Sunday, 20 July 2008

SIPCA Stage II Day Two / Morning session

Morning session
Elizaveta Ivanova (Russia) continued her fine showing with a well-shaped and phrased Mozart Fantasy in C minor (K.475), one that began so imposingly that I swore that Chopin’s First Ballade was about to take place. One wonders why Debussy’s Les collines d’Anacapri has featured (its incarnation No.5 now) so prominently in this round. It’s suitably impressionistic, suitably virtuosic, and doesn’t pack in so many notes (unlike What the West Wind Saw) and Ivanova’s was predictably well turned out. Her selection of 6 Shostakovich Preludes (Op.34) was excellent, combining a homage to Bach, tongue in cheek send-ups to popular dance movements, a Chopin-like etude, wrong note polkas and a breathless movement perpetual. Just perfect. Verdict: Da.

Marco Ciampi (Italy) is another pianist who does not resound strongly with me. Despite that, his Debussy Girl with the Flaxen Hair was elegantly inflected, and his Scriabin Sonata No.4 was more alluring and seductive than Sean Chen’s (Stage I). You know what they say about Italian lovers, and there was enough lift to keep the breathless finale afloat for most of the time. Bernoulli was Italian too, I think. However, his Liszt Transcendental Etude No.10 did not stand out, sounding effortful at parts while lingering a little too long in its brief reflective moments. Verdict: Will need a massive effort to get through.

Konstantin Shamray (Russia) pulled off that Russian warhorse, the Taneyev Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor (famously recorded by Ashkenazy), with such amazing pianism that there is little more to say. The fugue is simply one of those torture devices regularly inflicted on piano students at the Moscow Conservatory. His Debussy Ondine showcased wide contrasts of dynamics, and how the castanets clicked away in the Ravel Alborada del gracioso, with some outrageous glissandi at the end to match. Verdict: Da, again.


Tatiana Kolesova (Russia) isn’t a particularly big girl but the power she packs in for the Stravinsky Three Movements from Petrushka is quite awesome. Although the performance isn’t as blistering as Pollini’s (but who’s is?), her steadiness and accuracy (with hardly a dropped note) is the reason why pianists have to practise, practise and practise. Her Debussy Alternating Thirds was equally spine-chilling in its evenness and seamlessness. Chopin’s Etude in F minor (Op.10 No.9), the “easiest” of the lot, almost became inconsequential. Verdict: Triple da.

It’s been a good day for Russians. The sole Kazakhstani Daniil Tsvetkov was in good company. His Exquisite Fairies (Debussy) possessed a litheness and lightness than Menor lacked. His Schumann Arabeske was also poetic and had the opposite effect of Devine’s. Under his hands, Messiaen’s Regard de l’esprit de joie got off the blocks at a faster clip than Lee’s (last evening) and revealed a wider plate of colours. The virtuosity was unquestionable, and in all three works, he had silenced his rivals. Verdict: Borat says da too.

Which pianist’s name comprises two different English words? Ran Dank (Israel) performed the only 12-tone work of the entire competition. Boulez’s Douze Notations, comprising 12 varied sketches from some notebook of musical ideas, was made to sound like music rather than random noise, and that itself is some achievement. Dank’s Debussy Feux d’artifice had both atmosphere and colour, with the motif from La Marseillaise wafting from out of the fumes like some Bastille Day spectre. In Chopin’s rather hackneyed Heroic Polonaise (Op.53), he found something new to say without sounding vulgar. Verdict: Bravo.


Young Charlie Albright (USA) aka Master Etude has to be the most na├»ve, or the most astute competitor at SIPCA. What possessed him to play dismembered movements from sonatas when there are opportunities to present these whole at a later stage? The first movement of Janacek’s Sonata “From the Street 1-X-1905”, a requiem for a murdered street protestor, had a rapt opening and very beautiful tonal shadings. One regretted he did not continue into the anguished second movement. His Debussy Terraces of Moonlit Audiences felt just right, no need for artificial lighting here. Finally, he played only the first two movements of Beethoven’s Sonata in A major (Op.101), with great lyricism in the former and just the right thrust in the latter. What about the 3rd and 4th movements? He has programmed them in Stage III. What a tease! Verdict: Anyone who does not desire to hear that is not a musician.

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