Nicolas Namoradze – First Georgian to Win Honens Int'l Piano Competition

Exclusive Interview

On September 7, young Georgian pianist Nicolas Namoradze won the world’s largest prize for piano $100,000 (CAD) and an Artist Development Program valued at a half-a-million dollars. What makes his achievement even more special is that he is the first Georgian to receive this extremely important award. Within the Artist Development Program, the musician will be able to deliver debut recitals in some of the world’s leading concert houses as well as have concert opportunities with leading orchestras. Namoradze is a pianist of international standard who stands out among the world's musicians for his individuality and interpretative performance skills. By winning such an important competition and receiving top prize, he once again proves that he is unbeatable and a truly rare talent.

The Honens International Piano Competition takes place every three years and is considered one of the world’s most prestigious events of its kind. Established in 1991 in Calgary, Canada, its mission is to discover new bright talent capable of thoughtful, expressive music-making and to create opportunities for their growth and exposure. “The Honens discovers, nurtures, and presents Complete Artists—21st century pianists for 21st century audiences,” reads the statement of the competition.

Even though Namoradze is only 26, he has already managed to earn international recognition and catch the attention of world’s leading media publications. The New York Times coined his performances as “sparkling … sensitive and coloristic” whereas the Wall Street Journal labeled the pianist “simply gorgeous.”

Born in Georgia, he grew up and formed as a professional musician in Budapest where he moved with his family as a little boy. Over the years, he has given recitals at prestigious venues in several countries around the world and has appeared as a soloist with renowned orchestras and conductors in Europe and the United States.

Highlights of his current season include appearances at the Chelsea Music Festival (New York) as a featured composer and pianist, recitals in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as Artist-in-Residence at The Drozdoff Society, as well as commissions for ensembles such as the Barkada and Verona Quartets and a series of concerts with violinist Rolf Schulte. Namoradze also recently earned the Fidelio Fortissimo Prize for young composers in Budapest. He has taken music to the next level, known for composing personal pieces that are considered both progressive and extraordinary. You can check out some of his compositions on Last season he also composed and produced the soundtracks for Walking Painting, a film by Fabienne Verdier, and Nuit d’opéra à Aix, a short film made in association with the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. The musician received a Master’s Degree at The Juilliard School and is now pursuing his Doctorate at the CUNY Graduate Center (New York).

The celebrated pianist talked to GEORGIA TODAY about his accomplishment and career.

You won the Honens International Piano Competition. Please tell us what it like to be the 2018 Honens Prize Laureate?

It’s a remarkable feeling. One puts so much work, dedication, heart and soul into one’s art, and to have it so well received by a jury of some of today’s leading pianists and musicians is very special. The opportunities that lie ahead as a result of winning the Honens are just incredible, and I can’t wait for what’s to come.

What stages did you pass to reach the final and claim first place?

Out of hundreds of applicants, 50 pianists were selected to perform at the international quarterfinal rounds that took place in Berlin and New York. Following this, ten candidates advanced to the rest of the competition in Calgary. We all had to play two rounds in the semifinals: one solo round, where I played Bach, Schumann and some of my own music, and a chamber music round, where we performed with baritone Philip Addis and violinist Jonathan Crow. Three pianists were subsequently picked for the finals, where we had two more rounds – another chamber music round, this time with the Azahar Ensemble, and the concerto finals with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Karina Canellakis, where I played Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto. It was a lot! I had to prepare more than four hours of music for the rounds in Calgary.

How will your prize and the program help you advance in your career?

The three-year Artist Development Program is an absolutely invaluable way to jump-start one’s career; it includes management, mentorship and incredible performance opportunities. My upcoming activities as part of this program include debut recitals at Carnegie Hall in New York, Wigmore Hall in London and the Konzerthaus Berlin, recordings on the Honens and Hyperion labels, performances with orchestras such as the London Philharmonic, and residencies at leading festivals and music centers around the world such as the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity.

You are from Georgia but grew up and studied in Budapest. What memories still connect you to Georgia?

Despite having never lived in Georgia, I grew up speaking Georgian at home and visited the country regularly. In addition, Georgian folk music is very close to my heart, and has been one of the most significant influences on my voice as a composer. I hope to return to Georgia to perform as soon as possible!

Apart from being a virtuoso pianist, you are also a composer. What is your current occupation and what are your future plans?

As well as performing and composing, I also teach at Queens College and pursue my doctorate at the CUNY Graduate Center – it all keeps me very busy! Given the win at Honens, however, I will be focusing most of my enery on my concert career from now on. I’m based in New York, but hope to divide my time a bit more evenly between North America and Europe in the future.

By Lika Chigladze

27 September 2018 21:48