwide developments in the science of acoustics and music technology.

Mr. Leng Chua, Director for Marketing and competition principal organizer, says that they are very humbled and thrilled with the positive reviews given to the company about their pianos. Over 130,000 upright pianos and grand pianos are manufactured yearly, catering primarily to local music institutions and conservatories, as well as to musicians of all levels; the company manufactures all parts and materials internally, and imports all other parts and materials only from Germany, working hard to ensure that the brand is equal to quality. Röslau strings and Louis Renner premium hammers from Germany, ebony wood sharps, and selected spruce for soundboard are just a few examples of the commitment to quality and workmanship that characterize every Kayserburg piano.

The company exports internationally to 110 countries, with Europe, China, and America being the biggest markets. They have also recently gained the attention of the fast-growing Asian market, including the Philippines, already an active player in international piano competitions. Sounds Kradle, Inc. is the sole Philippine distributor of the new Kayserburg royal collection of upright and grand pianos and is the local organizer of this competition. Their partnership with the Pearl River Piano Group continues to be of service to the growth of our young Filipino musicians and the development of music education in the Philippines.

Philippine contestants at the Xinghai Conservatory of Music campus
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