Thursday, 30 May 2013

Direct from THE CLIBURN / Preliminary Rounds (Phase Two) 29 May 2013 Recital 2

Preliminary Rounds
Day 5 Recital Two (3 pm)
Wednesday 29 May 2013

I’ve always liked the playing of JAYSON GILLHAM (Australia/UK). Today he opened with Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata (Op.53), which displayed his usual warmth and generous sound, which is sincere yet not wanting for passion. There is gravity in the slow movement, building up nicely into the flowing lines of the Rondo which gave a visceral thrill when those octave glissandos trickled and tickled like fresh spring water. Credit goes to the camera crew which knew exactly the right moment to focus on his hands and capture that little piece of musical magic. The balance of his programme was poetic Liszt (a lovely Petrarch Sonnet No.123) and virtuosic Liszt (the Spanish Rhapsody), both of which came through with great immediacy. There I no barnstorming in Gillham’s music making, only musical love making. Standometer: **1/2

My view: I hope he goes as far as possible in this competition.  

ERIC ZUBER (USA) more than made up for the relative disappointment of the earlier phase, and this is why the two-phase format in the Preliminaries of this competition has been so vital. It hopefully keeps the right people in the running. His view of Beethoven’s final Sonata in C minor (Op.111) was a revelation. There is true struggle and strife in the opening movement, borne by the power and passion of the playing. This is Beethoven in his final pianistic act of fist-shaking and hell-raising. Then anger and angst gave way to reflection and contemplation of the second movement’s Theme and Variations, which came across like a benediction with faith restored in this troubled world. The selection of four varied Rachmaninov Preludes (Op.32 No.10, 12 and 5, and Op.23 No.2) revealed more poetry and passion. He has now become my favourite American pianist in this competition. Standometer: ***

My view: Possibly the only American to be elected a semi-finalist, the last since Jon Nakamatsu in 1997.

The luck of the draw saw ALEXEY CHERNOV (Russia) perform exactly the same Beethoven sonata as Zuber, the Op.111. So soon after that, Chernov came up with a totally different conception of the work, equally valid and vivid. While Zuber ranted and raved, Chernov was more measured. His sound was more soft-focussed, less stark, almost a matte portrait to Zuber’s gloss and bright sheen. I was just as touched by this reading, which goes to core essence of classical music; differing interpretations could be appreciated on different terms but with the same satisfactory outcome. After all, who would want to hear a piece of music played in exactly the same way by everybody?

Chernov’s fillers were interest by their contrasts, Ligeti’s coruscating Autumn in Warsaw was followed by three waltzes, two folk-inspired numbers by Grieg (very charming as expected) and Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No.1, which provided a virtuosic close. Standometer: ***

My view: Should make it through. Beethoven Op.111 always helps.

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