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Quang Hong Luu: gave a "perfect" rendition of Beethoven's No 3 but failed to make the semi-finals.

Quang Hong Luu gave a “perfect” rendition of Beethoven’s No 3 but failed to make the semi-finals.

Standards soar as piano semi-finalists chosen

As 11 contestants in the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition advance to the semi-finals, HOT correspondent Heidi de Winter finds it hard to believe the high standards displayed by the young pianists.Photos by Bob Mazzer.

The second stage of the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition is over and I have run out of superlatives to describe the standard of play you can hear at the White Rock Theatre this week.  My programme jottings range from “outstanding” through “momentous” to “perfection,” which was my take on Quang Hong Luu’s rendition of Beethoven’s Concerto No 3.

The contestants are billed as “the world’s finest young concert pianists” and this is not an idle boast.  Several of them are already enjoying international careers and have played with great orchestras all over the world. For some, it will merely be the icing on the cake to play with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra this weekend in the finals of the competition.

There is also a substantial prize of £15,000 for the winner which has seduced some of these talented virtuosi away from their already impressive schedules.


We have been treated to hours of (insert your own superlative) playing over the last two days and have seen a contrasting side to some contestants as they have performed their second concerto of the week.

Hyejin Cho from South Korea (where else?) played a meticulously controlled Beethoven in Stage One, sitting at the piano with a ramrod straight back and looking like a beautiful green icicle. In Stage Two, this same icicle melted before our eyes into the Schumann Op 54 concerto and showed us that she is capable of great passion as well.

This is a very clever strategy for a competition.  Leave the audience always wanting more.  It’s also risky, because you must ensure you reveal enough of your pianistic hand to make sure you get through to the next round.

Joon Yoon, who also played a wonderful Tchaikovsky in Stage One,  gave us a very different showman’s performance of the Beethoven No 3.  His restless legs batted a few invisible footballs into the wings and he took a full stretch at one stage.  He also introduced us to the ‘three boing bounce’ on the piano stool after charging down a particularly impressive octave run.  This is not everyone’s cup of tea in the classical music world.

Priscila Navarro again played with deep musicality and a wonderful connection to the orchestral accompaniment, played on the second Yamaha piano on the White Rock Stage.

Jean-Michel Kim, one of 11 who passed the Stage 2 test.

Jean-Michel Kim, one of 11 who passed the Stage 2 test.


The following players have made it thorough to We3dnesday’s semi-final recitals: Alexia Mouza, Fanya Lin, Gen Li, George Fu, Jean-Michel Kim, Kazusa Sagawa, Kyoungsun Park, Rixiang Huang, Roman Kosyakov, Su Yeon Kim and Yonjoon ‘Joon’ and Yoon.

For many aficionados, the semi-finals constitute the most enjoyable  day of the competition, when the second piano is removed from the auditorium and the soloists showcase their own musical choices in a 35-minute recital.  There are compulsory inclusions from Scarlatti, Bach, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, but expect some surprises, some compositions new to your ear and expect to be blown away by the brilliance of these young players.

You are paying a fraction of the usual price to hear just one of these recitals which would grace any stage such as the Wigmore Hall.  I cannot emphasise enough how wonderful this competition is: what a coup for Hastings Music Festival, what a bargain it is and how happy you will be that you made your way to the White Rock Theatre to thrill your musical soul.


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Posted 16:54 Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018 In: Music & Sound

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