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Jessica Duchen
Sunday 17th October 2010
Appropriate Names at the Piano Olympics

The International Chopin Competition in Warsaw is steaming on towards its finals this week. The contest puts out a daily newspaper in Polish and English, in collaboration with Gramophone and English-language editor and blogger Emma Baker, which you can catch up with via the busy website here. The only external reports I've seen so far have, of course, grumbled about decision-making being political rather than musical, and some of us have been crossing fingers hard that juror Martha Argerich will indeed find it possible to fit in a flying visit to London today to join in ex-husband Stephen Kovacevich's big 70th birthday bash at the Wigmore Hall this evening, before the contest recommences tomorrow. The super-keen can follow the competition's progress with its online broadcasting facility here.

But the most fun I've been having has come from the Appropriate Names Department. For in the list of 10 pianists selected to go through to the finals after the third round, we find one Mr GENIUSAS from Lithuania as well as Herr WUNDER from Germany, and a Mr TRIFONOV from Russia who, last time I checked, was a character from The Cherry Orchard. Will they pick the genius, the miracle or the Chekhov? Or one of the other seven candidates: one Austrian, two French, a Bulgarian, three more Russians and a solitary Pole named Pawel Wakarecy: will he, being a Pole on home turf, Wakarecy everyone up?[UPDATE: I am reliably informed that the Bulgarian candidate Mr Bozhanov's name virtually means "Mr God", so the joy continues...]

I once invented a spoof piano competition for some article, with entrants named along the lines of Victor Ieludesmi, Anna Thabasher and Ivana Getoutahir, but sometimes reality is stranger and much better than fiction. Good luck to them all! Meanwhile I'm off to Stephen's Wigmore for a bit of Brahms and Liszt.

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Jessica Duchen
October 18th, 2010
4:10 PM
Nice one, Peter! A friend once came across a specialist in a related field named Dr Dick... One of my favourite Appropriate Names was a journalist named Jonah Fisher who appeared on TV reporting from a Greenpeace anti-whaling vessel.

Peter Owen
October 18th, 2010
1:10 PM
I recently read an article on "nominative determinism" which suggested that some people's choice of career might be influenced by their surname hence De'Ath becoming an undertaker, Paine a dentist and so on. My favourite was a Mr Weedon who became a urologist.

Andrys Basten
October 17th, 2010
3:10 PM
"A Bulgarian" ? :-) Evgeni Bozhanov. The Chopin event's videos of each pianists' recitals for all 3 stages are available at I highly recommend viewing of at least portions of Evgeni Bozhanov's, as he is definitely ... unique. This unconventional and usually controversial pianist received a standing ovation from the usually reserved Polish audience and 4 curtain calls after the Stage 3 recital. If you've time and inclination, give the Stage III video a listen. There are remarkable things in it. On the other hand -- in the Stage II video, I recommend highly: . Rondo a la Mazur in F major op. 5 and the seldom heard . Polonaise B-flat major [op. 71 nr 2] Those two are especially prime.

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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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