4 thoughts on “Clayton Stephenson performs Gershwin’s Concerto in F

  1. Bert Carter

    It was a tremendous joy to hear and see these performances. I’m fairly certain that Clayton was honored to have represented the United States as the first African American finalist in the history of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. As a serious music lover, I can only hope this was just the springboard of what will become a long and successful career of music-making.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Bert: I can’t thank you enough for alerting me to Clayton Stephenson. I didn’t know he was the first African American finalist in the competition’s history, though I am sadly not surprised to learn that is the case. I am reminded by this of something Cory Booker said to Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing, which seems to me just as applicable here: “But don’t worry, my sister, don’t worry. God has got you. And how do I know that? You’re here, and I know what it’s taken for you to sit in that seat.”

  2. Curt Barnes

    After he played Mozart’s Concerto 21 at the Cliburn, I was stunned to hear Clayton say that it was his first performance of Mozart! By which he must have meant first concerto. But still! I’ve heard the “Elvira Madigan” concerto, as many of my generation called it, played by easily a dozen different major interpreters over the years, and Clayton’s was fresh and persuasive and moving. I could say the same for the third and second-prizewinners, too, and many others: what defined the impossibly high level of performances was a criterion one didn’t expect to use at this level: did the performer make me hear the work in a new way? Did their performance provide a fresh perspective? In so many cases the answer was yes. This is such a great new crop of musicians, and Clayton is one of them.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Curt: I had NO idea that was Clayton Stephenson’s first performance of a Mozart concerto. This makes it all the more clear what a prodigious talent he is. “Fresh, persuasive, and moving” are all spot-on descriptors, as are your questions for listening. I don’t have anything like either yours or Bert’s experienced ears, but from what I watched, yes, the talent overall was remarkable. Still, Stephenson stood out to me immediately on listening to the first piece of his I heard, which was Beethoven’s Waldstein. I felt as if I was hearing it for the first time. So, perhaps the real takeaway here is that every finalist should have won and been given a boost toward a concert career. I certainly hope we hear a whole lot more from Stephenson.

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