ABQ native in finals of international piano competition

Albuquerque native Joshua Rupley is the only American competing in the Olga Kern International Piano Competition.
Albuquerque native Joshua Rupley is the only American competing in the Olga Kern International Piano Competition.

Albuquerque native Joshua Rupley is one of four finalists in the Inaugural Olga Kern International Piano Competition.

The only American in a pool of 11 semifinalists from across the globe, Rupley will perform Beethoven’s Concerto No. 3 with the New Mexico Philharmonic at Popejoy Hall when the eight judges, along with Kern, choose a winner Saturday. The stakes include $30,000 in prize money, a professional recording on the Steinway & Sons label and concert engagements throughout the U.S. and Europe.

“I was a little dizzy; a little shocked,” the 23-year-old Rupley said of the moment he learned he had made the final cut Thursday night.

“In the second round, I was very pleased with the performance,” he said. “It felt great and everything worked.”

The pianist plowed through a suite by Debussy, eight improvised Hungarian folk songs by Bartók, two Christmas pieces by Messien, Bach’s Corelli variations and the competition’s commissioned work by Scottish composer Rory Boyle.

Rupley has been practicing the pieces for his 60-minute performance since May.

“I was totally exhausted after the performance,” he said. “It was like running as fast as you can for an hour.”

His father John sat in the audience texting all his friends.

Rupley renewed himself by downing half a bag of trail mix.

“Then I headed straight home and slept for an hour and a half,” he said. He spent the rest of the afternoon practicing the Beethoven concerto for Saturday’s finals as he waited for the judges’ decision.

His semifinal performance was scheduled early — about 11 a.m. — so he waited 12 hours before learning how he’d done.

Rupley once battled nerves during performances. A recurring voice taunted him with, “You don’t know what comes next.” He’s since learned how to silence the beast.

“My goal is just to be so interested in my own playing that I don’t notice the other things,” he said. “I can kind of tune it out.”

He says he feels confident about the finals.

“All I really wanted to do was get through round two,” he said. “Whatever happens next doesn’t matter. I played a good program.”

Rupley will compete against Anna Dmytrenko, 24, of the Ukraine; Chen Guang, 22, of China and Anastasiya Naplekova, 32, of the Ukraine. The initial outreach drew more than 100 applicants through blind auditions. A combination of donors and sponsorships provided funding.

“In the second round, I was very pleased with the performance,” he said. “It felt great and everything worked.”

The pianist plowed through a suite by Debussy, eight improvised Hungarian folk songs by Bartók, two Christmas pieces by Messien, Bach’s Corelli variations and the competition’s commissioned work by Scottish composer Rory Boyle.

Rupley has been practicing the pieces for his 60-minute performance since May.

“I was totally exhausted after the performance,” he said. “It was like running as fast as you can for an hour.”

His father John sat in the audience texting all his friends.

Rupley renewed himself by downing half a bag of trail mix.

“Then I headed straight home and slept for an hour and a half,” he said. He spent the rest of the afternoon practicing the Beethoven concerto for Saturday’s finals as he waited for the judges’ decision.

His semifinal performance was scheduled early — about 11 a.m. — so he waited 12 hours before learning how he’d done.

Rupley once battled nerves during performances. A recurring voice taunted him with, “You don’t know what comes next.” He’s since learned how to silence the beast.

“My goal is just to be so interested in my own playing that I don’t notice the other things,” he said. “I can kind of tune it out.”

He says he feels confident about the finals.

“All I really wanted to do was get through round two,” he said. “Whatever happens next doesn’t matter. I played a good program.”

Rupley will compete against Anna Dmytrenko, 24, of the Ukraine; Chen Guang, 22, of China and Anastasiya Naplekova, 32, of the Ukraine. The initial outreach drew more than 100 applicants through blind auditions. A combination of donors and sponsorships provided funding.

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