Monday, 27 May 2013

Direct from THE CLIBURN / Preliminary Rounds Day 4 Recital 1

Preliminary Rounds
Day 3 Recital 1 (11 am)
Sunday 26 May 2013

The United Kingdom has had a dismal record of sending pianists to competitions of late, and so the Union Jack has mostly been flown by JAYSON GILLHAM (Australia/UK), who actually hails from the antipodes of Queensland, Australia. I have heard him a few times, and have been totally impressed by his musicianship, and he seems to get even better with time. This programme is similar to the one he performed at the semi-finals of the 2005 London International Piano Competition. As before, his Bach Toccata (it’s the G minor BWV.911 this time) is immaculate and the contrapuntal lines lucidly defined. The three Ligeti EtudesOpen Strings, Autumn in Warsaw and The Sorceror’s Apprentice – reveal a true affinity to this idiom, sounding positively inviting and lyrical in his hands.

There is a reassuring warmth to his Chopin Third Sonata in B minor (Op.58), and I cannot imagine a more poetic account of this overplayed masterpiece. He produces a big sound, but never in expense of sensitivity, which he possesses in heaps. The etude-like Scherzo – spun with absolute accuracy and grace – gets premature applause – and the nocturne-like slow movement passes like a dream. The valedictory finale builds upon waves of unrepressed emotions, which gets more emphatic with each pass, and he closes in a flourish of glory. Standometer: ***

My view: An absolutely musical being, his progress in this competition will depend on what happens in his second recital.

ERIC ZUBER (USA) is a typically American big-hitter, but with a soul of a poet. His Mozart Rondo in A minor (K.511) is a delightful from start to finish, its simplicity is disarming but loaded with a sense of brooding disquiet that gently comes to pass. His recital hinged upon how his Chopin Twelve Etudes Op.10 fared. Unfortunately he did not get to enjoy the fortunes of Deljavan from last night. In the A minor study (No.2), he attempted to bring out a hidden melody in the left hand and got unstuck for a split second. Elsewhere, he tended to over-pedal, resulting in an over-reverberant and swimmy acoustic, not the best setting for clarity of articulation. His best moments: No.1 (C major) and No.8 (F major) suggest he has fingers of gold.  Standometer: **

My view: The Cliburn is unforgiving for the slightest of technical infractions. That may be his undoing.

ALEXEY CHERNOV (Russia), at 30 years of age, is one the competition’s veterans. He appears grim-faced but this fa├žade is immediately dispelled by his playing, which is warm and generous in Bach’s Toccata in G minor (BWV.915), a different one from Gillham’s. How playful the fugue sounded showed he had an innate sense of humour that is beguiling. A master of sonorities, his Three Etudes (Op.65) by Scriabin traipsed the fine line between light and shade, inhabited by a spectrum of colours not otherwise suspected. The Russian composer had synaesthesia, which means he visualised colours whenever he heard sounds. Chernov’s account was living proof of that.

The second Ravel Gaspard de la nuit of the competition showed how age and maturity had the advantage over youthful prodigiousness. Compared with Khozyainov’s marvellous account from last evening, Chernov’s had more physical presence. His touch was a tad heavier in Ondine, which was no less vivid, and he sounded more multi-dimensional, especially in the repeated tolling B flats of Le gibet. There was also more bite to his Scarbo, being less obsessed with speed but making up with a more acute sense of sonority. Standometer: **1/2

My view: Another standout, another possible finalist in the making.

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