World Piano Competition, Purcell Room, South Bank, 23 April 2000
This event attracted entries from across the globe for a place in the concerto finals with the LPO (to be broadcast later on Classic FM), a first prize of £12,000 and a solo recital on the Naxos/Marco Polo label. There is a daunting repertoire list, but none of the competitors I heard opted for the Carter or Dutilleux sonatas. No Xenakis was listed and pieces such as Messiaen's Cantéyodjayá and some of Stockhausen's Piano Pieces had to be played from memory!
I attended one of the Stage Two days and heard eight pianists, two Russians, two Poles, an Italian, a Georgian, a Chinese and a Taiwanese. Fear was writ large on most faces; a nervous, awkward pianist engenders an apprehensive audience.
The Russian Evgeny Samoilov was happier in the darkly sonorous world of Prokofiev's Eighth Piano Sonata than Beethoven's Rondo in G. His moto perpetuo was veiled and threatening, his lower sonorities powerful, his rapid, dynamic passages aptly polished, and he highlighted the Romeo and Juliet-like parts of the third movement well. There is space for some humour in this work, however, and this was missing, as was the bittersweet quality of the andante sognando. The Chinese Chenyin Li's recital also began with Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata. She was impeccably accurate, but missed the mystery of both the opening of the work and of the second movement as a whole, whilst her last movement was more overtly virtuoso than most. Liszt's Rhapsodie espagnole was carried off with aplomb and avoided any suggestion of parody. The Polish pianist Piotr Szychowski had a habit of interrupting the rhythmic flow in Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy. Liszt's Transcendental Study No. 10 came across with a good sense of yearning and easy virtuosity. Chiao-Ying Chang impressed more. She showed understanding of late Beethoven (Op. 111) well beyond her 19 years. She was not afraid of raw sonorities as they are and presents dramatic gestures effectively and a feeling of stillness at the end. In five Debussy Preludes from Book 2, control of tonal variety was in evidence. I hope to hear more of this young lady.
In the evening, four more pianists. The Georgian, Alice Tavdidishvili, was an object lesson in what happens if you push a youngster too hard. Her painfully unsubtle Bach Second Partita was received in stony silence and nearly all nuance was missing from Beethoven's Op. 10 No. 2. The 19-year old Italian Massimiliano Ferrati gave us a hard-driven Chopin Second Sonata which lacked both poetry and a steady pulse. Agata Nowakowska, a 22-year old Pole, gave an expressive account of Liszt's Vallee d'Obermann, but never seemed to recover after she lost her way in Chopin's Third Sonata. Finally, after a well-delineated Wanderer Fantasy, Sergei Kuznetsov brought off Rachmaninov's Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 36 with great elan.
The semi-finals continue at the Purcell Room each evening until 27 April and for the Grand Final at the RFH (29 April, 7.30) the LPO will be conducted by Alexander Vedernikov, after which there will be another report from Seen&Heard.
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