Claire Huangci
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Meet the Pianists: Claire Huangci

Next in our look at the 30 competitors in the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition: The 23-year-old American not-so-fondly remembers her first reaction to a piano.

published Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It wasn’t love at first sight. 

Claire Huangci was turning six years old, her family had just moved to a new house, and her parents wanted a grand piano. 

“The arrival of the grand piano at our house coincided with my birthday,” the young American pianist, now 23, remembers. “But it was their spontaneous decision to buy one. I remember wishing for a different birthday gift.” Slowly, over the months, she tinkered with the piano—and after about a year, began taking lessons. 

Huangci (it’s pronounced “whan-SEE”) was born in Rochester, New York, and both her parents were scientists. Why, we wondered, did they aim her toward such a different life? 

“Believe me, they never sent me off in this direction,” she tells us. “It took a lot of convincing, and even now I’m sure a small part of them are regretting not having sent me off to med school.” 

Huangci is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, and currently studies in Germany at the Hochschule fur Musik, Theater und Medien in Hannover. She has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Petersburg Symphony, Munich Chamber Orchestra and others in the U.S. and Europe. In 2010, she took first prize at the Chopin National Piano Competition in Miami, and was a laureate of the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition in Belgium. In 2011, she won second prize at the ARD Piano Competition, Germany’s most prestigious event. She has played at Carnegie Hall, the Salle Cortot in Paris, the Bonn Beethovenhaus and other venues, and has recorded her first CD for the Berlin Classics label. 

She remembers making her debut at age seven with the Ocean City Pops Orchestra on the Jersey Shore. “It was in the summer, and the audience was full of children, balloons, cotton candy. I can’t imagine a better way to play the first time with an orchestra.” These days, she plays “so many” concert dates, but it’s clear she is thoroughly enjoying herself. 

“Each concert has special moments,” she says. “Just yesterday, I performed Mozart Concerto No. 23 with the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, and it was almost surreal; the orchestra and conductor seemed almost telepathic in the way they understood what I wanted to express. I heard nuances I had never paid much attention to, in particular [with] the bassoon parts.” 

Since she’s been in Germany, Huangci says, “I’ve developed a great fondness for cooking, and my friends here and I have cooking parties as often as possible, with each of us trying new recipes for one another.” She lists Rihanna, MUSE and Coldplay as current music favorites. 

“I have almost no classical music on my iPod,” she adds. “And as recently as last year, I was also a big fan of K-pop, Bigbang and PSY Gangnam Style.” 

As for classical composers, she says “Prokofiev is certainly one of my favorites, but I can’t put him above Bach, Beethoven, Chopin or Rachmaninov. My taste is very varied!” 

Huangci has performed in San Antonio, Houston and El Paso in the past, and says she would like to explore the water parks in Fort Worth: “They look so beautiful!” 


◊ Here is Claire Huangci performing in April 2013 at the Finals Gala of the American Pianists Association Classical Fellow Awards in Indianapolis. Huangci’s performance begins at 48 minutes into the video—which also showcases two other Cliburn contenders, Sara Daneshpour (before) and Eric Zuber (after) her performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3:



Claire Huangci's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Repertoire:


Preliminary Recital, Phase I
BEETHOVEN  Sonata No. 28 in A Major, op. 101
MENDELSSOHN  Fantasy in F-sharp Minor, op. 28 ("Scottish Sonata")
RACHMANINOV  Prelude in E Minor, op. 32, no. 4
RACHMANINOV  Prelude in G Major, op. 32, no. 5
RACHMANINOV  Prelude in F Minor, op. 32, no. 6
KAPUSTIN  Prelude op. 40, no. 1

Preliminary Recital, Phase II
SCHUBERT  Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946
TCHAIKOVSKY-PLETNEV  Excerpts from "Sleeping Beauty"
TCHAIKOVSKY-PLETNEV  Le Chat Botté et la Chatte Blanche 
TCHAIKOVSKY-PLETNEV  Le Canari qui chante

Semifinal Recital
BEETHOVEN  Sonata No. 26 in E-flat Major, op. 81a ("Les Adieux")
SCHUMANN  Symphonic Etudes, op. 13
PROKOFIEV  Romeo and Juliet before Parting, op. 75, no. 10

Semifinal Chamber
DVOŘÁK  Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 81

Final Concerti
BEETHOVEN  Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, op. 37
PROKOFIEV  Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, op. 26


◊ To see a slideshow of all of the competitors, with bios and links to our profiles of them, click here. Thanks For Reading

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Meet the Pianists: Claire Huangci
Next in our look at the 30 competitors in the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition: The 23-year-old American not-so-fondly remembers her first reaction to a piano.
by Jan Farrington

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