Thursday, 30 May 2013

Direct from THE CLIBURN / Preliminary Rounds (Phase Two) 29 May 2013 Recital 1

Preliminary Rounds
Day 5 Recital One (11 am)
Wednesday 29 May 2013

ALESSANDRO TAVERNA (Italy) has returned with the most atypical competition programme thought possible, beginning with Mendelssohn’s Sonata in B flat major (Op.106). This is not “Hammerklavier Lite” even if it begins with crashing chords, but something lighter by far. There’s some gratuitous note-spinning about, but what sticks out is the “song without words” slow movement which the Italian crafts most sensitively. Following that was Nikolai Medtner’s Sonata Minacciosa (Op.53 No.2), which I believe means “Menacing Sonata” or something to that effect. It is very dramatic and dark, trenchantly brought out, but seems to belabour its point (a two-note motif that hangs like a curse) too much. Ligeti’s etude The Devil’s Staircase – equally dark and threatening - was very impressively played, and the same dissonance occupied much of Messiaen’s Contemplation of the Spirit of Joy (from his Twenty Contemplations of the Infant Jesus), its chord-laden pages lit up by a transcendent chorale melody that is its valediction. Standometer: **   

My view: Very impressive, but I fear this cerebral recital may have flown over the top of most heads (including mine).

NIKOLAY KHOZYAINOV (Russia) continues to impress, not by just his prodigious technique, but also his restraint. His Chopin set was lovely, opening with the singing lines of the Barcarolle (Op.60), and closing with an ultra-smooth Berceuse (Op.57), both crafted to perfection. In between was the Chromatic Etude in A minor (Op.10 No.2) which was pristine and accurate to say the least. Then came his Liszt Sonata in B minor, which was a textbook account that would please anybody and everybody. The climaxes were plangently built up, and he does not bang. The quieter passages were poetically conceived and pleasing to the ear. All this sounds very good, by why doesn’t this constitute a rave? I just have the niggling feeling that something is missing; this interpretation sounds like the life experience of a 20-year-old that has been carefully cultivated, watered and pruned in a sterile bubble, one that has yet to taste life in a rough and tumble world. Standometer: ***

My view: Would progress to the next round. Juries just love these kind of students.

The polar opposite to the young Russian would be ALESSANDRO DELJAVAN (Italy), who looks battle-scarred, appearing at least twenty years older than the 26 listed in the Cliburn book. His recital was one born of trials and tribulation, but that had yet to surface in Mozart’s Variations on Gluck’s Unser dummer Pobel meint, which had an operatic and comedic theatricality that was enchanting. His Schumann Fantaisie in C major (Op.17) would be, in my opinion, the performance of the Preliminaries. With agony and ecstasy etched on his face to equal degree, the music came through with molto passione, molto dolore and molto amore. His sound was gorgeously projected, and those crazy octave leaps – nailed with an inexorable finality – sounded like some sort of vindication, of one whose dark inner secrets remains unrevealed. The audience applauded spontaneously after the first and second movements, but Deljavan got his own back when after the quiet C major ending, he continued unmolested into Schubert’s lovely Variation on the Diabelli Waltz (also in C major), almost a built-in encore. Standometer: ** only? (the audience was probably stunned into ultimate reverence)   

My view: I am almost speechless myself. If he does not progress, some people need to be shot.

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