Saturday, 2 August 2008

The Final Six Perform

As heard over the Internet, all the way from Singapore:

CHOPIN Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise Brillante

I thought Mr Zuber might have capitalised on performing last in the 19th and 20th century concertos, and grab something more than 6th prize, but that’s how the cookie crumbles in such competitions. Hearing over the Internet, his Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto was very acceptable but did not raise goosebumps the way Rem Urasin did in 2004. He was not one of my 6 picks for the Finals (based on what I witnessed “live” in Stage I-III), nevertheless still impressed with his big-hearted playing – gentility followed by his trademark exzuberance - that came through in the Chopin Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise.

GRIEG Holberg Suite

Here is a young pianist who will go very far indeed, and he’s only 17 (they said the same thing about David Archuleta in American Idol 7). The five movements of Grieg’s Holberg Suite were characterised by a Romantic sweep, nothing Baroque about it. The Prelude was blustery and virtuosic, while the Sarabande exuded genuine beauty before closing with a suitably rumbustious Rigaudon. Will go on and win further competitions – and this is just the beginning.

CHOPIN Barcarolle

One would be hard pressed to find a more refined performer than Takashi Sato, whose Chopin Barcarolle had shape, but more importantly that beautiful cantabile, topped with the lovely filigree as the icing on the cake. His Schumann-Liszt Widmung was svelte, polished and full of heart. His earlier Beethoven “Emperor” Concerto was equally well-disciplined and polished, but could have done with a little more fire (as heard over the Internet). More will be heard of this very fine pianist in the future.

LISZT Reminiscences de Norma

Surprise, surprise, Ran Dank offered a work not included in the 130 minutes of his competition solo playing, a sure sign of a seasoned performer with a wide performing repertoire. A more subtle work than the same composer’s Reminiscences of Don Juan, the Norma Fantasy (after Bellini) displays more opportunities for a singing tone, which he gratefully accepts. Ultimately, it is the ecstatic flourishes towards the end that brought on the cheers. I am surprised he did not place either 1st or 2nd, but I suspect the decision between 2nd and 3rd to be a rather close one.

TCHAIKOVSKY-PLETNEV Nutcracker Suite (4 movements)

Not to be outdone, Kolesova offered a change in programme as well, with Pletnev’s famous transcription. Here, comparisons with Eric Zuber’s Stage III are inevitable, and she wins hands down. Not only does she match him in the muscle and speed department (March and Trepak), but the lightness achieved in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy was better realised. The blood rush to the head that is Andante maestoso also benefited from that all-vital factor: being Russian down to the last vein!

WAGNER-LISZT Isoldes Liebestod
CHOPIN Polonaise in A flat major, Op.53

This was the piece that made Shamray stand out in Stage I, his musical judgment from its quiet and smouldering opening to brilliant climax was close to perfect. The sort of musical orgasm achieved was probably what Wagner wanted in the first place, and his pa-in-law achieved it on the percussive piano. Just the perfect performance (while not forgetting that manga girl Miya Kazaoka’s equally enthralling reading in Stage II) from the ultimate victor of SIPCA 2008, who completed his grand show with Chopin’s "Heroic" Polonaise - galloping octave hoofbeats, sweeping upward scales, mighty chords and all.

Having said that, I will never his modest little Schumann Fantasiestuck (Op.111 No.2), which provided one of my most sublime moments of SIPCA. A pianist who can impress with the rare combo virtuosity and genuine musicality is a true victor indeed.


athcheng said...

WOW! This is very slick commentary to reach The Net so soon after the actual event tonight (though I take it you heard this from afar - via the ABC's fantastic SIPCA website?).

A great read - with some very insightful (though cheeky) comments. I was impressed by some of your predictions based on the early round performances which you had obviously attended first hand and especially by your provisional selections for the finals (5 out of 6 - not bad at all).

I couldn't have been more satisfied by Konstantin Shamray's choice for ultimate victor, but was a little surprised by Tatiana's 2nd placing (I picked Ran Dank for a close 2nd after witnessing his very accomplished Prokofiev on Friday night) as her concerto performances disappointed after her dynamic showing in the earlier rounds (her Mozart concerto sounded like Saint-Saens' 5th!) Nonetheless, I was satisfied with the jurors' decision on the others.

My favourite, however, was the young boy from Japan, Tomoki (or was it "Tommy Koh"!). I had the pleasure of watching both his concertos and, whilst far from perfect, both were a delight and very satisfying indeed. Oh-so-mature performances well beyond his 17 years. Listening to his earlier round Liszt and then the Grieg again tonight, I am reminded of a young Pogorelich (or perhaps he really is Lang Lang's other brother). There is certainly so much more to come from this young artist. He engages with his playing more beautifully than almost any other in this year's competition. Bravo!

BTW, I, too, am a doctor who loves his piano - ex-Singapore!

Chang Tou Liang said...

Ah ha! A fellow medico from Singapore!

I wish I had the time to attend all the concerto finals, because the final placings would really depend on them. I honestly thought Ran Dank would place higher than Tatiana, especially when its Prokofiev vs Saint-Saens, but since I did not even catch that part of the competition (was watching The Mummy with the family), I can't really comment!

Tomoki is a real talent for the future; his restraint and musical insight in unusual repertoire, away from the usual gladiatorial playing in competitions was a breath of fresh air.

Very nice to hear from you, and all the best! My next competition coverage would take place in Hong Kong (from 16-21 October). Till the next time!