Pianists battle head-to-head Tuesday night


Olivia Swenson-Hultz

Paul Cibis smiles to the crowd after a piano competion with andreas Kern as part of The Piano Battle.

Loren Dickson, Entertainment Reporter


Two pianists from Germany, Paul Cibis and Andreas Kern, faced off in the Dvorak Concert Hall Tuesday night as part of their 14-stop piano battle tour in the United States.

The show, which was six rounds long, combined classical piano playing with light-hearted competition and a great deal of audience interaction.

Audience members voted after each round for the pianist they thought won that round. Whoever won the round pushed his piano closer to the finish line. At the end of the sixth round, whoever was past the finish line was the winner.

Kern was crowned the winner at the end of the show, although there was some hesitation as to who won.

To announce the winner, they asked an audience member to join them on stage to determine who was the winner. Audience members used double-sided black-and-white cards to cast their vote by raising them high in the air.

The man who was on stage to determine the winner could not decide and said that both Cibis and Kern deserved to win.

A new judge was brought on stage who then decided that Kern had more votes from the audience.

“I think tonight went well, I actually think I was the winner though,” Cibis chuckled. “It wasn’t planned to have a referee on stage that refused to make a decision.”

Cibis said that although they do go on stage to win, in the end it is about music and the love of music that they share.

“We are performing against each other on stage with a mutual aim in mind,” he said.

“It’s always great to win, but actually at the end of course it’s not the main goal,” Kern said.

Kern said he thought the performance went very well even though the end was a bit unpredicted.

“The hall was very wonderful, we could feel the audience with us,” he said. “The tour in the U.S has been absolutely amazing. It’s fantastic to meet so many nice people in Charleston and everywhere else we go. It’s touching.”

Cibis and Kern have mainly performed throughout Asia and Europe. This is the first time they have toured in the United States. They have been to the U.S. to perform a few other times, but never for a tour of this kind.

When asked about the difference of playing in the United States compared to elsewhere, both pianists had insight.

“We will probably never play two encores here in the United States,” Kern said. “It’s like in Japan, the applause is huge, but when it stops, it’s done. In Berlin, sometimes there are six encores. It goes on and on.”

Kern also said that the audience reaction to their performance is different.

“Some places in Germany are more conservative and you wouldn’t hear an audience member shouting ‘good job’ like you would here. It’s fantastic,” he said.

Cibis said he noticed that the age of the audience varies from place to place.

“In Asia you have a lot of young people. There are about 60 to 80 million people learning how to play piano,” he said. “They are strongly encouraged to come to the shows with their parents, grandparents, and teachers.”

Bonnie Buckley, Charleston community member, said Cibis and Kern were not only fantastic pianists, but their performance was very unique.

“I’ve never seen a piano battle before,” she said. “The way they interacted and engaged with the audience was absolutely wonderful.”

Buckley said with classical music, it is not common to use humor and comedy like they did, which was what she enjoyed most about the concert.

Cibis and Kern will head to Albuquerque, New Mexico Wednesday to continue on their piano battle tour.

They plan to tour again in the United States in early 2018.

Loren Dickson can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]