Saturday, 25 May 2013

Direct from THE CLIBURN / Preliminary Rounds 24 May 2013

Preliminary Rounds
Day One Recital Three (7.30 pm)
Friday, 24 May 2013

The first of the Russians to perform is NIKITA MNDOYANTS (Russia) whom I previous heard in Leeds (1996) and was suitably impressed. Since then he appeared in a docu-movie called Competitors (or something to that effect), which traces the difficult paths traversed by Russian musical child prodigies as they emerge from blinding adulation into the “real world”. As it is, the real world represented by Beethoven’s final Sonata in C minor (Op.111) is a pretty grim one, which Mndoyants brought out with much gravity and soul searching. There is sufficient anger and angst in the first movement, opening with a declamatory and fist-shaking gesture, and the Theme and Variations of the Arietta unfolded quite magnificently, with the famous jazzy (Beethoven invented ragtime!) variation as the point of relief of pent-up emotions.

Having wound up his listeners, the similar declamatory opening to Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantasy (Op.61) unfortunately sounded curiously under-characterised. The discursive introduction seemed unnecessarily bogged down by details, and it was almost a relief when the polonaise section finally arrived. His encore was a well-chosen one, the little-known Scherzo from Prokofiev’s Ten Pieces (Op.12), a perpetuum mobile which display’s both Russians sense of wit and irony.

My view: Some mixed feelings here, which is why a second recital seems vitally necessary.      

Two more Italians close the day’s proceedings, and they could not have been more different. LUCA BURATTO (Italy) is as scruffy as they come. Sporting an afro, pork-chop sideburns, spectacles, shirt-sleeves and trousers with an off-centre belt buckle, he sits slightly higher than Glenn Gould off the ground. His odd mannerisms including flailing arms and facial grimaces (caught dramatically on camera) are off-putting but one needs to look beyond the “mad scientist” externals to catch the true artistry which he possesses in spades. His Haydn Sonata in C major (Hob.XVI: 50) is full of sunshine and humour, and his pedalling of those dreamy passages is exemplary. The stuttering “wrong note” finale also comes through well, but his main act is in Schumann’s mighty Fantasy in C major (Op.17).

Full-blooded romanticism flowed through his veins for the sweeping opening movement, while the central march built from strength to strength before culminating into those octave leaps which he negotiated without so much as raising a sweat. When you start worrying for a performer’s sanity, it means you are entering into his world and beginning to care. That is how he draws you in for the slow closing movement, where judging by the video close-ups, he is pouring out his life’s miseries and tribulations like some Roman Catholic confessional. Here is a gripping artist grappling with life, and looking on with voyeuristic curiosity, one is held captive.  

My view: His DVD will make some very interesting viewing. That’s the first one I’ll buy.

GIUSEPPE GRECO (Italy) appears to be Buratto’s polar opposite. He looks well-nourished by comparison and does not have a single hair out of place. His playing also bears that out, beginning with Beethoven’s Sonata in E flat major (Op.31 No.3), a smart choice as it is the morose German’s happiest long sonata by a mile. There is no angst, but smiles from start to finish. Joseph the Greek’s technique and composure is excellent throughout. None of the running passages trouble him and the final chase (the last movement is a tarantella – how Italian) is bountiful one.

Liszt’s Second Ballade in B minor, resembles his Dante Sonata in that Greco leads the listener into the depths of the Inferno, the subterranean rumblings and leaping tongues of fire coming through very vividly. Like McDonald’s earlier Liszt, this was another voyage of discovery albeit of a darker variety. He closed with Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse, which is again full of splashy colour, now vibrant and gay (the traditional sense of the word, of course), completing the day’s music on a high. That he received a standing ovation was not a doubt.

My view: The Italians seem to get better and better. The best part: they are all unique. 
Parting short: In summary, a very eventful and colourful first day of competition. While the two American-Chinese are poised and polished, the White-American captures the hearts. The Italians appear to be the most varied and interesting bunch.

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