THE 15th INTERNATIONAL FRYDERYK
CHOPIN PIANO COMPETITION - Warsaw 2005
CDs 1-5 [62:33 + 73:01 + 77:49
+ 57:39 + 78:26]
1st Round: the best performances
of each single participant.
Full details of competitors, pieces
played and a brief comment on each are
given in the Appendix to this review.
CD 6 [78:07]
Blechacz: 1st and
2nd Round recordings
Preludes op.28/7-12 [0:53, 01:56, 01:24,
00:35, 00:45, 01:18]
Nocturne in B op.62/1 [07:10]
Etude in A flat op.10/10 [02:14]
3 Waltzes op. 64 [01:51, 03:40, 03:16]
Barcarolle op.60 [08:43]
Polonaise in A flat op.53 [06:52]
3 Mazurkas op.56 [04:10, 01:37, 06:00]
Sonata in b op.58 [09:03, 02:32, 08:47,
CD 7 [77:21]
Nobuyuki TSUJII: 1st and
2nd Round recordings
Nocturne in B op.62/1 [06:10]
Waltz in F op.34/3 [02:23]
Barcarolle op.60 [08:04]
Scherzo in b flat op.31 [09:54]
Andante spianato and Polonaise in E
flat op.22 [13:28]
4 Mazurkas op.24 [02:41, 02:17, 02:01,
Sonata in b op.58 [08:57, 02:25, 08:53,
CD 8 [74:08]
Takashi YAMAMOTO: 1st and
2nd Round performances
Barcarolle op.60 [09:12]
Etude in e op.25/5 [03:27]
Scherzo in c sharp op.39 [07:21]
Nocturne in E flat op.54 [05:32]
Scherzo in E op.54 [10:51]
3 Mazurkas op.59 [04:26, 02:29, 03:13]
Sonata in b flat op.35 [05:45, 06:14,
Polonaise in A flat op.53 [06:48]
CD 9 [62:43]
2nd Round: 1
Sonata in b flat op.35 [05:42, 07:26,
Ka Ling Colleen LEE
4 Mazurkas op.33 [01:32, 01:37, 02:10,
Rachel Naomi KUDO
Sonata in b op.58 [09:55, 02:38, 10:37,
CD 10 [67:33]
2nd Round: 2
Dong Hyek LIM
Andante spianato and Polonaise in E
flat op.22 [13:53]
4 Mazurkas op.24 [02:45, 02:19, 01:52,
Dong Min LIM
Polonaise in A flat op.53 [07:05]
Mazurka in a op.59/1 [04:25]
Andante spianato and Polonaise in E
flat op.22 [14:05]
4 Mazurkas op.30 [01:33, 01:18, 02:39,
Polonaise in A flat op.53 [06:38]
CD 11 [73:31]
The Finals: 1
Concerto no.1 in e op.11 [20:31, 10:35,
Dong Hyek LIM
Concerto no.2 in f op.21 [14:18, 09:10,
CD 12 [71:24]
The Finals: 2
Concerto no.1 in e op.11 [20:12, 09:43,
Concerto no.2 in f op.21 [14:31, 08:35,
CD 13 [39:39]
The Finals: 3
Concerto no.1 in e op.11 [20:03, 09:24,
CD 14 [75:37]
Selected recordings by the two ex
aequo 3rd prize-winners
Dong Hyek LIM
6 Preludes op.28/13-18 [03:14, 00:28,
05:36, 01:00, 03:22, 01:01]
3 Mazurkas op.59 [03:46, 02:34, 03:21]
Dong Min LIM
Waltz in F op.34/3 [02:20]
4 Mazurkas op.33 [01:36, 02:18, 01:33,
Concerto no.1 in e op.11 [19:40, 09:19,
CD 15 [35:30]
1st prize-winner’s concert
3 Mazurkas op.56 [04:10, 01:36, 05:51]
Polonaise in A flat op.53 [06:42]
Waltzes in c sharp and D flat op.64/2
and 1 [03:59, 02:02]
Mazurka in B flat op.17/1 [02:26]
Suite Bergamasque: Clair de lune
Concertos with Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony
rec. live at the 15th International
Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, Warsaw,
2-24 October 2005
DUX 0068 [[15 CDs: 62:33 + 73:01
+ 77:49 + 57:39 + 78:26 + 78:07 + 77:21
+ 74:08 + 62:43 + 67:33 + 73:31 + 71:24
+ 39:39 + 75:37 + 35:30]
The Winner of the 15th International
Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition
A repackaging of CDs 6, 13 and 15 from
the above set
DUX 0066 [3 CDs: 78:07 + 39:39
Among the documents
that came to light while I was researching
Harold Craxton’s biography were the
notebooks he kept while on the jury
for the 1955 and 1960 Warsaw Chopin
Competitions – a mark and a brief comment
for each entrant. 1955 was the year
when Adam Harasiewicz came first and
Vladimir Ashkenazy second – and Craxton
agreed with that. After the 1960 event
he published an article recounting his
experiences at the competition. He agreed
that the first prize-winner Maurizio
Pollini was "in a class of his
own" but confessed that his own
favourite had been Irina Zariskaya,
who came second. While perusing the
1955 notebook I was struck by his stinging
dismissal of a certain Támas
Vásáry, whose A flat Polonaise
was described as "most unpleasant".
Since this 18-year-old pianist made
no headway in the competition it would
appear that the other jurors agreed.
Such a debacle might have nipped a weaker
personality in the bud; in the case
of Vásáry it evidently
provoked the heart-searching necessary
to overhaul his works and become the
major artist we all know him to be.
I mention this because
with the present set of 15 CDs the 2005
Competition is "going public"
in a way earlier ones did not and it
may be that the list of names summarily
eliminated at the first round – with
apparent justice – includes some who
will dominate the world stage over the
next few decades. As a matter of fact,
these discs do include a "most
unpleasant" performance of the
A flat Polonaise.
The set is called the
"Competition Chronicle", but
it is inevitably a highly selective
one. Granted that we hear nothing from
the Preliminary Round, 80 1st
Round candidates playing for 40-45 minutes
each, 13 2nd Rounders and
12 Finalists, plus the prize-winner’s
concert, would have added up to 60-65
CDs. The present 15 will presumably
be more than enough for most people’s
pockets. The problem is that by careful
selection from this material it would
be possible to distort the reality,
presenting weaker candidates in a favourable
light and subliminally suggesting that
a few got prizes they didn’t deserve.
Has this been done? Without hearing
the discarded material I can hardly
say, but it does seem odd that we get
very full representation of one gentleman
who didn’t get into the Finals and a
fairly full picture of a couple of Finalists
who didn’t get prizes while two prize-winners
– Ka Ling Collen Lee and Shohei Sekimoto
– are so meagrely documented that it
is impossible to assess their claims.
It would have been helpful if the booklet
had explained the reason for the selections
Which brings me to
another point. For a "Competition
Chronicle" there is a lot of information
omitted that one would like to know.
We have brief biographies and a photo
of each entrant, in good enough English
except for a curious way of describing
the prize-winners as "laureates"
and an endearing Anglicization of "Frederick"
Chopin on the cover. But we are not
told the rules – age-limit, choice of
pieces etc – nor who the jury were.
A wide range of material
in Polish and English, ranging from
useful comment to sheer gossip, can
be found at http://www.warsawvoice.pl/view/9355/.
The rules can be found in English at
They make fairly complicated reading
and since they are copyright I would
not be entitled to reproduce them here
in any case. Basically, from 23-29 September
2005 the 257 hopefuls were heard in
a preliminary round by an all-Polish
jury consisting of Waldemar ANDRZEJEWSKI,
Tadeusz CHMIELEWSKI, Kazimierz GIERŻOD,
Krzysztof JABſOŃSKI, Andrzej
JASIŃSKI (Chairman), Bronisława
KAWALLA, Grzegorz KURZYŃSKI, Włodzimierz
OBIDOWICZ, Janusz OLEJNICZAK, Alicja
PALETA-BUGAJ, Ewa POBſOCKA, Karol
RADZIWONOWICZ, Marta SOSIŃSKA-JANCZEWSKA,
Józef STOMPEL, Jerzy SULIKOWSKI, Maria
SZRAIBER, Elżbieta TARNAWSKA, Andrzej
TATARSKI, Waldemar WOJTAL and Edward
WOLANIN, who whittled them down to 80.
The stage was then
set for the competition proper, which
was held from 2-24 October before an
jury of WIERA GORNOSTAJEWA, LIDIA GRYCHTOſÓWNA,
ADAM HARASIEWICZ, KRZYSZTOF JABſOŃSKI,
ANDRZEJ JASIŃSKI (Chairman), CHOONG-MO
KANG, WſADIMIR KRAJNIEW, HIROKO
NAKAMURA, JOHN O'CONOR, JANUSZ OLEJNICZAK,
PIOTR PALECZNY (Vice-Chairman), JOHN
PERRY, SERGIO PERTICAROLI, EWA
POBſOCKA, BERNARD RINGEISSEN, REGINA
SMENDZIANKA, JÓZEF STOMPEL, DANG
THAI SON, ARIE VARDI, FANNY WATERMAN,
CDs 1-5: First Round
In the first round
the 80 candidates had to play a programme
of 40-45 minutes consisting of mainly
shorter pieces – the exact rules for
selection can be read on the site indicated
above. The first five of these CDs give
us what somebody – the jury? Dux? the
performers themselves? – considers to
be the best performance(s) of each one.
Thus the purchaser of this set can rerun
the competition, giving his own marks
and comments, with the important proviso
that the jury had about ten times as
much music on which to base its decision.
I have decided to place my own "pocket
jury service" as an appendix –
see below – since a series of
80 one-liners would be about as readable
as a dictionary. However, those who
buy the set might like to compare notes,
as might anyone else involved in the
competition or to whom some of the pianists
are familiar names. Virtually all of
them have won prizes elsewhere and have
active careers at least in their own
countries. A lucky few already have
discs in the catalogue. Please refer
to the Appendix also for the place and
date of birth of each candidate.
Briefly, on the strength
of this single-piece selection, my choice
of potential winners, to compete in
the next round, was:
Jia, Hisako Kawamura, Timo Herman
Latonen, Ka Ling Colleen Lee, Wei-Chi
Lin, Jędrzej Lisiecki, Aleksandra
Mikulska, Rieko Nezu, Miku Omine,
Marianna Prjevalskaya, Marian
Sobula, Krzysztof Trzaskowski, Hélène
Tysman, Natalia Wańdoch, Ingolf
Wunder, Andrey Yaroshinskiy and
my list does not include the eventual
1st prize-winner. The jury’s
choice was as follows, with names common
to both lists in bold type:
Blechacz, Jacek Kortus, Rachel Naomo
Kudo, Ka Ling Colleen
Lee, Dong Hyek Lim, Dong Min
Lim, Rieko Nezu, Yuma Osaki,
Shohei Sekimoto, Yeol-Eum Son, Nobuyuki
Tsujii, Takashi Yamamoto and Andrey
I wish to emphasize
again, though, that I am not trying
to suggest that the jury did not know
its job: they had a whole programme
of 40-45 minutes to go on and I had
just one piece. As it happens, Disc
5 is filled up with a few extra performances
by pianists who didn’t make it to the
second round. Do these change my perceptions?
In the case of Howard
Na, no. He is obviously gifted but his
Prelude 13 has lumpy things alongside
the good ones. He does his best to get
some variety and shape out of Prelude
14 but the larger canvas of the Barcarolle
confirms the impression of a gifted
pianist who needs to expunge a tendency
to insert disruptive touches.
Kiaoxi Wu, on the other
hand, produces a wonderfully poised
and translucent Berceuse, infinitely
superior to the Etude heard earlier.
On this strength I’d pass her to the
Wen-Yu Shen didn’t
impress me before and doesn’t now. The
Etude has powerful outer sections but
is terribly laboured in the middle while
the Waltz is by turns quirky, laboured
and banal. Not a very musical player.
Marian Sobula was one
of my choices. Here he adds a serious,
appreciative and musical reading of
the E major Nocturne, but one which
lacks real "star" quality,
leaving me less sure.
Avan Yu is another
whom I dismissed before but his c sharp
minor Nocturne has an ideal relationship
between the hands and a passionately
argued middle section. On this strength
I’d have passed him to the next round.
Timo Herman Latonen
impressed me very greatly earlier on.
He does so again in the truly demoniac
outer sections of the B minor Scherzo,
but the middle stagnates a little, raising
The Second Round
So now we move to the
second round, or rather to some discs
where the first and second round performances
of some of the pianists – not only the
ultimate winners – are heard in more
detail. The programme for the second
- A full cycle of mazurkas from
the following opuses: 17, 24, 30,
33, 41, 50, 56, 59
- One of the following polonaises:
Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise
in E flat major op.22, Polonaise
in F sharp minor op.44, Polonaise
in A flat major op.53, Polonaise-Fantasia
in A flat major op.61
- Sonata in B flat minor op.35 or
Sonata in B minor op.58.
6: Rafał Blechacz: 1st and 2nd
The brief Etude so
far included by the eventual 1st
prize-winner Rafał Blechacz didn’t
impress me at all so I approached this
opportunity to hear his complete 1st
and 2nd Round performances
with a good deal of curiosity. At first
I was not reassured. The A major Prelude
is slower and more lugubrious than I
have ever heard it – the marking is
"Andantino" – and no. 8 is
fidgety. It is probably neither possible
nor desirable to maintain an even tempo
through no.10 but Blechacz’s extreme
differences are predictable and disruptive.
He is appreciative of no.11 – one of
the most beautiful in spite of its brevity
– though he pulls it around too much.
No. 12 is hum-drum where it should be
The Nocturne is unsettled
at first with nervous spurts into a
faster tempo but the last two pages
– at a slower pace – are very beautiful
with poetically managed trills. The
first of the Waltzes is infectious but
with the second something really happened.
It steals in with a poetry that immediately
captivated me and from there he could
do no wrong. In this and the following
Waltz he reveals that capacity possessed
by such old masters as Paderewski or
Friedman to emphasize individual notes
within a phrase, in theory distorting
the shape considerably but in reality
not losing the lilt of the dance. This
same ability together with a warm, rounded
sound produces one of the finest Barcarolles
in my experience.
The First Round ended
here. I should certainly have been in
a quandary if I had been on the jury.
Simple mathematics would have to decree
his elimination, yet those two Waltzes
and the Barcarolle are SO good that
I can only applaud the jury’s decision
to give him the opportunity to shine
in the Second Round.
They were richly rewarded.
The Polonaise – and also the last movement
of the Sonata – reveals that Blechacz
can maintain a warm, unforced tone in
the toughest of forte passages. The
exuberant strut of this Polonaise never
descends to heavy pounding and I’d rate
this against any other version I have
on disc – and that includes Rubinstein
And he is one of the
God-gifted few who can truly play Mazurkas.
Again, the name of Ignaz Friedman came
to mind for Blechacz expresses that
same sense of freedom, that same extreme
elasticity of rhythm, yet at the same
time the elusive mazurka-rhythm is all-pervasive.
He also evokes wonderfully the folklore
elements of no.2.
The Sonata is very
fine. My only concern was that in the
second subject of the first movement
and in the Largo his technical armour
does not quite extend to a capacity
to "tier" the textures, so
that melodies, countermelodies and accompanying
figuration dialogue with one another,
each with an independent life of its
own. Dinu Lipatti is the touchstone
in this Sonata, but a few of the other
competitors heard on CDs 1-5 appear
to have this ability (see Appendix),
though in admittedly simpler pieces
such as Nocturnes.
A fascinating "case",
then. In the dance-based pieces Blechacz
is an inspired interpreter, I would
almost say a genius. His artistry demands
to be heard and on this strength his
first prize is justified. But he does
not appear to have a comparable insight
into some of the other genres and the
technical point made above suggests
he is not yet a "complete"
pianist, or even a complete Chopin pianist.
His concerto performance
in the finals and his prize-winner’s
concert – I write before hearing these
– may alter the balance. In the meantime,
let us examine the claims of the other
competitors admitted to the Second Round.
CD 7: Nobuyuki Tsujii:
1st and 2nd Round
Having made the decision
to extend full red-carpet treatment
to just three entrants – a disc to themselves
with as much as possible of their 1st
and 2nd Round performances
– one would expect honours to go, apart
from the 1st prize-winner
himself, to the two ex aequo 3rd
prize-winners (the 2nd prize
was not awarded). Instead, the lucky
pair are Nobuyuki Tsujii, who didn’t
make it to the finals, and one of the
ex-aequo 4th prize-winners,
Takashi Yamamoto. If somebody at Dux
is trying to suggest they deserved a
higher placing, I’m not impressed.
In the case of Tsujii
most of the story is soon told, for
he wades through virtually everything
with dead-pan technical fluency and
no apparent interest in what he is playing.
In a negative sense, the disc provides
a minor revelation. I had been reflecting
up till then that the true hero of it
all was Chopin, whose music was emerging
from over-exposure and interpretative
excesses with its magic intact. The
one thing this music cannot take, I
now learn, is disengagement; in Tsujii’s
hands it sounds boring, even banal.
For some reason the
2nd and 4th Mazurkas
engage the pianist’s fantasy a little
more and are at least pleasing. However,
it was with the Sonata that I began
to find that there may yet be a niche
for this pianist, though perhaps not
in Chopin. In the first movement he
takes the sort of grandly structural
approach, unconcerned with passing details,
that might have been expected from Wilhelm
Backhaus or Artur Schnabel. The result
is quite impressive. The Scherzo finds
him once again blankly uncomprehending,
treating the outer sections as a digital
study and finding no character in the
trio. The remaining movements respond
better. He does not "tier"
the textures in the Largo any more than
Blechacz, but in this literalist context
I missed it less.
In retrospect, I suppose
the whole programme is intended as a
"cleaning-up" exercise, a
plea for non-interventionist interpretation.
Unfortunately, I think Tsujii proves
that in Chopin this only works in the
few large-structured works, and that
it goes against the spirit of the dance-inspired
pieces above all. He could be a useful
interpreter of big and potentially unwieldy
19th century sonatas such
as those of Brahms; his Beethoven might
also be worth hearing. But these possible
plus-points only emerged in his 2nd
Round performances and I cannot begin
to imagine why he was admitted to this
round at all.
CD 8: Takashi Yamamoto:
1st and 2nd Round
Lack of gut commitment
is no problem with Yamamoto. His performances
are accompanied by what may be either
orgiastic heavy-breathing or terminal
asthmatic wheezing – I have no medical
knowledge with which to interpret the
noises I hear. Or did he bring his own
personal warhorse onto the platform
with him? He – or his warhorse – can
also be heard violently kicking the
pedal at key moments. One suspects the
show may be even more exciting to watch
than to hear – the loud cheers at the
end certainly suggest this.
Not that visceral excitement
is lacking from the playing when he
gets the bit between his teeth, as in
parts of the Scherzos. Elsewhere his
response is more conventional. His rubato
in the Barcarolle seems plainer than
Blechacz’s, but Blechacz’s is a genuine
case of robbing Peter to pay Paul while
keeping the lilt of the music, whereas
Yamamoto disrupts the flow. From the
1st Round I liked him best
in the Nocturne where, without any particular
points to make or windmills to charge,
he gives a natural and warm-hearted
Turning to the 2nd
Round, momentarily, as the melody passes
to the left hand in the second Mazurka,
the real mazurka-rhythms emerges, suggesting
that one day he may master these elusive
pieces – but not yet.
The Sonata is the biggest
pointer to a promising future. The first
movement is not as stop-go as I feared
and the trio of the Scherzo, like the
Nocturne, shows how attractive his playing
can be when he relaxes. The Funeral
March is impressively glacial with a
tender, withdrawn middle section. Alas,
the conventional blustering of the Polonaise
that concludes the programme only serves
to make Blechacz’s seem a minor miracle.
Even warhorses can tire, too; there
are quite a lot of Cortot-like splashes.
This pianist may yet
settle down to become a valued artist.
As things stand his 4th prize,
if deserved at all, would seem to have
been awarded more on the strength of
his promise than his achievement.
CD 9: The 2nd
Jacek Kortus reached
the Finals but was not placed. I was
not impressed by his 1st
Round recording (a Scherzo) which I
found "doggedly heavy-handed".
After a more extended encounter with
his playing I prefer to modify this
into "weighty and considered".
He dawdles a bit in second subject territory
in the first movement of the Sonata
but otherwise this is a performance
with a gentle poetry of its own. No
particular charisma but this is clearly
more mature playing than Yamamoto’s,
the sort of soundly-based musicianship
which is likely to gain strength over
the years. It is also the sort of playing
which is unlikely to emerge from a competition
– and it didn’t.
Ka Ling Colleen
Here I must protest
against the lop-sided representation
we are given of certain pianists. We
have had an entire disc of Tsujii, who
didn’t reach the finals, we get the
Sonata and Concerto performances of
Kortus who got into the Finals but wasn’t
placed, and we get the Mazurkas and
the Concerto of Nezu who likewise got
into the Finals but wasn’t placed. Lee
got the 6th Prize but we
are allowed to hear only her Mazurkas,
making it practically impossible to
assess her overall claims.
I enjoyed Lee’s 1st
Round performance and I like her Mazurkas
still more – exquisitely poetic playing,
always close to the Mazurka spirit though
without that touch of wayward genius
that makes Blechacz so remarkable in
these pieces. I can imagine that this
gentle manner applied to a Sonata and
a Concerto might find her over-stretched
but I am not permitted to know if this
was actually the case. The disc is not
overfull and space might at least have
been found for her Polonaise. As far
as I can tell, I can only remark that
she seems a far more interesting artist
Rachel Naomi Kudo
Another who made it
to the Finals but wasn’t placed. I really
have nothing to add to what I wrote
about Kudo’s 1st Round performance.
A certain pallid beauty shines through
in the more lyrical moments but for
the rest it is a matter of polite technical
competence. Better that than vulgar
bashing, you will say, but Chopin’s
fiery passion often sounds like empty
note-spinning in her hands. Enough said.
CD 10: The 2nd
Dong Hyek Lim
As one of the joint
3rd prize-winners we hear
more of Dong Hyek Lim on CD 14. I didn’t
back him at the 1st Round
and he confirms his status as a pedal-kicker
but he makes an altogether more sympathetic
impression here. Delicate poetry is
to the fore – maybe too much for a Polonaise
and this is a decorative rather than
passionate view, but it holds the attention.
I’d back him as a finalist on the strength
of this and the jury’s implicit view
that he is better than Yamamoto but
a lesser artist than Blechacz would
seem to be correct.
This is more interventionist
mazurka-playing than Lee’s, with a suspicion
that the rhythms are being applied from
without. There isn’t the supreme naturalness
with which Blechacz justifies his liberties.
And yet it has its own fascination and
I much appreciate the way she finds
new details in repeats – inner voices
brought out differently or a quite new
touch of rubato. In its quite different
way I’d put this mazurka playing on
a level with Lee’s, a notch below Blechacz
but in another class compared with Yamamoto,
let alone Tsujii’s dismal offerings.
Nezu is yet another finalist who didn’t
get placed. I note that
her teachers include Halina Czerny-Stefańska,
the winner of the 1949 competition.
Dong Min Lim
Dong Min Lim was the
other 3rd prize-winner –
we’ll be hearing his work in more detail
on CD 14. He is technically astoundingly
well-equipped, tossing off this notorious
Polonaise with an enviable nonchalance
that arguably removes an essential element
from it. Nor is he lacking in imagination
or charisma. The problem is that he
seems to have erased from the score
all dynamic and expression markings,
leaving only the virgin notes, which
he treats – dynamically and rhythmically
– exactly as he likes. I’ve been fairly
tolerant over the fact that quite a
number of entrants have not been ideally
faithful to the scores but this really
is monstrous. While I recognize that
Dong Min Lim has a lot of talent and
may become a household name if he disciplines
himself a bit more, as things stand
I can only say that a competition taking
place in Chopin’s name should reject
such aberrations on principle.
Yet another who made
the Finals but wasn’t placed. We don’t
hear her performance there so this single
Mazurka is all we have to go on. She
plays it appreciatively and sensitively
but it hardly seems a performance for
the international circuit. I repeat
my 1st Round comment that
she may be better in Brahms.
Osaki, too, got into
the Finals but wasn’t placed – and we
don’t hear her performance there. There
seems more personality at work than
with Son. Dynamics are thoughtfully
graded and there are many delightful
touches as well as dreamy poetry in
the "Andante spianato". What
follows may be a shade small-scale for
a Polonaise but I’d put her alongside
Lee and Nezu.
I’m at my wits end
to know how to say the same thing without
repeating myself, for Yaroshinsky is
yet one more who went into the Finals
but wasn’t placed – and we don’t hear
his performance there. He certainly
knows how to play Mazurkas. I thought
no.1 a little sluggish but I liked no.2
very much, as I did most of no.3, and
I thought the elusive no.4 very perceptively
handled. There is perhaps more personality
in the Mazurkas of Lee and Nezu but
this is excellent, musicianly playing,
bearing out my 1st Round
Sekimoto was joint
4th prize-winner with Yamamoto.
Here I must protest that it is quite
ridiculous that we are given a CD and
a half of the latter and just this Polonaise
from Sekimoto, making it quite impossible
to assess their relative claims. Sekimoto’s
Polonaise is certainly a relief after
Dong Min Lim’s. It is a bit fraught
at times but he takes the grand, patriotic
view of, say, Paderewski – all the other
performances in this set have apparently
fought shy of this "old-fashioned"
way of playing it. I found it thoroughly
stirring and I should have thought Sekimoto
a more mature artist than Yamamoto.
The jury in a sense
ducked a decision over the 2nd
Round. Apart from the elimination of
Tsujii all the 2nd Round
performers passed to the Finals, effectively
deferring judgement. I’d have dropped
Kudo, Dong Min Lim (but see CD 14) and
Son as well. How were the decisions
One of the sites I
have given above contains a fairly outspoken
interview with one of the jury members
who states that the competition will
have to change in the future – he claims
that most of the finalists were pupils
of jury members.
Fortunately a check-up
on the teachers named in the entrants’
CVs doesn’t seem to support this to
any great degree.
Firstly, Blechacz himself
doesn’t list any jury members among
his teachers so professorial nepotism,
if applied at all, was not so blinkered
as to block the path of obvious talent.
Secondly, the regulations
state that jury members will not vote
on their own pupils, and we have no
right to suppose this rule was not respected.
Thirdly, while the
awarding of prizes to the jury-member
pupils Ka Ling Colleen Lee (Arie Vardi)
Dong Hyek Lim (Arie Vardi), Dong Min
Lim (Vladimir Krainev) and Takashi Yamamoto
(Piotr Paleczny) may look suspicious,
a prize also went to Shohei Sekimoto
who had no such "advantage". Furthermore,
while another two finalists, Yuma Osaki
(Hiroko Nakamura) and Andrey Yaroshinsky
(Vera Gornostayeva), studied with jury
members, this didn’t help them to obtain
a prize – a prize, which I should personally
have been inclined to give them. And
since the remaining finalists – Kortus,
Kudo, Nezu and Son – do not appear to
have studied with jury members, it is
not even true that "most" of the finalists
were pupils of members of the jury –
it’s a case of 50-50.
And finally, without
wading through all the CVs, a brief
flip through shows that plenty of 1st
Round candidates had studied with jury
members, yet this didn’t get them through
to the 2nd Round, let alone
the Finals. Just a few examples: Soo-Jung
Ann (Choong Mo Kang), Piotr Banasik
(Andrzej Jasiński, the Chairman
of the jury), Maki Inoue (Regina Smendzianka),
Maxence Pilchen (Bernard Ringeissen).
In short, the jury’s decisions may not
be entirely convincing but there seems
not a shred of evidence that
they were arrived at through incorrect
channels. It may seem a naïve observation,
but most of the jury members were invited
to take part because they are renowned
teachers and therefore likely to produce
prize-winning pupils, and these professors
would not have advised their pupils
to enter the competition if they had
not considered them of an adequate standard
to do so.
The programme for the
Finals was an easy choice – one of the
two concertos, to be played with the
Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
under the experienced Antoni Wit. Once
again Dux have made the odd decision
to include a couple of performances
by pianists not placed (Kortus and Nezu)
at the expense of two that were (Sekimoto
CD 11: The Finals:
Kortus impresses more
and more with his unassuming musicianship
wedded to a natural warmth which makes
you listen to the composer rather than
the pianist. Presumably this was thought
not good enough for a piano competition
and in the finale I felt that perhaps
a touch more sheer personality would
not come amiss, but I shall keep this
record by for when I want to hear Chopin
rather than "X-plays-Chopin".
Kortus’s musicianship will surely go
from strength to strength and I hope
an agent or a recording company will
take note since competitions are not
really the place for his particular
brand of playing.
Dong Hyek Lim
Dong Hyek Lim is more
obviously assertive, dominating the
orchestra rather than making music with
it. There is more daylight in his tone
than in Kortus’s with a touch of hardness
in fortes, but very attractive in pianos.
It is a likeable performance without
notable egocentricities, but as I noted
with his Andante Spianato and Grand
Polonaise, his is a somewhat decorative
style of playing Chopin, Liberty-style
or even wallpaper-style. It pleases
without deeply satisfying and you are
not drawn into Chopin’s world as you
are with Kortus. We will hear Lim’s
Preludes and Mazurkas on CD 14; they
will have to be almighty good to convince
me he deserved a joint 3rd
prize when Kortus got none at all.
CD 12: The Finals:
At first Yamamoto seems
relatively restrained, with no noticeable
heavy breathing or pedal kicking. Towards
the end of the exposition he gets the
bit between his teeth, tearing away
like a true warhorse. I’m not so hard-boiled
as to remain unexcited but I must say
that in this first movement Yamamoto
veers between fraught excitement, heavy
point-making and relaxed warmth without
establishing a definite character.
once again shows that Yamamoto is at
present best heard in music that does
not tempt him into excesses one way
or another. Even here, though, his way
of treating practically every section
either as an accelerando or as a rallentando,
creating a sort of long-term ebb and
flow that would be more effective in
Puccini, or the Warsaw Concerto, really
ducks the issue of true Chopinesque
rubato, which is something rather different.
Ultimately, this is more Chopin for
the Palm Court, or even the piano bar,
than for the concert hall.
As for his finale,
I can only gape with astonishment. There
are hardly two consecutive bars – nay
two consecutive beats – in the same
tempo. In the second subject the orchestral
rhythms keep him on the rails a little
but elsewhere the music is grossly distorted.
As with Dong Min Lim’s Polonaise, I
feel that a competition bearing Chopin’s
name should apply certain limits and
not encourage this sort of thing by
giving it a prize. Incidentally, though
Antoni Wit is not a conductor who has
ever made my pulses race faster, I take
my hat off to his sheer competence in
keeping the orchestra together with
the soloist here.
What a relief to turn
to Nezu’s gentle lyricism. There is
a translucency that hovers over her
tone that gives it a speaking quality
that, while not wide-ranging, I found
brought a lump to my throat. I feel
she justifies her small-scale approach
and I am glad to add this performance
to my collection.
CD 13: The Finals:
So here is the moment
you’ve been waiting for. Did Blechacz
really deserve the 1st Prize?
The answer is yes, triumphantly.
Firstly, a word about
the actual piano sound, since I suppose
the same piano and the same microphone-setting
were used all through. Played by Kortus,
this piano sounds warm and rounded,
integrating well with the orchestra.
Dong Hyek Lim and Yamamoto are roughly
similar in giving it a dense impasto,
as though painted with a broad brush.
With Nezu every note glistens like moonbeams
on rippling water. Blechacz makes it
sound a totally different instrument.
It’s like focusing a pair of binoculars.
Every note assumes a silvery clarity.
It’s not a "big" sound – you
get that from Lim and Yamamoto – but
it has a carrying power that is vividly
communicative. Technically, I believe
this is because Blechacz is more truly
"inside" the keyboard than
any of the others.
His first entry is
dramatic, but the tone is then immediately
fined down, leading to a magical launch
of the lyrical subject that follows.
Blechacz finds a much greater range
in this first movement than any of his
competitors but he also has an instinctive
sense of how to balance the elements
so that it all adds up into a whole.
It may also be noticed that the orchestra,
merely dutiful elsewhere, gradually
awake to the realization that something
very special is taking place; the performance
is transformed into a collaboration
at the highest level.
In the "Romance"
every phrase speaks and there is that
freedom within a regular pulse that
was so dismally lacking from Yamamoto.
But it is the finale that sets the seal
on the performance. Blechacz sets up
joyful, stamping rhythms that set the
orchestra alight – and the public, to
judge from the cheers at the end. The
whole thing makes you want to get up
I initially had reservations
about Blechacz and taking a dispassionate
view I wondered – before hearing the
concerto – whether he should have received
the 2nd prize and the 1st
prize should not have been awarded.
But no, how can you not give a 1st
prize to an artist who can play the
First Concerto like this? It really
is a performance in a million.
CD 14: The joint
Before drawing the
sums and listening to Blechacz’s prize-winner’s
recital, we have a further representation
of the two next-placed artists.
Dong Hyek Lim
Having complained of
Dong Hyek Lim’s over-decorative approach,
I must say his group of Preludes from
the 1st Round find him on
his best behaviour – serious, well-intentioned
and utterly uninteresting. To hear such
a listlessly unengaged rendering of
the imperishably beautiful no.13 is
somewhat painful. In the Mazurkas from
the 2nd Round he either fails
to capture the mazurka rhythm or – as
in the main theme of no.3 – grotesquely
exaggerates it. I did earlier support
his reaching the Finals but after hearing
this I’m inclined to think he should
not have done so.
Dong Min Lim
On the other hand,
having been thoroughly dismissive of
Dong Min Lim’s A flat Polonaise, after
hearing him more fully I realize that
things are a little more complicated
and the Polonaise was more of a temporary
aberration. The neatly-turned Waltz
from the 1st Round changes
little, but unlike his countryman and
near namesake, he can play Mazurkas.
Not perhaps at the level of Blechacz,
but the rhythm is always there and he
is particularly effective in the more
melancholy ones – no. 4 is especially
beautiful, whereas the up-front no.
2 finds him in more disruptive vein.
The Concerto veers between the commanding
and the dreamily poetic. It is an attractive,
warm-hearted performance whose roots
do not seem to go very deep. The finale
is sparkling and dashing, nice enough
but without Blechacz’s innate understanding
of the dance rhythms, and left me thinking
he might make a dapper interpreter of
the Mendelssohn concerti.
The jury’s verdict
was, as you have gathered:
Prize: Rafał Blechacz
Dong Hyek Lim, Dong Min Lim ex aequo
Shohei Sekimoto, Takashi Yamamoto ex
Ka Ling Colleen Lee
Looking at the various
material on the site given above, Blechacz’s
victory seems completely uncontested
– and the discs bear it out. Several
commentators remarked on the abyss between
Blechacz and all the others, though
at least one suggested that some of
the entrants dropped at the 1st
Round might have given him more of a
run for his money. As is by now obvious,
I find the prizes awarded to Dong Hyek
Lim, Takashi Yamamoto and – as far as
I can tell from just two pieces – Shohei
Sekimoto quite inexplicable, while 3rd
prize seems too much for Dong Min Lim.
Equally inexplicable is the failure
to award any prize to Jacek Kortus,
Rieko Nezu and – more tentatively since
I have heard less material – Yuma Osaki.
Andrey Yaroshinskiy, too, probably deserved
better. My own line-up, then, based
on these CDs, would be:
Ka Ling Colleen Lee, Yuma Osaki ex
Dong Min Lim, Andrey Yaroshinskiy ex
Special mentions (see
Appendix): Hisako Kawamura, Timo Herman
Latonen, Aleksandra Mikulska, Hélène
Tysman, Ingolf Wunder, Hang-Chun Youn
Nezu’s Concerto performance
got very lukewarm applause from the
public compared with the roars and screams
which greeted the likes of the two Lims
and Yamamoto so the jury seem to have
given the public what they wanted. Or
did they? The Gazeta of the Warsaw
Voice polled the public and obtained
the following vote:
Jacek Kortus: 23%
Ingolf Wunder: 17%
The remaining 13% was
scattered around various pianists. Once
again Blechacz came top by a wide margin
though – such are the delights of pure
proportional representation – 53% of
the public actually preferred someone
else. Interestingly, it appears that
the voters, as opposed to the roarers
and screamers, went for the more musicianly
entrants, Kortus and Wunder.
CD 15: The Prize-winner’s
If you sit through
the minute-and-a-half of Polish on the
first track, the announcement of the
prize-winner, you will hear at the end
the correct pronunciation of Blechacz’s
name. He chooses dance-inspired pieces,
suggesting that he is well aware that
this is where his strength lies at present.
With the tensions of the competition
over, on the whole he surpasses his
earlier performances. In the Mazurkas
– he adds a further one as an encore
– he again proves that he has the rhythm
so deeply inside him that he can take
a very personal view without losing
sight of the essential mazurka feeling.
The Polonaise retains its springy step
but adds a touch more patriotic fervour
this time round. The Waltzes are much
as before. As a final encore we get
a warmly flexible Debussy "Clair
de Lune" – maybe a plea from the
pianist not to be typecast at the outset
of his career.
For those unable or
unwilling to stretch to 15 CDs, Dux
have made a 3-disc package of CDs 6,
13 and 15, dedicated entirely to Blechacz.
This is not quite so attractive as it
sounds since CDs 13 and 15 play for
a total of 75:09 minutes and most of
the best performances on CD 6 are repeated
and usually surpassed on CD 15 – specialists
will want CD 6 for the Barcarolle and
the Sonata, but then specialists will
probably want all fifteen. Might Dux
not remaster CDs 13 and 15 as a single
CD? It would make a classic Chopin disc.
But one that is perhaps
destined to be surpassed. While I was
preparing this report the news came
through that DG have signed up Blechacz.
I hope to be reviewing the results ere
long. In the meantime, all those with
an interest in the pianistic world of
the future will find much food for thought
in these discs. It would be interesting
to see what all these pianists are doing
in ten years’ time.
1-5. THE FIRST ROUND
According to an anecdote
Artur Rubinstein was once invited to
award the marks for the diploma candidates
at the Paris Conservatoire. After a
while his colleagues noted that the
great man was giving, in every case,
either 10 (the maximum) or 0. Questioned
about this, he remarked "Either
they can play or they can’t". From
this point of view practically everybody
here deserves 10. Technical problems
are all mastered and, given the unnerving
circumstances of playing in a great
competition, I would personally have
accepted a far higher level of technical
slips or memory lapses than we actually
I had thought at first
of making my own "10 or zero"
assessment on a slightly different criterion:
"either they deserve to win or
they don’t". It is clear that mere
competence, or even a high level of
musicality, are not enough for a competition
of this standing. Something special
is required. In the end I decided to
modify my assessment to a simple "yes
or no" since, while a few of those
to whom I would have given zero really
deserved it, others were very good indeed.
Here, then, is my personal competition
CD 1 [62:33]
Fumio KAWAMURA (Fukui, Japan
Etude in c op.10/12 [02:52]
Hisako KAWAMURA (Osaka, Japan
Variations on "Je vends des
Scapulaires" op.12 [07:54]
Delicate, poetic, natural, also sparkling
and strong where necessary. Yes.
Kiryl KEDUK (Grodno, Belarus
Etude in c sharp op.10/4 [02:05]
Enviable digital technique but unvaried
approach – mechanical. No.
Yusuke KIKUCHI (Tokyo, Japan
Etude in F op.10/8 [02:21]
Occasional attempts to go beyond mere
Ben KIM (Portland, USA 1983)
Nocturne in f sharp op.48/2 [07:41]
Lacks the inflections to go beyond a
polite reading of the notes. Middle
section pulled out of shape. Boring.
Shinya KIYOZUKA (Tokyo, Japan
Etude in g sharp op.25/6 [01:50]
Effective when the music is loud. Elsewhere,
loud anyway. Little tonal variation.
KOŃCZAL (Katowice, Poland
Nocturne in E op.62/2 [05:24]
Lacks a singing line to stand out from
the too-thick bass. Agitato section
rendered mechanical by lack of singing
line in spite of possibly good intentions.
Jacek KORTUS (Poznań,
Scherzo in b op.20 [09:48]
Doggedly heavy-handed in outer sections,
lacking poetic glow in centre, fiddles
around to compensate for lack of singing
tone. No. A
Olga KOZLOVA (Penza, Russia 1986)
Impromptu in G flat op.51 [05:03]
Quite nice, lacking the ultimate in
elegance, pulled about arbitrarily in
places. Good but not exactly prize-winning
Rachel Naomi KUDO (Washington,
Preludes in F sharp and e flat op.28/13-14
Competent and sensitive in 13, lacks
ultimate in singing touch to transform
the notes into magic. 14 good – well-graded
dynamics. Hardly competition material.
No. A finalist.
Timo Herman LATONEN (Eura, Finland
Nocturne in c sharp op.27/1 [05:16]
At last truly independent hands – a
singing right hand over a LH with its
own fascination. Superbly involving
middle section. Yes.
Ka Ling Colleen LEE (Hong Kong
Etude in e op.25/5 [03:16]
Elegant and supple with fine singing
line in LH in central section. Some
interesting voicings. Yes. 6th
Dmitri LEVKOVICH (Cherkassy,
Tarantella in A flat [03:02]
An infectious display. Yes.
Dong Hyek LIM (Seoul, South Korea
Waltz in F op.34/3 [02:09]
Energetic, almost violent. Did I hear
him kicking the pedal in places? No.
Wei-Chi LIN (Taipei, Taiwan 1977)
Nocturne in c op.48/1 [07:19]
Shows great respect for the music and
a feeling for its scale and structure.
Better still in Beethoven? Yes.
CD 2 [73:01]
Waltz in a op.34/2 [05:12]
A very musical, natural performance.
Igor LOVCHINSKY (Kazan, Russia
Etude in c op.10/12 [02:36]
Passionate sweep. Some wilful touches
suggest not yet complete maturity. No.
Takuro MAEDA (Nagasaki, Japan
Waltz in A flat op.64/3 [03:05]
A nice musical performance after a slightly
muted start. Real competition-winning
material though? Highly competent. Regretfully,
MIHAJLOVIIČ (Niš, Serbia
Waltz in D flat op.64/1 [01:54]
Cavalier, bull-at-the-gate approach,
precious little grace in central section.
Aleksandra MIKULSKA (Warsaw,
Prelude in c sharp op.45 [05:07]
Very sensitive – interplay of interest
between the hands echt-Chopin, and always
with a bloom on the sound. Yes.
Maiko MINE (Sendai, Japan 1984)
Nocturne in B op.9/3 [06:26]
Neatly handled, fioriture lacking sleight-of-hand
to turn them into real magic. All rather
small-scale, middle section lacking
in contrast. Regretfully, No.
Aleksandra MOZGIEL (Gdańsk,
Preludes in F and d op.28/23-24 [00:58,
Well-schooled playing, doesn’t quite
break out to dissolve the notes of 23
into a magic mist or plumb the tragic
depths of 24. Again regretfully, No.
Marko MUSTONEN (Vantaa, Finland
Etude in e op.25/5 [03:20]
Original, quirky interpretation, communicative,
but the sound itself is to bright, almost
glassy in the LH melody of the central
section. Worth watching – maybe good
in Prokofief – but in this context,
Howard NA (Taiwan 1985)
Waltz in A flat op.42 [03:41]
Elegance and verve. A tendency to plunge
into new sections without preparing
the listener’s ear results in a clipped
Kotaro NAGANO (Tokyo, Japan 1988)
Etude in c sharp op.10/4 [02:12]
Dogged tenacity rather than any real
musical impression. The insertion of
expressive "commas" – hiccups
to my ears – only emphasizes the lack
of real interpretation. No.
Rieko NEZU (Chiba, Japan 1980)
Nocturne in G op.37/2 [05:38]
Most appealing – gentle poetry. Suspicion
of tone hardening in stronger passages
(too few in this piece to judge). Why
insert pauses here and there? By a whisker,
Yes. A finalist.
Miku OMINE (Okinawa, Japan 1981)
Etude in A flat op.10/10 [02:16]
Accomplished, observant and natural.
Yuma OSAKI (Ibaraki, Japan 1981)
Etude in a op.10/2 [01:22]
Not faultlessly even nor with any compensating
poetry. Difficult to judge by just this.
No. A finalist.
Esther PARK (Pusan, Korea 1984)
Waltz in A flat op.34/1 [04:50]
Mannered, unrefined playing. No.
Maxence PILCHEN (Brussels, Belgium
Etude in a op.10/2 [01:22]
Exactly the same comments as for Osaki’s
performance (Pilchen a tad heavier).
Again, hard to say from just this. No.
Maciej PISZEK (Warsaw, Poland
Nocturne in f sharp op.48/2 [07:49]
Failure to give the LH an independent
voice reduces good intentions to mere
good manners. Makes heavy weather of
central section – too pulled-about.
Marianna PRJEVALSKAYA (Kishinev,
Preludes in g and F op.28/22-23 [00:43,
Has character. Hard to say from such
short pieces but, giving her the benefit
of the doubt, Yes.
Monika QUINN (Montreal, Canada
Etude in A flat op.10/10 [02:30]
Some nice touches, a tendency to lean
on first notes of phrases creates a
mannered effect. Regretfully, No.
Mayumi SAKAMOTO (Kanagawa, Japan
Waltz in A flat op.34/1 [04:36]
Spirited and musicianly with many attractive
touches. Quite a few crabs. Enjoyable
in another context but not quite a competition
performance. Another regretful No.
Takaya SANO (Tokyo, Japan 1980)
Waltz in A flat op.42 [03:47]
Spirited enough but hardly goes beyond
finger dexterity. No.
CD 3 [77:49]
Takashi SATO (Akita, Japan 1983)
Etude in b op.25/10 [03:59]
Well-controlled outer sections, lacks
singing tone in central section, rubato
too studied. No.
Shohei SEKIMOTO (Osaka, Japan
Berceuse op.57 [04:35]
Very pleasing and sensitive with a sweet
touch and good voice-leading. Does not
quite transform notes into sheer magic.
Would like to hear him in Schubert but
regretfully, No. A
Wen-Yu SHEN (Chongqing, China
Etude in a op.25/11 [03:31]
Straight-down-the-line, even four-square,
lack of legato when theme moves to RH
suggests not much more than technique
at work here. No.
Marian SOBULA (Wroclaw, Poland
Waltz in A flat op.34/1 [05:24]
At first seemed laid-back but then I
appreciated his subtlety and lilt, warm
tone and communicativeness. The reverse
of a typical competition performance.
Yeol-Eum SON (Wonju-si, South
Etudes in A flat and G flat op.25/1
and 9 [02:48, 01:03]
Very warm in the A flat. G flat confirms
the suspicion that the sound is too
lush for Chopin – it sounds like Brahms.
Would like to hear her in Brahms but
regretfully, No. A
Masanori SUGANO (Aichi, Japan
Waltz in c sharp op.64/2 [03:20]
Interpretative quirks of a rather conventional
and predictable kind. No.
Mei-Ting SUN (Shanghai, China
Etude in C op.10/1 [02:01]
Technically well-drilled. Mannered rallentandos.
Marek SZLEZER (Cracow, Poland
Berceuse op.57 [05:31]
Sticky, indulgent would-be original
interpretation – note that he adds a
minute to Sekimoto. Only a critic would
stick this out to the end. Sound not
even translucent enough to justify (perhaps)
such a tempo. No.
Piotr SZYCHOWSKI (Wroclaw, Poland
Etude in e op.25/5 [03:25]
Heavy-handed, eccentric in outer sections,
lacking real independence of touches
in the central section. No.
Gracjan SZYMCZAK (Wroclaw, Poland
Nocturne in B op.62/1 [07:21]
Failure to "orchestrate" the
different strands of the texture produces
a doleful alternation of the four-square
and – in an evident attempt to get away
from the latter – the pulled-around.
Very mediocre. No.
Galina TCHISTYAKOVA (Moscow,
Preludes in A, f sharp, E, c sharp
Excellent, unmannered playing which
would be better appreciated outside
a competition. No.9 suggests legato
may not be her strongest suit. I’d like
to hear more of her but in this context,
Xin TONG (Xiangtan, China 1982)
Prelude in c op.28/20 [01:52]
Insofar as I can judge from an observant
but scarcely magical account – a fraction
slow – of a piece anybody can play,
Krzysztof TRZASKOWSKI (Białystok,
Rondo in c op.1 [09:05]
Very attractive playing, perhaps a little
heavy in its point-making at the beginning,
thereafter it settles down. Natural
sense of timing. Perhaps Yes.
Nobuyuki TSUJII (Tokyo, Japan
Etude in C op.10/1 [02:11], Preludes
in B and g op.28/21-22 [01:54, 00:50]
Study does not maintain initial tempo
and is laboured on second page. Prelude
21: not much singing tone, too much
LH before right, perfunctory at end.
Prelude 22: he can bring off the bravura
pieces well enough. No. Passed
to second round.
Hélène TYSMAN (Paris,
Prelude in D flat op.28/15 [06:04]
Very sensitive and atmospheric. Yes.
Yuko UONO (Tokyo, Japan 1979)
Waltz in D flat op.64/1 [01:45]
Fraught, heavy-handed in middle section.
Wielkopołski, Poland 1980)
Nocturne in B op.9/3 [07:00]
Takes a little time to settle, then
proves highly sensitive and imaginative.
Authentic relationship between LH and
R, knows how to communicate the harmonic
twists and turns, natural sense of rubato.
CD 4 [57:39]
Katarzyna WASIAK (Zielona Góra,
Preludes in f sharp and c sharp op.28/8
and 10 [02:38]
8 rather laboured, 10 decently turned.
WILK (Szczecin, Poland 1982)
Waltz in A flat op.42 [03:50]
Unvaried and lacking in poise. No.
Xiaoxi WU (Beijing, China 1983)
Etude in G flat op.10/5 [01:40]
Opening rapped out crudely – not much
more than technique on display. A student
Ingolf WUNDER (Klagenfurt, Austria
Etude in a op.10/2 [01:18]
Has the requisite ability to make music,
even poetry, out of an apparently barren
piece. Can’t really judge on just this
but give him the benefit of the doubt:
Takashi YAMAMOTO (Nagano, Japan
Etude in c sharp op.10/4 [02:00]
Just barnstorming. No. A
Ryo YANAGITANI (Richmond, Canada
Etude in A flat op.10/10 [02:17]
Only token attention to the different
touches and dynamics carefully noted
by Chopin. No.
Chien-Ying YANG (Taipei, Taiwan
Etude in C op.10/7 [01:43]
Tiresomely heavy-handed, no attempt
to make it sound like anything but a
Andrey YAROSHINSKIY (Kiev, Ukraine
Berceuse op.57 [04:10]
After a slightly plain start, a very
nicely shaped reading. Perhaps for an
international prize something more is
required, but by a whisker, Yes.
Hong-Chun YOUN (Seoul, South
Nocturne in c sharp op.27/1 [05:15]
Very sensitive and well-structured.
A similar case to the previous one,
maybe with a little something extra.
Avan YU (Hong Kong 1987)
Etude in A flat op.10/10 [02:13]
A bit more observant than Yanagitani
but not much more than honest competence.
Feodor AMIROV (Dimitrovgrod,
Etude in b op.25/10 [03:53]
Heavy-fire outer sections, mannered
middle section, obsession with inner
voices might tickle some tastes. Better
in Scriabin? No.
Soo-Jung ANN (Seoul, South Korea
Preludes in F sharp and e flat op.28/13-14
Nicely appreciative of the music’s beauty
and (in 13) the importance of the LH.
Maybe not quite competition material
but I’d like to hear her again. No.
Piotr BANASIK (Katowice , Poland
Etude in a op.25/4 [01:45]
Lacks legerdemain. No.
BIAŁK (Cracow, Poland
Etude in e op.25/5 [03:17]
Unlike some grotesquer onslaughts, seeks
lyricism. Some nice touches but no more
than honest craftsmanship. No.
(Nakło on Noteć, Poland 1985)
Etude in F op.10/8 [02:19]
Too dry and clipped for Chopin. Better
in Mozart or Prokofief? No. 1st
Nicolas BRINGUIER (Nice, France
Prelude in A flat op.28/17 [03:22]
Warmly musical and natural. Maybe not
exactly competition material but a mature
artist, I’d like to hear him in Schubert.
Sonia CHAN (Toronto, Canada 1980)
Waltz in F op.34/3 [02:24]
Skittish and superficial with some gratuitously
eccentric touches. No.
Chiao-Ying CHANG (Taipei, Taiwan
Etude in b op.25/10 [04:21]
Rather laboured, but full sound. Better
in Brahms? No.
DRZEWIECKI (Moscow, Russia
1987 [but Polish])
Preludes in f sharp and E op.28/8-9
Warmly musical, a bit weighty for Chopin.
Another one better in Brahms? No.
CD 5 [78:26]
FILEK (Krakow, Poland 1983)
Etude in G flat op.10/5 [01:36]
Only token attention to dynamics. No
attempt to make it sound other than
a study. No.
Sonja FRÄKI (Helsinki, Finland
Impromptu in A flat op.29 [04:02]
Neatly enough turned, actual sound a
bit plain. No.
Mariko FURUKAWA (Okayama, Japan
Preludes in b flat and A flat op.28/16-17
16 clear, 17 nicely lyrical with a slight
tendency to divide it up by rubato into
2-bar phrases, perhaps to compensate
for the failure of her repeated quavers
to gel into poetry. No.
Alexei GORLATCH (Kiev, Ukraine
Etude in E flat op.10/11 [02:28]
Pleasant enough. The insistent delaying
of the second quaver of every bar becomes
Pen Cheng HE (Sichuan, China
Etude in A minor op.25/11 [03:26]
Solidly four-square, unvaried. Better
in Beethoven? No.
Ching-Yun HU (Taipei, Taiwan
Rondo in E flat op.16 [10:20]
Attractive playing without quite the
legerdemain and variety of touch to
bring this rather slight piece to life.
Would like to hear her in Schubert,
or maybe Mendelssohn. No.
Maki INOUE (Hyogo, Japan 1978)
Etude in C op.10/7 [01:37]
Robust (in a piece that doesn’t want
this) and a bit confused. No.
Oliver JIA (China 1988)
Etude in G flat op.10/5 [01:40]
The best of the several versions of
this study – dynamic contrasts observed
for once, always clean and clear and
with genuine verve. As far as one can
tell from this, Yes.
The following additional performances
are included by entrants who did not
pass to the second round. They are discussed
in the body of the review.
Preludes in F sharp and e flat op.28/13-14
[03:18, 00:29], Barcarolle op.60
Berceuse op.57 [04:32]
Etude in b op.25/10 [05:48],
Waltz in A flat op.42 [04:03]
Nocturne in E op.62/2 [06:32]
Nocturne in c sharp op.27/1 [05:50]
Timo Herman LATONEN
Scherzo in b op.20 [10:07]
see also one
of our best selling discs
Piano Recital Robert
SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Piano
Sonata in G minor, Op. 22 (1833-38)
LISZT (1811-1886) Three Concert
Studies: Waldesrauchen, S145
(1859) [4'08]; La Leggierezza,
S144 (1844) [4'48]; Gnomenreigen,
S145 (1844) [3'02]. Claude
DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Suite
bergamasque (1905) [17'24]. Karol
SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937) Variations
in B flat minor, Op. 3 (1901-3)
CHOPIN (1810-1849) Polonaise
in A flat, Op. 53 (1843) [6'58].
Rafal Blechacz (piano) Rec. Pomeranian
Philharmonic Concert Hall, Bydgoszcz,
2-5 April 2005. DDD
CD ACCORD ACD136-2 [66'04] £10.50