The prestigious biennial JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, which takes place in Buffalo, New York, on June 4–9, has announced its eight semifinalists, and as usual it is living up to the “international” in its title. Five different countries are represented among the eight spots: USA (2), China (3), Russia, South Korea, and Thailand.

In this rigorous competition, for the preliminary round, the guitarists submitted an unedited CD of them performing—either with piano or orchestral accompaniment—the first movement of one or two of 11 prescribed concerti, by Brouwer, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ponce, Rodrigo, Villa-Lobos, and a few others, plus certain specified cadenzas which might come from different movements of each piece. This year, too, there was an additional incentive “for competitors to perform some lesser-heard repertoire. An award of $3,000 is available to anyone advancing to the finals with a concerto from a list provided, with the award to be shared equally if more than one competitor advances with a selected work. As a result of this award, three works will be heard in the semifinals for the first time: Concerto for Guitar by Malcolm Arnold, Concierto Antillano by Ernesto Cordero, and Concierto Elegiaco by Leo Brouwer.” Additionally, the CD included a live recording of a work at least five minutes in length, and another free choice five to eight minutes long. The eight semifinalists were selected by a distinguished panel of judges from the submitted CDs.

This year’s contenders are: Jack Cimo (USA), Bokyung Byun (South Korea), Igor Klokov (Russia), Junhong Kuang (China), Bradly Pupa (USA), Chinnawat Themkumwun (Thailand), Congyi Zhang (China), and Tengyue “TY” Zhang (China). The competitors are vying for a $10,000 first prize and an return engagement to play with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO). Among the past winners are Marcin Dylla, Celil Refik Kaya, Marko Topchii, Artyom Dervoed, and Ekachai Jearakul. It’s quite a feather to have in your cap!


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On June 6 and 7, the semifinalists will perform with an accompanist at the WNED studios in Buffalo performances that will air on local radio station 94.5 Classical FM but also on Facebook Live, so it can be seen anywhere. After the second night of semifinals, the judges will deliberate and select three competitors to advance to the final round. They will perform with the BPO, under the baton of JoAnn Falletta, herself an accomplished classical guitarist, at 7:30 p.m. (U.S. Eastern time zone)  Saturday, June 9, at Kleinhans Music Hall. The judges will select a winner, and the audience and BPO musicians will also choose their favorites.

Below: Bokyung Byun plays a piece by Ponce several years ago; and Bradly Pupa plays Barrios