Chopin’s Timeless Music Hits a High Note at the Fourth Annual Frost Chopin Festival

Pause. Play. Perfect. This year’s Frost Chopin Festival gave audiences a time to reflect, extraordinary young pianists’ a chance to play, and piano maestros a platform to celebrate Chopin: the perfect virtuoso.

“Everything in the world slowly fades with time,” said Frédéeric Chopin, a Polish French composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for solo piano. But 173 years later, his timeless music is taking center stage, most especially at this year’s Fourth Annual Frost Chopin Festival.

Presented by the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami and the Chopin Foundation of the US, the week-long festival [June 19 – 26] marked the most successful festival since its inception. Inspired by the music of Chopin, a genius who contributed many significant works to the piano’s repertoire—the festival featured 21 young pianists navigating the winding path that leads to an international career as a concert pianist.

According to Chopin Festival artistic director Kevin Kenner, who is also associate professor of piano at Frost,The Frost Chopin Academy and Festival amplifies a two-fold mission. One, to present free performances of the highest artistry by world renowned pianists for the enjoyment and enrichment of the South Florida community. And two, to offer extraordinary young artists who attend the Academy a chance to perform in concert with some of the most celebrated Chopin specialists of our time.

The students also get the opportunity to participate in master classes and workshops. This year, these were taught by Kenner, along with John Rink, Ewa Poblocka, and Garrick Ohlsson. Due to the generous donor support, many students were awarded scholarships. All the concerts were free and live streamed via the Frost School’s YouTube channel.

The festival had many highlights. In the opening concert, 18-year-old JJ Jun Li Bui dazzled the audience with a program beginning with Chopin’s Polonaise in B-flat minor. “Bui displayed the technical agility, command of the instrument and musicality that portends a major career,” reported Lawrence Budmen in South Florida Classical Review. “This exceptionally gifted young musician is definitely an artist to watch as his career progresses.” 

Kenner, who dedicated the festival to the people of Ukraine, created relief fund for Ukrainian musicians to help preserve the country’s rich cultural heritage. They raised $10,406, which will directly assist musicians in need.

“There are very few musicians and arts presenters who do not feel the shame that we all feel that our world cannot somehow live in peace,” stated Kenner in a recent interview with Artburst Miami. “It would have been somehow negligent on my part as a musician to not respond in some way to what is going on in Ukraine.”  

Two of the concerts featured some of Ukraine’s finest treasures: the illustrious Ukrainian-Polish soprano Olga Pasichnyk and 16-year-old pianist Khrystyna Mykhailichenko. Pasichnyk performed twice for the Frost Chopin Festival in concert with Kenner and Ewa Pobłocka. She also joined the Academy in a workshop dedicated to the operatic influence in Chopin’s piano works. 

On closing night, four festival students, Madison Yan, Athena Deng, Da Jin Kim, and Christopher Shin opened the program at UM’s Gusman Hall with a recital that showcased the extraordinary teaching the Frost Academy provides. Chopin master Garrick Ohlsson, who in 1970 became the first American to ever win the top prize at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, later took the stage and proved that he remains one of the finest interpreters of Chopin’s works.

University of Miami alum, Sonia Sixto, learned about the festival via her son who registered for tickets for the Wednesday night’s concert. “We enjoyed the performance so much that we returned for the Thursday and Friday concerts,” she stated in a note written to Kenner. “I wanted to congratulate you for such a magnificent festival,” she continued. “We were in awe of all the young talent, commenting that we had just watched the Olympics of the music world!”