Stage 2 The Classic Turn before the Recital “Water jump”
So the first three days showed us how good their memory and technique was, but now the remaining 18 contestants had to show us that they could make a line sing, and produce exquisite airy runs one after another. And of course even we amateurs would be able to spot the errors in the exposed passage work of Mozart and Beethoven, writes HOT’s David Pullen.
I say that because I noticed more breakdowns, wrong notes and fluffed passage work during these two days than I had with twice as many players over three days in Stage 1. Either they hadn’t practised these pieces as much or the sheer complexity of the earlier concertos hid a lot from my ears. Not that it was painful, or embarassing, just a bit of a surprise after the very high standards of Thursday/Saturday.
If, like me you come more for the music and interpretation than the competition and display of technique then this Stage is harder to get into anyway as it is 36 first movements from a selection of 8 works by two composers working over just 30 years in the “Viennese” style.
From an audience point of view (and that is what this blog is) it would have been great to hear the odd slow movement and Rondo, particulary as the programme notes told us all about them.
But I’m not asking for things to be changed for us – modest gang that we are – even if we were more numerous, because I’m sure it was a very revealing filter to help the judges thin the group out before they get down to the individual recitals, where limitations can be hidden again. I believe it is an innovation, and for all my personal problems with it, an inspired one.
For classical singers and their teachers ( I know a bit more about that) Mozart is a bedrock, a known matrix for all manner of technical issues. Hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with the idea that singing his music really well is a prerequisite even if you are going to sing Puccini, Wagner or French song. There is so much in the music itself – not just to expose your limitations technically, but musically as well. Once or twice over the last couple of days I did wonder if some of these wonderful pianists had ever seriously played his music before! But maybe I’m wrong in thinking that what to me sounded very flat and mechanical is not in fact a valid way to play these works, just like the over lyrical and unagressive Prokofiev 2nds I thought I’d heard in Stage 1
I’m just hoping that the ones I did think were really good all get through to Wednesday, so that we can settle down to the varied delights that await all of us wise enough to get there tomorrow. How hard it will be to choose the six we will want the jury to pick for the two pronged final. Wonder if anyone will choose the Grieg for that? I hope so.
Now I have continued to talk to fellow audience, and without exception they have all been very positive about the whole enterprise. Various suggestions, requests, queries and criticisms will be passed on to the commitee after the fun is over – so do please speak to me, or email if you have anything that you’d like to air. Whilst the Competition is on, my main hope is to liven things up, and maybe encourage others to think for themselves, and not just be a grateful, passive audience, lovely as it would be to have a hundred of them coming every session.
In my role as provocateur/court jester I have accosted individuals, perhaps to their discomfort on occasion. Apologies if I have seemed too noisy or pally for the inner sanctum of an English Concert Hall. But I must tell you that one very positive result arose when I turned to a near neighbour, after one performance, with the “Wasn’t that marvellous” line (and I assure you I don’t dish that out on a regular basis) only to be told, as I pressed on, that he was in fact the father of the pianist! That really was a lovely moment, and now I know that a whole contingent of the competitor’s family have turned up, so I do hope he/she goes through to the final at least – and that the weather is good enough for them to wander round Hastings over the next few days.
The individual foot hills or stage 3 will be climbed tomorrow by the remaining 12 pianists – I can’t wait for all that variety – before the really big bash with the RPO. What a fantastic way to spend a cold and possibly dull early March !
See you there I hope.
PS – Tonight’s result is through,
and I am relieved to see that all my favourite Mozartians got through, as well as one of my “I think I know this” players. Touche – what do I know ?
What I do know is that three quarters of these semi finalists started off playing Prokofiev. That could well be another World Record !
Must find out what the odds are at Ladbrokes to have an all Prokofiev final.
PPS – a supplementary for the statistically minded !
I forgot to check if the accompanists had used Liszt’s 2 piano version of Beethoven’s 3rd and 4th concertos – I hope so.
Anyway he appears in 6 of the twelve recitals tomorrow – far more than Bach 1,Bartok 1, Beethoven 1,Brahms 0,Chopin 1, Dutilleux 1,Glinka 1, Godowsky 1,Haydn 3, Mozart 2,Prokofiev 3, Scarlatti 2 ,Schumann 1,Schubert 1, Scriabin 2, Stravinsky 1, Szymanowsky 1.
if you’ve read my earlier blogs you’ll know how suprised and delighted I am to find these future stars choosing Liszt,Haydn and Prokofiev as their top three. It would be very interesting to compare with earlier self choices at this and other competitions, and how far back you’d have to go to lose all three. It’s quite possible that even in the 60’s people kept clear of Liszt, and the other two probably only made token appearances until quite recently.
9 nationalities still in, to keep our International banner alive, and gender equality – our judges have excelled themselves !
Wednesday 2 March Semi-Finals
Twelve individual recitals with a fantastic range of free choice repertoire. The programme must include the specially commissioned 4 minute work written by the British composer Paul Patterson. The remainder of the programme is own choice but must contain at least two composers from different periods.
Afternoon session 1pm
evening session 5pm
Online: www.whiterocktheatre.co.uk Telephone: 01424462288
Box Office: White Rock Theatre, Monday–Saturday 9.30am–5.30pm.
Stage 3 (Semi-Final Recitals): Tickets £7.50 a session, or £15 for both (£12 for members)
Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition: 25 February-5 March at the White Rock Theatre, White Rock, Hastings TN34 1JX.
Also in: Piano Concerto Competition diary« David’s blog 6
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