Thursday, 2 December 2010

First International Chopin Piano Competition Singapore / Prizewinners Concert (Categories A & B)

Categories A & B
Prizewinners Concert
At the First International Chopin Competition Singapore, 51 young pianists competed for Categories A (Under 10 years) & B (Under 12 years) on Wednesday. Eight of the best performed at the Prizewinners Concert, held just before Boris Kraljevic’s piano recital.
The youngest pianists from Category A opened the concert, beginning with 5th prized Juventia Ie (Indonesia) with the √Čtude in F minor (Op.10 No.9). Although the easiest of the 24 studies, it nevertheless requires a large stretch of the left hand. She managed quite well despite some unsteadiness and slips, but overall a good effort for someone this young.

Tuxedo-donning Luxsuwong Nattawat (Thailand), who was awarded 4th prize, coaxed a lovely legato from the little-known simple posthumous Nocturne in C minor. Not a deep piece by any rate, but playing of such innocence is always welcome.

Third prize went to Kennis Ang Wen Xi (Singapore), who obviously enjoyed the challenge of prestidigitation in the well-known posthumous Waltz in E minor. She did so with confidence and lots of gusto, closing with those big chords.

Second-placed Amanda Lee Yun Yee (Singapore, above) gave the best performance from Category A, with the vertiginous Impromptu No.1 in A flat major (Op.29), with impeccable runs and lovely sense of rubato. A pianist double her age would have been proud of this performance. She was incidentally also awarded 4th prize in Category B playing almost an identical programme. Bryce Morrison will be thrilled by her progress.

The winner of Category A was Celestine Yoong Qian Yi (Malaysia) who played a far simpler piece, the Mazurka in F sharp minor (Op.6 No.1). She had an unerring sense of lilting rhythm, shaped the music beautifully and provided adequate contrasts in the middle section. Well done!

The under-12s of Category B were altogether a cut above, and impressed with works of a more complex and technical nature. Third Prize was awarded to Gavin Jared Bala (Singapore) who played the early Polonaise in D minor (Op.71 No.1), written by Chopin when he was about the same age as him. His handling of the right hand ornamentations was delightful, capping a performance of quiet assurance.

Naomi Druskic (Bosnia-Hercegovina) won the Second Prize with the first Nocturne in B flat minor (Op.9 No.1), in a reading of wonderful smoothness and clear lines. She truly understands the bittersweet nature and pathos of Chopin’s soul, so being Slavic really helps!

Gavin Bala and Jonathan Chua
with their teacher Benjamin Loh

The sheer confidence and maturity of Jonathan Chua Yujing (Singapore) won him the coveted First Prize with the obscure Variations on a German National Air (Op. Posth), based on the bucolic melody called Der Schweizerbub (The Swiss Boy). Its introduction was florid enough and the ensuing variations were dealt with great clarity and amazing aplomb. More will be heard from Der Singapurbub in time to come

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