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Music Faculty Member
Comes Home With the Gold

 MAILED:  Sept. 25, 2003

EAU CLAIRE — If pianist Alexandre Dossin were an athlete, he would be an Olympian. That’s the caliber of the competitors at the international piano competition he won earlier this month in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Dossin, a member of the music faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, was awarded both the First Prize of $10,000 and the Special Prize of $2,000 for best performance of a composition by an Argentine composer at the Martha Argerich International Piano Competition the first weekend in September.

“This is a major event, and it is certainly an honor to perform there as one of the selected performers,” said David Baker, chairman of the department of music and theatre arts. “To win it all is very big news.”

Donald Patterson, who coordinates the music department’s keyboard division at UW-Eau Claire, said Dossin rose to the top of a very large pool of candidates when he was hired to join the faculty last year.

“Now as Alex begins his second year, we feel more than ever that we made the right decision to hire him. All of us and perhaps especially the students are looking forward to hearing the details about the competition and this extraordinary event,” Patterson said.

Dossin said it was a personal challenge to play for and with the renowned Martha Argerich, one of the most important pianists of all times. “She is a living legend, a true genius, not just for these days, but for all time,” Dossin said.

Dossin, a native of Brazil, left Eau Claire for Buenos Aires Aug. 22. He was among 30 competitors selected for the competition from a submitted videotape and other credentials. He has performed in 15 countries during the last 20 years and is a prizewinner in several national and international piano competitions. He also was one of 35 pianists invited to perform at the prestigious Van Cliburn Piano Competition in 1997.

Dossin chose his music for the four rounds of competition in the Martha Argerich competition. He says he doesn’t have a favorite piece of music. “I’m the kind of musician who wants my audience to be amazed by the music, not by me. I serve the music; my final reason for playing is to share the music,” he said.

Two solo recitals, one chamber music performance and the final concerto round narrowed the field from 30 to the final three. The distinguished panel of judges included Argerich; Gygory Sandor, another renowned pianist who studied under Bartok; Eduardo Delgado, an Argentine who teaches in California; Aikiko Ebi, from Japan; and Alexis Gologin, a Russian who now lives in Switzerland.

“When I left here, I didn’t think I would win. I’m prejudiced against competitions, and I thought some of the other pianists already knew Martha Argerich. Then when I arrived in Buenos Aires and went to the first press conference, something clicked in me. I had the feeling something would happen and it did, with each round getting better and better,” Dossin said.

In the final round Dossin performed Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 5,” also known as the “Emperor.” It took place in the 3,500-seat Main Stage of Teatro Colon with a packed audience and full orchestra.

“Even though I was feeling maximum stress at that time, I played with strong emotion and the joy of a full theater,” Dossin said of the final round performance. “I was very happy to have my mother there also.”

The reviewer for La Nacion in Buenos Aires wrote, “Dossin is a performer with many qualities, a solid technical command and a very personal way of interpretation,” noting his “excellent articulation and refined phrasing.”

Dossin says he has a Russian style of playing, which is based on the quality of the sound more than technique, form or cerebral analysis. “It’s very personal, more toward the romantic,” he said. “Above all, for me, music has to be beautiful.”

After the competition Dossin was invited to participate in the Martha Argerich Festival, performing with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of conductor Charles Dutoit. He had other solo and orchestra performances during the Festival tour, always sharing the stage with Martha Argerich. He has been invited to take part in the Martha Argerich Festival next fall in Japan.

“I heard her perform over10 times and was truly amazed by her playing,” Dossin said. “She is one of the best pianists of all times. I learned a great deal about my art just from listening to her.”

After a joint performance in Mendoza, Argentina, where he performed Schumann’s “a minor Piano Concerto,” Dossin experienced what he calls his “most unforgettable moment.”

“I had already performed and was sitting in the audience, relaxed and enjoying Martha Argerich’s encore, which was her first of the tour,” Dossin said. “The audience wanted more and suddenly she looked down at me and invited me to the stage. She took my hand, sat me at the piano and asked me to play an encore (Prokofiev’s Toccata op. 11), which I hadn’t practiced for 10 days. My brain said don’t do this, but my heart said yes. It was a very beautiful gesture from her. She liked my playing and thought I was worthy to play in her place.”

Later that night, Argerich offered to write a recommendation for Dossin. These are some of her words: “His performances are magnificent, with very pure musical insight and an extreme sensitivity, together with real virtuosity and a very personal way of unfolding interesting ideas. The feeling that there is always more coming makes his performances a very strong experience.”

Dossin says he doesn’t plan on entering any more piano competitions. “This is the top,” he said. “I’ve accomplished what I wanted. It was a personal challenge for me and it worked out perfect. Now I want to play as much as possible and continue to teach.”

He will perform the “Emperor” with the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra Oct. 4, the first of several performances already scheduled in the upcoming months. Also in October, he will perform in the Heyde Center in Chippewa Falls, do a private benefit concert for the Friends of Music, and perform as Guest Artist at the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association convention in Milwaukee.

Even though Dossin had four other offers to teach last year, he chose UW-Eau Claire for the quality of life it offers. “Here we can combine stability and a nice life with concerts and performances,” Dossin said. “The air is clean, the schools are good and the houses are nice. It’s a wonderful life for our child, and we are very happy here.”

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JW/JB


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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
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Updated: September 26, 2003