Saturday, June 6, 2009

Van Cliburn Competition update - third concert

Last night's concert (Friday, June 5) in the finals seemed to juggle things a bit more. Bulgarian pianist Evgeni Bozhanov presented his recital program first. He started with Takemitsu's "Rain Tree Sketch I" and gave it a very delicate, impressionistic flavor. It seemed light as air and carefuly constructed. Bozhanov followed it with Schumann's "Davidsbündlertänze," a long musical dialogue. Despite Bozhanov's wide range of expression and skillful technique, I have to admit that I lost the thread of this piece about halfway through. Bozhanov then played Liszt's waltz on themes of Gounod's "Faust," which alternated between the theme of Marguerite and a rustic dance of the villagers, and, I suppose the turmoil in Faust's mind as he looks on them and which to have his youth back. Bozhanov put the hammer in hammerklavier towards the end of this piece with a thunderous finale. It seemed over the top, but it was also fun to watch him bang on the Steinway. Some of the critics didn't like this at all, and I'm guessing the the jury might not have been all that impressed with it either.

After intermission, Yeol Eum Son, the South Korean pianist, performed Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21. Son did a fine job but the dynamics in every movement ranged from medium loud to loud. She didn't get the attention of the audience because there was a fair amount of coughing during the second movment, which is a very sensitive and introverted part of the piece. Somehow, her Chopin seemed to be off the mark.

Italian pianist Mariangela Vacatello, in the final number of the evening, gave a convincing performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58. She dazzled the audience by feeling her way into the music and bring us with her. The soft and tender sections felt natural and genuine and not done for effect. Her fast and forte passages were scintillating and conveyed a sense of joy and completeness. Vacatello's stock in the competition just went up a couple of notches. But we are only half way through the competition at this point. More later.

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