Saturday, June 6, 2009

Van Cliburn Competition - fourth concert

Today was a two-fer with one final round concert in the afternoon and another in the evening. The afternoon's concert reflected an increased attendance, and the hall was almost filled to capacity. Chinese pianist Haochen Zhang opened his recital program with Brahms' Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, which showed off his great technique and impeccable precision. However, it also revealed Zhang's limitations in terms of being able to provide more contrast that would keep the piece interesting. Zhang also had the annoying habit of tapping the floor or a pedal so loudly that it became its own percussion section. And he hums loudly at times. These unfortunate idiosyncrasies get in the way of the music. After the Brahms, Zhang played Ravel's "Gaspard de la nuit" and gave the audience a wider range of emotion from fluttering, light, transparency to muttering in the depths.

For the concerti portion of the concert, Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son tackled Prokofiev's Piano concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16. Son wrestled this difficult work and came out with the upper hand, but not without some scars. She seemed out of control a couple of times and missed some notes. However, I really enjoyed the way that she teased the orchestra and then played together with it and then teased it again. She also showed tenaciousness and muscle that made her playing convincing.

After the break, Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii performed Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. Tsujii rushed the passage with the orchestra right after the beginning of the piece, but then got into sync and showed sensitivity and a warmth in his playing. One of the best parts occur ed when Tsujii and the orchestra were racing at a fairly good clip and then slowed down and quieted down exactly together. It was as if Tsujii had extra-sensory perception. I enjoyed his playing and still cannot fathom how he learned this piece.

At the point, I still see Tsujii in the lead, with Vacatello and Son following.

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