Friday, 14 September 2012

Leeds International Piano Competition 2012. The finalists' recitals.

The Leeds International Piano Competition  was founded in 1961 by Dame Fanny Waterman and Marion Thorpe CBE. Held every three years, past winners have been Michael Roll (1961), Rafael Orozco (1966), Radu Lupu (1969), Murray Perahia (1972), Dimitri Alexeev (1975), Michel Dalberto (1978), Ian Hobson (1981), Jon Kimura Parker (1984), Vladimir Ovchinnikov (1987), Artur Pizarro (1990), Ricardo Castro (1993) and Ilya Itin (1996), Alessio Bax (2000), Antti Siirala (2003), Sunwook Kim (2006) and the Competition’s first ever female First prize-winner, Sofya Gulyak in 2009.

It is not only the first prize winners that have gone on to have great careers, but also many of its runners-up. Second to Orozco in 1966 was the Russian pianist Viktoria Postnikova, and in 1969, George Pludermacher to Radu Lupu.

1975 was a particularly outstanding year in the history of the Competition, when the finals featured not only Dimitri Alexeev but also celebrated pianists of today Mitsuko Uchida, Andras Schiff, Pascal Devoyon and now world-famous conductor Myung-Whun Chung. Other runner-ups have included Kathryn Stott, Peter Donohoe, Louis Lortie, Ian Munro, Noriko Ogawa, Lars Vogt, Leon McCawley and Ashley Wass.

The Leeds Competition attracts distinguished jurors from all around the world and this year, in addition to Dame Fanny (Chairman), there is Christopher Elton, Adam Gatehouse, Pavel Gililov, Bao Huiqiao, Daejin Kim, Robert Levin, Robert McDonald and John O’Conor.

Stage one of the competition took place between 29th, 30th, and 31st August, 1st and 2nd September 2012 when fifty nine competitors performed for the jury. Thirty pianists appeared in stage two, on 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th September 2012.  The semi-finals held on 9th, 10th and 11th September 2012, had reduced this number to just twelve.

Last night on BBC Radio 3 we were allowed to hear extracts from the recital rounds of the six remaining finalists who will go on to perform concertos with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th September 2012 broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

Jayson Gillham, aged 26 years from Australia, gave a thoughtful but slightly literal performance of Brahms’ Handel Variations. He had great fluency and this was a good performance, but I felt that he needed less restraint. Jiayan Sun, aged 22 years from China, made a marked contrast by giving four pieces from Ligeti’s Musica ricercata in playing of great verve and imagination. His Debussy Prelude ‘Fireworks’ equally showed strength and dynamic playing full of personality.

Louis Schwizgebel, aged 24 years from Switzerland, played Haydn’s sonata No.50 in D major a choice that showed his grace and charm with crisp playing in the Allegro con brio. Though a little slow, the largo e sostenuto was extremely beautiful whilst there was a fresh and sparkling finale. Federico Colli, aged 24 years from Italy, gave us a Scriabin Tenth Sonata that brought out the strange rhythms but, perhaps because I did not hear this in the hall, it seems that much of the colour did not emerge. Certainly this was a very individual view of the sonata.

Andrew Tyson, aged 25 years from the USA, played Chopin’s Preludes Op.28 in a performance that left no doubt as to his maturity and depth. He showed that he could produce that wonderful billowing sound that Chopin can sometimes need combined with a wonderful rubato. This was a wonderful performance. Andrejs Osokins, aged 27 years from Latvia, played Beethoven’s last Piano Sonata op.111. There was fiery playing in the first movement and, though there was a certain tentativeness in the second movement, there much was poetry. This pianist certainly felt the depth of this sonata.

So is there a clear favourite? Well the problem for those, like me, who have not sat through every round of this competition is that the judgment must be based on all of the competitors playing – and there is the concerto finale to go.

However, Andrew Tyson must stand out at this stage as must Jiayan Sun and Louis Schwizgebel. From what I have heard so far, the standard for 2012 seems to be very high, so who can tell.

See also:

Leeds International Piano Competition 2012. The Finals Part 1.


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