‘To let people fly’: Former President of The North West International Piano Ensemble Competition (NWIPEC) Winfried Rompf is embracing a new role at the upcoming competition

The 7th Northwest International Piano Ensemble Competition will be led by new board members and executives, but Mr. Winfried Rompf – Win as he prefers, will stay on as Musical Advisor.

While Winfried Rompf may be stepping into a new role as Musical Advisor this year, the legacy of his passion, expertise, and influence while President will continue as NWIPEC embarks on its 7th year. As one of the founding organizers, Win has been a part of the competition since the start of its story. He sits down with me to discuss its past, present, and future.

‘How did the idea pop up?’

‘The Pacific Piano Competition – a contest for solo players – runs every second year in Vancouver. The organizers thought that it might be a good idea to have a duet piano competition that would go an alternate year.  I was excited about the idea when they contacted me, and we started negotiating the details and setting up a charitable organization, The North West Piano Ensemble Society. Since the first competition was held in 2009, the decision was made that from that time on we were independent.’

‘It seems that it was necessary to have a separate event for ensembles.’

Yes, we felt that we should be focusing our attention on the specific type of competition and not too much going on at the same time. As a matter of fact, piano duets became incredibly popular during the 1900s and certainly into the XXI century. In addition, there is a very rich repertory of duets that is available, almost as large as solo piano. You could specialize in romantic, contemporary, entertainment type of piano music. In general, the competition we are talking about gave a career boost to many professional duettists.’

‘This is another chance for musicians to develop their skills, isn’t it?’

Definitely, it is.From my experience, students who have tried playing duet usually gravitate to it whenever they can. The reason is that they really do much better in their solo work as a result, because in the process they learn things they would never learn as a solo player.’

‘Remembering past competitions, could you tell us about the most impressive performances?’

This is the tough one, as there were so many of them I really enjoyed. The last competition was an incredibly high level. For example, the performance of Brahm’s Sonata for two pianos was unbelievable. Another one was played by couple of Russian pianists who amplified a version of Danse Macabre, although it wasn’t originally written for two pianos. They demonstrated terrific talent.

‘In order to embrace the challenges posed by the pandemic, The 7th NWIPEC will be a virtual one. In your opinion, how will the competition evolve?’

There are challenges with virtual competitions too, but at least travelling is not going to be an issue. Therefore, people who would have had to travel to the competition but could not afford to cover all the expenses will have a chance to join us. You can also have judges from all over the world. Although we will miss the audience this time, participation will be still beneficial for everyone involved.

It is worth mentioning that we were not trying to make it a sort of light festival. Even if participants are young, we are asking people to perform pieces that were actually written for piano duet or duo piano. Arrangements of symphonies and overtures would not qualify. It really forces participants to search the literature a little bit more.’

‘What is your role in organizing the upcoming 7th NWIPEC?’

For the past six times, I was the President of the Association that sponsored it, being responsible for much of what was going on in terms of administration as well as actually running it, except for the last one. We were very fortunate to have as the master ceremony Mr. Jeff Alexander, President of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, who did a brilliant job in negotiating the competition through its final phase of the award-winning ceremonies.

Since the pandemic has developed, it became clear to me that things are not going to be the same, and we need new leadership for that. I felt that I would probably not be the best person to lead in a new direction. So, my role now has become a Musical Advisor, which means I will be dealing with questions that have to do with musical aspects of the competition: repertory, qualifications, suitability of music that has been chosen.

Of course, I am always available for the new board, especially to the new President and Vice-President. I am very excited that Tanya Tyuleneva is the new President; she will bring new ideas and a lot of good direction to this competition. She is working with Dr. Bruce Lin, Professor in Texas. He will be taking on the USA directed coordination. I feel that my role is to loosen to some extent and to let people fly.’

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