NOVI SAD, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Different generations of piano students and virtuosos gather every year in northern Serbian city of Novi Sad to experiment with new approaches to live performance, recognize new talents and bring beloved classical pieces closer to audiences.
The World Piano Conference (WPC), which takes place here for the 11th year from June 27 to July 3, is a unique venue for live international musical exchanges at a time when internet videos and other recordings tend to captivate young and old alike.
In the Isidor Bajic Music School, the biggest in Serbia's Vojvodina province and one of the WPC venues, teacher and pianist Juan Pablo Andrade from Costa Rica holds a public master class for Patrick, a young virtuoso from England who excels in Chopin.
Andrade says he came to Novi Sad to perform a set of variations on themes by Brahms and Schumann, his rendition of the popular melody "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" arranged into variations by Mozart, as well as variations on Beethoven's "Eroica."
He says that participation in festivals or conferences can be "nerve-racking" for pianists, because the audience is comprised mostly of their colleagues, musicians from around the world.
"I have enjoyed not only playing for them, but also interacting with them, listening to them and learning from them," he says.
Andrade recalls that professional musicians never stop learning, and that contacts with musicians of different generations help them perfect their skills.
He is confident that live music will never disappear because of its "quality of immediacy and of almost physical energy" that prompt exchanges between performer and audience.
Patrick, 11, amazed not just Andrade but all the piano students and teachers in the audience with his performance. He describes his feelings tersely, smiling only when he talks about music.
"It's fun to talk to the older colleagues and learn from them," he shrugs, too modest to comment anything more.
"It's nice to be here to play," he adds. He practices five hours each day, and especially likes to play works by Rossini.
As Andrade finishes his master class with Patrick, another participant shows up -- young Chinese virtuoso Bi Cong, who opened the conference on Thursday at the town hall as this year's winner of the World Piano Teachers Association (WPTA)'s international piano competition in Finland.
"The audience was so excited to hear me play, and the city hall is an amazing place where I can closely involve with them, be very intimate with the people, and I enjoyed it very much," Bi says, recalling his performance of Schumann, Beethoven and Mussorgsky pieces at the town hall.
At the Isidor Bajic Music School, he performed Schumann again, this time exclusively for his colleague Andrade during a master class.
Bi, who has recently gave several important concerts in China and the U.S., appreciates the exchange that takes place in Novi Sad.
"It is always great to play the piece to another professor, pianist or any fellow musician. Even if you play amazingly great, they can provide you with something you don't know, and there are still lots of things to learn," Bi said.
He stresses the "value of live performance for the soul" when compared with recorded music reproduced through electronic equipment, because live performance "offers more energy that creates a vibe between performer and audience."
Danijela Vuckovic, spokeswoman of the WPC, says that around 100 participants from over 20 countries gathered for the event, including both professors and piano students.
"We are honored to have people not only from Europe but the whole world, i.e. Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States, South Africa, Japan and China. This is a great indicator that our conference is well positioned among teachers in the world, and that they recognize the importance of gathering in this place every year," she explains.
Over the past decade, the conference has grown into a unique opportunity for future virtuosos from Serbia and the region to meet relevant teachers and performers from around the world and to engage with them through recitals, seminars, master classes and lectures, as well as to hold their own recitals and present themselves to the international scene.
WPC President Dorian Leljak, who is also the president of the WPTA, explains that great conferences similar to this one used to be held around the world, but today the WPC is a unique event of its kind.
The conference is organized through the branched infrastructure of WPTA that is present around the world, including in several provinces of China. It helps promote the art of piano and its future masters.
For Leljak, the combination of modern tendencies and the promotion of piano music will result in a "fresh force that will continue to attract audiences to piano halls."
"Our event not only helps recognize talents worldwide, but puts international spotlight on our own young pianists from Serbia and the region," he concludes.