The next soloist to appear in a Steinway Society performance this weekend is Albert Cano Smit, who just won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions last month — and two years ago, won the Naumburg Competition. The 23-year-old pianist, who was born in Switzerland, with a Spanish father and Dutch mother, says that while competitions might not always be the ideal home for musical interpretations, they’re very helpful in preparing a player for the real world.

There’s more information at the Steinway Society website.

Cano Smit says there were some particular hoops to jump through at the Naumburg Competition. “[It’s] a special competition in many ways, but one of them is you have to have all this repertoire ready, like two recital programs. And it has to be available to play immediately, and they don’t let you try the piano where you will play before. They tell you the location and then you go there and you play the first round, and then if you make it, then the next round is somewhere else, and it’s with a different piano, and then the finals were with another one.” And, he says, that’s precisely the kind of situation one might find oneself in as a performer. “It sort of sets the tone for later, you know, if you’re lucky and you have more performances and start to have a career, often you will encounter situations like this, where, if there’s a cancellation or something you have to learn a piece quickly, or you have to have more than two concertos in your hands for two weeks and then a recital after, or something, so that was an interesting concept.” He adds that many conservatory students who are excellent players don’t think they should even try for big competitions, thinking they’re for others to win. And yet, he says about his win: “It helped me have more opportunities and be maybe noticed or taken more seriously, but it also actually helped me personally to take myself more seriously. It’s silly, it shouldn’t be like that, but in a way, it gives you some trust that someone listened to you and despite you never being perfect, they liked something that they heard.  It gives you kind of a push, and actually in many ways.”