Sunday, 26 May 2013

Direct from THE CLIBURN / Preliminary Rounds 25 May 2013 Recital 3

Preliminary Rounds
Day Two Recital Three (7.30 pm)
Saturday, 25 May 2013

The evening session appeared like a clash of the titans, featuring three pianists with a proven track record of winning things, but in the end it proved to be a two-horse race. To begin was ALESSANDRO TAVERNA (Italy), whom like the Italians before him, had unusual programming ideas. To be honest, I don’t really care for Beethoven’s Eroica Variations (Op.35), based on a dance from The Creatures of Prometheus which later becomes the basis of the Eroica Symphony finale. It is too long by half, and even if Taverna tried to inject some humour and invention, it rambled on like some oom-pah-pah rhapsody to little effect for me. Busoni’s Elegie No.4 or Turandots Frauengemach (Turandot’s Boudoir) was a delightful diversion, and it was funny to note the stir of recognition within the audience, when it dawned upon them that this was an all-too-clever paraphrase of Greensleeves. Could one be actually bored by the first of many performances of Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka? I certainly was, jaded by its emphasis on dissonance (Petrushka chord and all) extreme speeds, loudness and virtuosity, despite Taverna’s well-meaning efforts, which most of the audience enjoyed. Standometer: ***

My view: Not a standout, I’m afraid to say.

After all this bluster and clangour, young NIKOLAY KHOZYAINOV (Russia), just 20 years old, emerged like a breath of fresh air. Allow me to be the first to call him “the blond Kissin”. There is a certain innocence about him (what, me perform?) that was disarming to say the least. The arch simplicity of Haydn’s Sonata in D major (Hob.XVI: 33), so crisply and eloquently articulated, seemed like a ploy to throw off the scent of ultimate virtuosity in the three lightning fast etudes that followed. The apparent ease in which he dispatched Chopin’s C major (Op.10 No.1), Liszt’s Feux follets and Scriabin’s C sharp minor (Op. 42 No.5) had to be witnessed to be believed.

His Ravel Gaspard de la nuit, the first of many to be heard in the competition, was characterised by its feathery lightness. How his quivering tremolos bristled ever so gently, the way he glided through the glissandi in a buoyant, gravity-defying Ondine appeared like a miracle. The haunting Le gibet and manically scampering Scarbo completed the picture of someone who might just grab the competition by the scruff of its neck and win. Standometer: ***1/2

My view: Likely to make the finals on this account alone. Let’s see what else he has to offer.

ALESSANDO DELJAVAN (Italy) is the only pianist from the 2009 Cliburn to return. It was obvious that the former semi-finalist had developed a strong following, evident by the audience reception even before he began. It is interesting to watch him close-up on the video screen for all his facial grimacing, singing movements with the lips and other extraneous gestures, like conducting an imaginary orchestra with his left hand. Sometimes it was difficult to tell whether he was in ultimate pain or ultimate ecstasy, perhaps a lot of both.

But what was his playing like? His approach to Bach’s Partita No.5 in G was what a jazzman might have done - free and easy, rhythmically exciting, full of interesting accents, and never a dull moment. It was sheer pleasure listening to it. Even more exciting was his account of Chopin’s Twelve Etudes Op.25. That he was completely at ease with the music and being technically faultless seemed superfluous to mention, but it was the poetry he wrung out from these studies and exercises that made his Chopin vital. The slow bits, central interludes of No.5 (E minor) and No.10 (B minor, the Octave Etude), and No.7 (C sharp minor, the Cello Etude) truly sang. While others are preoccupied with the devilish runs of triplets for the right hand in No.6 (G sharp minor), Deljavan was able to find melodic patterns in the left hand to call his own. Standometer: ****

My view: A unique and unclassifiable talent. The Italian Lang Lang, perhaps?

Wrap up for the day: After missing out in 2009, the Russians and Ukrainians have returned with a vengeance.

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