Friday, 28 November 2008

Sydney International Piano Competition 2008: Solo Highlights Discs

2008 Sydney International Piano Competition
Volume 1: Solo Highlights
ABC Classics 476 6929 (4 CDs)
TT: 5 hrs 9 mins

Here’s a piece self-indulgence and self-promotion, not amounting to a review.

The piano solo highlights recordings of the Sydney International Piano Competition 2008 recording have been released on ABC Classics in October 2008. More generous than ever, these selections now run into 4 CDs, as opposed to 3 discs from the 2004 competition. Featuring over five hours of music, this is a pianophile’s dream.
The 6 finalists,
and their playing times!

Sixteen pianists, including all the six finalists, are represented. Israel’s Ran Dank, who was awarded 3rd Prize, ironically garnered the most air time, with over an hour of music. His selections were also wide ranging – Bach’s Partita No.4, sonatas by Rachmaninov (No.2) and Scriabin (No.9), Debussy’s Feux d’artifice and Boulez’s Douze Notations – quite substantial and varied indeed. Perhaps someone thought he should have been the winner? By comparison, eventual winner Konstantin Shamray and runner-up Tatiana Kolesova were allotted just 43 and 19 minutes respectively.

Unlike the haphazardly compiled selections of 2004, there is actually thought and logic applied this time around. Each CD has a theme of its own. CD 1 features Baroque and Classical works. CD 2 covers the studies, preludes and fugues, toccatas and competition set pieces (by Andrew Ford and Roger Smalley). CD 3 includes sonatas and showpieces, while CD 4 has all the transcriptions, miniatures and odds and ends.

A little controversy, if you could call it that: young American Charlie Albright’s (pictured left) Beethoven Sonata in A major (Op.101) was stitched up from performances from two different days. He had split the movements over two stages of the competition! At any rate, it sounds rather seamless. Great musicians and their record labels “cheat” all the time, so why should this be any different?

Quite a number of the wicked bits have been kept for posterity: Fernando Altamura’s Prokofiev Sarcasms (Op.17), Mariangelo Vacatello’s two Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues (op.87, Nos. 2 & 15) Charlie Albright’s Menotti Ricercare and Toccata, Takashi Sato’s Poulenc Presto, Tatiana Kolesova’s Kapustin Intermezzo, and best of all, Hoang Pham’s own take on the Schulz-Evler Arabesques on the Blue Danube.

My little contributions to this collection? I wrote the programme notes, and picked the three Scarlatti Sonata performances, played by Balasz Fulei and Wojciech Wiesniewski.
The booklet and sleevenotes may be accessed here:

This set retails at AUD 45.40 (from
Get it, while the exchange rate is still favourable!

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