Everyone shoots for the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, but failing to take the top prize is not necessarily fatal to a career. Each edition of the competition has its share of remarkable pianists whose performances linger in memory even though they fail to take the gold — and who later prove their worth with solid careers.
Such a one is Christian Zacharias of Germany, who was the silver medalist in the 1973 competition (Vladimir Viardo of the Soviet Union was the winner). Zacharias is still concertizing internationally, and he’s added conducting to his resume. This week the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota announced that Zacharias will become an “artistic partner” starting in 2009. An “artistic partner” is a sort of part-time music director in charge of a portion of a season.