Preliminary Rounds (Phase Two)
Day 5 Recital Three (7.30 pm)
Tuesday 28 May 2013
The stir which the young TOMOKI SAKATA (Japan) had been causing since his first appearance was joyfully relived today. I did not care too much for his Mozart Duport Variations, which sounded neat and well-manicured, but it was what followed that truly astonished. I am not sure whether this 19-year-old has even been to Spain (he does study in Italy, however) but the sheer colour and shade he infused into Albeniz’s second book of Iberia was simply amazing. This goes beyond the mastery of notes, and into the realm of experience – of being there – and living it up in his playing. It was as if the spirit of the late Alicia de Larrocha had visited him and stayed.
Equally astonishing was the Pavel Pabst Eugene Onegin Paraphrase, using themes from Tchaikovsky’s opera. It essentially is a fantasy on the familiar Onegin waltz and Lensky’s Aria. The magical moment when the aria is heard on the left hand with the rhythm of the waltz looming like a spectre in the right hand was one to shed tears and to die for. Even if he isn’t the great Shura Cherkassky, here is a wunderkind worth celebrating. Standometer: ***1/2
My view: Another unique talent. A semi-final spot beckons.
I wish I hadn’t set my hopes so high on LINDSAY GARRITSON (USA) so early in the day, because this evening came as a disappointment. She remains a truly elegant presence (her gowns always reveal a pristine back) and likable personality. However, I thought her Mozart Sonata in B flat major (K.333) sounded over anxious and hurried, as if trying to do too much to please. Although her Liszt Les jeux d’eau a la Villa d’Este was impressive, the Chopin Fourth Ballade in F minor (Op.52), then building up nicely to a climax, faltered at the crucial moment of its climax. With nothing more to lose, she let rip in Liszt’s transcendental etude Wild Jagd with a mass of loud and unevenly stampeding octaves and chords, as if saying, “Let me show y’all.” Standometer: ***
My view: A pity she had to go.
If there was one pianist who seems the most self-assured in a quiet and unassuming way, it was VADYM KHOLODENKO (Ukraine). Like his earlier phase, he began with a small piece, this time the Bach-Siloti Prelude in B minor. It was simply beautiful, with the left hand melody emerging ever so transcendently on its second run. Enthusiastic applause interrupted his transition into Beethoven’s Sonata in E major (Op.109). If there is a more musically stimulating conception ever conjured on a competition stage, I have not heard it. He is a true artist in every sense, not one with the “competitor spirit” drummed in relentlessly like so many others.
Then came the best Stravinsky Petrushka of them all. It was by no means note-perfect, not the fastest or loudest, but the singular performance that captured the true spirit of the ballet. This has to be experienced to be believed (I’ve just ordered the DVD stat), how he dances with the music and the look of enjoying the moment (no posturing or fake smiles) all captured on the screen. Here is playing in the grand manner, one that has finally restored my faith in Stravinsky’s popular warhorse. Standometer: ***1/2
My view: Win or not, he has been an ultimate musical treat.
Wrap-up: The favourites have emerged more clearly upon second viewing, and for me they are NIKITA ABROSIMOV, TOMOKI SAKATA and VADYM KHOLODENKO