Julia Kocuiban, competitor #1 at Cliburn, also competed at the Montreal competition, where she unfortunately did not advance. Getting accepted to two major international competitions in one year is a major accomplishment, and a few other Cliburn competitors also competed in Montreal or at the Rubinstein. Julia is offering the same repertoire as in Montreal, but due to Cliburn’s intense demands, is including a Szymanowski etude, Prokofiev 7th sonata, Mozart K 332, plus the Mozart and quintet.
She chose a good piece to start the competition with. If she felt any pressure beginning such a major event, she had the slow, innocent opening to settle into. She missed a few notes in the first fast section, but sure settled in after. Her Scherzo was incredible! Fiery, and she utilized a great dry sound in the octave section.
And so much pressure to premiere the commissioned piece, this year by no less than pianist extraordinaire and jury member, Marc-Andre Hamelin. Wow what a piece it is! I was so taken by the colors and textures Julia brought to the piece, not to mention the energy and incredible feat of memorization, that I didn’t listen so much for the l’homme arme tune. But I’m sure after many listenings, it will be more clear.
Why not make the ending of that Prokofiev just a little harder by going faster…and faster…and faster…Incredible first recital to start the Cliburn competition!
I will let at least one bias out: I’ve never liked Ginastera’s first sonata…It’s such a popular student piece, which I get, it’s attractive, it isn’t the most difficult piece out there. But because of that, I’ve heard so many performances which are only 90% there…This piece needs 110% to not sound like a gimmick. Madoka Fukami certainly sounds like no student!
The Beethoven Rondo is a gutsy choice. I applaud her on that level. In this style, rather straight-laced classical, I always like the LH to contribute to the character, rather than being background accompaniment. Remember that Beethoven intimately knew Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, not to mention most of composition training at that time was counterpoint exercises. Even simple accompanying figures were in his time a modernized kind of polyphony, not simply rhythm and harmony.
Compare that Beethoven to the one that follows. Su Yeon Kim understood the role simple accompanying notes can play. You have to in the Waldstein or else the repeated notes would sound incredibly dull. I loved how she played the finale theme with such delicacy. It’s a reminder of why I’m too afraid to even try playing that piece!
Anderson & Roe duo pianists extraordinaire and hosts of the Cliburn webcast, quoted Mozart’s critique of Clementi during Pierdomenico’s performance of the latter: “he’s a charlatan without a farthing’s worth of taste.” We laugh at that now, but what can we do with that musically?
How did Mozart hear Clementi’s music to say that it has no taste? How did he hear his own music? That rivalry or all the others across music history should have drastic ramficiations on how we play the music of the different composers. I don’t think Pierdomenico played Clementi quite like Mozart; it had lots of Beethovinian drama. But I can see the temptation isthere to neutralize Clementi so it sounds more Mozartean.
I thought this guy had the most “Hamelin-like” sound in the L’homme Arme so fa. There’s something about the restrained energy, careful control of rubato but with clarity of texture. And he’s got the torso stillness of Hamelin’s technique too. This is not to say it’s the best, or most authentic performance. It just points to a noticeable intentionality of sound.
Last point of Day #1—I did not expect to be so thrilled by 2 performances of Prokofiev’s 7th Sonata. Alina Bercu and Julia Kociuban gave exceptional, thrilling performances. In each case, the piece sounded unique to them, hearing and watching them play, I couldn’t imagine any other interpretation. I’m rather excited to hear it again!
I was thinking during Dasol Kim’s Haydn: we all acknowledge that Haydn often used musical humor. And sure, some of the humor is innate in the score, written in by the composer. But performers ought to be able to add to the humor aspect. An important part of hunor-time-can only be generally suggested by musical notation. And it occurred to me in something like the finale, with so many patterns repeated within a section and within the piece: why not change the joke. Vary the nuance and tone if the composer uses the same words over and over again. Performers can keep the humor aspect alive, rather than repeating the punchline.
Tristan Teo “cheated” in his Beethoven op. 110, redistributing the cascading 32nd notes of the first movement. I'm of the opinion that if you can't tell by listening, play it with your toes for all I care. I played the same passage the same way. But I have to wonder if there would be a jury member who would care.
I think Caterina Grewe approached repetition and humor much the way I was talking about above.
Philip Scheucher, I believe, is the only performers to program a woman composer in the competition. Ive listened to Lera Auerbach’s preludes extensively so i was glad to hear it. I was amused the audience didn't know when the piece was finished, didn't clap and so he carried on with Liszt. It made a nice contrast, but I would hope that if more performers took the chance to play this music, slowly audiences will get used to the cadence of contemporary music. You can hear harmonic closure, but this group apparently wasn't ready for it!
I was very pleased with Martin James Bartlett’s legato in Bach. I'd go even more legato myself, but I always prefer his articulation to unduly choppy. The harpsichord, even though it has no sustain, also has no dampening. I've always felt it had enough resonance to merit a normal legato on the modern piano, not to mention plenty of pedal!
Interesting that a couple people programmed the Franck/Bauer work during the competition. I wonder if these competitors are aware of Harold Bauer’s mannerisms in performance, and what effect that would have on their interpretation. Transcriptions always pose an interesting challenge-do we take more inspiration from the original composer, or the transcriber.
Daniel Hsu hit so many strong points in my book. All from his Beethoven sonata. His introductory video mentioned his desire to remain vulnerable and I thought it came through in his playing. No hesitation to stretch time, take a breath, let the music breath. Very sensual, very appropriate in this piece (consider the tempo marking of the first movement.) This is the kind of playing I'd pay again and again to hear. Interestingly, he did not cheat on the 32nd notes. It doesn't seem worth it to me, but he made it work!
- Julia Kociuban and Alina Bercu's finale of the Prokofiev 7.
- Daniel Hsu's Beethoven Op. 110
- Getting re-tweeted by Marc-Andre Hamelin and liked by Anderson & Roe.
On to day 3!