Preliminary Rounds (Phase Two)
Day 4 Recital Three (7.30 pm)
Monday 27 May 2013
If pianists were judged according to the broadness of their smiles, STEVEN LIN (USA) will win hands down. He is very likeable, and radiates a willingness and happiness to share his musical insights. The Haydn C major Sonata is clean and crisp, and although he hurries through the “wrong note” finale, its irony is not lost. He followed with three Chopin Impromptus, sans the familiar Fantaisie-Impromptu, in which he reveals much musicality and sense of colour. His undoing might be the fastest Liszt Reminiscences de Don Juan I have ever heard. Speed thrills, and he knows that for sure, but is this the true spirit of opera? A good listen to Earl Wild’s or Jorge Bolet’s recordings, more measured and breathing true nobility, might tamper his instincts a little. Standometer: ***1/2
My view: We’ve have lots of fun with this winning personality, but it takes somewhat more to win the Cliburn.
MARCIN KOZIAK (Poland) is another pianist has advanced, in my opinion, since the last phase. There is much feeling in his view of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata (Op.13), and its very familiar pages do not sound jaded in the least. With Brahms’s First Sonata in C major (Op.1), he gives a more dynamically wide-ranging performance than Abrosimov, who had performed it earlier. His poetic instincts are given more reign, and the climaxes come with pulverising force. I had underestimated this early work, and Koziak (like Abrosimov) has found me a new respect for its ecstatic outpourings. Standometer: **
My view: Bravo, but is that enough?
Again, ALEX MCDONALD (USA) has won the audience before uttering a single note. Given that today is Memorial Day, his rugged yet clean-cut look, reminiscent of Texas cowboys or Gulf War veterans, also strikes a chord. Somehow I am less impressed musically this time around. Two movements from Ravel’s Miroirs, Oiseaux tristes and Alborada del gracioso had contrasting light and shade, balanced nicely by the dark cravings of Chopin’s Nocturne in C minor (Op.48 No.1). Impressive was Liszt’s Les jeux d’eau a la Villa d’Este, its message being, “I will fill you with the life of everlasting spring waters, such that you will never thirst again.” I wish there could be a spell never thirsting to hear again Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka, which receives an even faster account from McDonald. It’s all become a blur, and while most of the audience loved it, I am hardly stirred. Standometer: **** (what do you expect?)
My view: Well done, you can now call yourself a VC veteran.
Wrap up: Of the first six pianists heard in the Second Phase, only one looks certain to advance - BEATRICE RANA. Kermit will be mighty pleased.