Heavenly piano competition into second round
Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition has a reputation for bringing the best out of the talented contestants. It’s also a moving experience for the audience, as HOT correspondent Heidi de Winter found out when she attended the opening round. Photos by Richard Grebby of RG Studios.
I’m in heaven! If heaven is about harmony: black and white; ebony and ivory – then heaven has touched the earth this week at the White Rock Theatre with the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition (HIPCC).
Right here in Hastings, on the seafront opposite the fantastic new pier, a daily diet of outrageously evocative piano music is being manufactured. On stage are two knockout Yamaha grand pianos, their open lids gleaming black and gold, reflecting the spaghetti of powerful strings shimmering inside.
If you did not know that the name of this instrument is pianoforte (soft/loud), then come in and hear it played by the international concert pianists who have made their way to Hastings for this wonderful concerto competition.
RPO coming to town
A concerto is usually played by a solo pianist accompanied by an orchestra. If you wait a week you will hear this arrangement on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 March when the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra comes to town to play six concerti with the finalists. But for now, the orchestral part is played on the second Yamaha Piano.
Sitting in the theatre, hearing these two pianos thrash out the final mountainous descending chords of the Rachmaninov 3rd Concerto, with the air vibrating and your seat literally shaking with the power of the pianoforte, you are transported. Rachmaninov himself played at the White Rock Theatre in times past and his spirit must be hovering over these stunning contestants.
Tiny players can thump the hell out of the eight note chords, while muscular ones can squeeze the softest pianissimo out of the highest notes and evoke a tear from this reporter’s eye. I can’t tell sometimes if it is the beauty of the composition that moves me or the skill of the competitor or some combination of both but who cares?
You will hear tunes that you know and love, even if you can’t name them, and something primal inside responds. The whole experience is transcendental.
And the price of this musical feast? It’s outrageous – outrageously cheap, that is. For a mere fiver you can enjoy two hours of heavenly harmony. The competition resumed on Monday 27th with the second round of players who have been whittled down to just 20 from the original 150 who were auditioned and the 42 who were accepted as contestants.
These kids (because they are all under 30) are phenomenal. They have travelled from all over the globe to play at HIPCC – a competition whose reputation grows and grows internationally. Quiet, studious, self-effacing, these classical Gods and Godesses slink onstage, flex their fingers and we’re off!
If you have never given classical music a try I urge you to visit for a session. Just close your eyes, open your ears and free your spirit. I can’t guarantee tears and ecstasy but it is highly probable. It’s certainly more likely than if you stay at home. See you there!
As Heidi notes, 20 of the original 42 contestants qualified for stage 2 on Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February: Yeon-Min Park, Koki Kuroiwa, Maiko Ami, Florian Mitrea, Dong-Wan Ha, Julan Wang, Meng-Sheng Shen, Jiwon Han, Youkyoung Kim, Narae Lee, David Jae-Weon Huh, Giuseppe Guarrera, Hans Suh, HwaYoung An, Joseph Choi, Kenneth Broberg, Piotr Nowak, Marina Kan, Yun Chih Hsu and Maxim Kulagin.
Up to 12 competitors will then go through to the semi-finals on Wednesday 1 March.
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