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The six finalists: from left, winner Roman Kossyakov, Rixian Hunag, Fanya Li, Kyoungsun Park, Su Yeon Kim and Gen Li.

The six finalists: from left, winner Roman Kosyakov, Rixiang Huang, Fanya Lin, Kyoungsun Park, Su Yeon Kim and Gen Li. Every contestant is a worthy laureate, in the words of artistic director Frank Wibaut,

Russian pianist takes the Hastings prize

Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition reached its climax on Saturday night with performances from the remaining three finalists. HOT correspondent Heidi de Winter was there to enjoy the denouement of another gripping contest. Photos by Bob Mazzer.

And the winner was…Roman Kosyakov. A Russian player, currently studying in Birmingham, won the 14th HIPCC and a cheque for £15,000 playing a Russian composition – Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No 1 – in the finals of this outstanding competition. He was also chosen by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to receive their prize of £500 for the competitor they most admired.

Roman Kosyakov in action.

Roman Kosyakov in action.

We were initially treated to our second finals rendition of the Prokofiev No 3 – love it, hate it, I can’t make up my mind – masterfully played by the graceful Fanya Lin wearing her trademark waterfall black gown. The RPO, under the baton of Jac van Steen, were on top of their game, particularly the percussionist playing the castanets so accurately in this piece, as Fanya Lin flicked down the keyboard with syncopated staccato runs.

Then Rixiang Huang performed the Liszt Concerto No 1 to the near-capacity audience. This time the fearless RPO triangle had a starring role – extraordinary how one tiny percussion instrument can completely control the mood of a movement.

Bill Turnbull once again compered with utmost professionalism, mastering the complexities of the programme and calling the circle audience to order when they were late returning after the interval. There was an atmosphere of joy and awe in the White Rock Theatre and the people of Hastings blew away the sometimes stuffy demeanour of classical audiences. These touches are what will put “The Hastings” (as opposed to The Leeds) on the map.

Finally the dashing Roman Kosyakov – a tall man with a halo of curly hair – took the stage, producing a tone from the Yamaha piano fit to dominate a large orchestra. He was uncharacteristically inaccurate in the opening few bars and I think that relaxed him enough to let go and just enjoy himself.

Rixiang Huang.

Rixiang Huang.

Tentacles crossed

I once again sat next to the impressively educated Ditchling gentleman who had so confidently foreseen last year’s winner. I wondered if he was the pianistic version of Paul, the octopus who could apparently predict the football results. Unfortunately, his tentacles were crossed this year as he was way off the mark with his assessment.

Jac van Steen conducted both evenings with great skill and gave a fatherly hug to a couple of the male players when they had completed their performances. He knows the scores of these pieces inside out and held all the contestants in safe hands.

So it’s over for another year – the stand-out Hastings classical event for those of us who love the piano. The winner will be giving further local recitals this year, but every contestant is a worthy laureate, as Frank Wibaut, the artistic director, so wisely said in his speech.

Having appointed a new chief executive, Helen Winning, the competition is guaranteed to return in 2019. The Kowitz family foundation once again bankrolled much of the event. They are incredibly generous.

What could they improve? Not much. The attention to every detail of the competition – publicity, volunteers, host families, public pianos, rehearsal pianos, accompanists, repertoire, judges, prizes – all faultless. If there was one thing I would like to see next year, it would be a hydraulic piano stool to obviate all the fiddling around when the girls have to play after the boys.

The whole competition is pretty close to perfection. All we need is a capacity audience for every day of the event and we will have created a piece of heaven on earth. And that is down to the people of Hastings.

Fanya Lin.

Fanya Lin.

Su Yeon Kim was awarded second prize, third was Gen Li, fourth Fanya Lin, fifth Rixiang Huang and sixth Kyoungsun Park. Roman Kosyakov will be invited to give the Summer Prizewinner’s Picnic Recital at Fairlight Hall on Saturday 1 July.

Posted 14:33 Monday, Mar 5, 2018 In: Music & Sound


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