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The international jury has been hard at work, selecting 21 contestants for Stage Two. From left, artistic assistant Miwako Hosono, Graham Scott (UK), Ewa Poblocka (Poland), Joaquin Soriano (Spain). artistic director and chairman Frank Wibaut (UK), Ronan O'Hora (UK), Akiko Ebi (Japan), and Ashley Wass (UK).

The international jury has been hard at work, selecting 21 contestants for Stage Two. From left, artistic assistant Miwako Hosono, Graham Scott (UK), Ewa Poblocka (Poland), Joaquin Soriano (Spain). artistic director and chairman Frank Wibaut (UK), Ronan O’Hora (UK), Akiko Ebi (Japan), and Ashley Wass (UK).

Piano contestants chosen for second round

It’s Day 3 of Stage One of the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition, and for all HOT correspondent Heidi de Winter’s enthusiasm for the event, she is finding one work which is popular with contestants hard to take. At the end of the day 21 candidates are chosen to advance to Stage Two. Photos by Bob Mazzer.

Day 3 and another 11 concerti have been hammered out of the pianos on stage at the White Rock Theatre. Today we were treated to Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Grieg, Rachmaninov, Liszt, Chopin and – I can hardly bear to write it – three more of the dreaded Prokofiev No 3.

Readers, I lied when I said I had grown to love this piece and invented a narrative of ‘The Battle of the Wombats’ to describe my feelings. I was whistling in the wind, and today I cracked. It is not some soft furry animals running around the piano and creating nice pictures in one’s head – it is two Tasmanian devils being electrocuted and their spiky dead bodies being rammed down your ears. Prokofiev must have been out of his skull when he wrote this.

Jean-Michel Kim - kept control in the Prokofiev.

Jean-Michel Kim – kept good control in the Prokofiev.

Unless the pianist is absolutely certain where the piece is going – which fortunately Jean-Michel Kim was today – then it is pure chaos. At one moment I thought,Will someone just close the piano lid and spare us!

Children in the house

To my utter delight there were some young children in the audience today – lowering the average age of the observers by several decades at a stroke. The first thing the poor kids had to listen to was this. Kudos to them for not howling the place down and more so to the judges for sitting through six renditions of this monstrosity at this early stage of the competition.

So Stage One is over and from a starting entry of 36 we have 21 who have made it through to the next round. Data analytics is the hottest new discipline and the data doesn’t lie. One quarter of the successful candidates hail from South Korea. So they should. Their technique is masterly and they are not just musical robots. They are taking over the world.

Of the successful candidates 12 are men and nine women. There is not a blonde hair amongst them. This is because they also represent Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Peru, Greece and the United States. Even the pianists from the United States are from China, if you get my meaning.

 Blue Moon award

And that brings us back to the Blue Moon award, a new prize of £1,000  on offer this year “for an outstanding British competitor in the semi-final or final.” It might as well have been a million pounds. There’s no Brit here to win it.

There is obviously an unwritten book in this observation.  It’s not because we don’t have the teachers. Seven of the contestants are studying in London. The outstanding accompanist Nicola Eimer is British, as are four of the distinguished international judges. It seems as though we no longer have the genes.

I have heard it rumoured that it is the loss of music in schools that has contributed to the problem, but I don’t believe it. The school music in Hastings is outstanding, as anyone attending the Holocaust Memorial concert at St Mary’s last month could attest. Visit any secondary school concert and you will find the same high standards.

Ji-Hyang Gwak, one of the unlucky entrants eliminated in the first round.

Ji-Hyang Gwak, one of the unlucky entrants eliminated in the first round.

Our pianists were never produced by the school system. It was always the middle classes sending their children for private tuition who made the maestri. Now they all want to be singers or bloggers. Perhaps their focus has changed. It doesn’t matter to the world of the piano though. Apparently Lang Lang has encouraged more than 40 million children in China to take up the piano. You have been warned!

In Stage Two the list of chosen concerti changes. I have scoured it and am happy to report that Prokofiev is not there. Hallelujah!  I personally would like to hear the Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini at least 10 times – just to wash the spikes of those Tasmanian devils out of my ears.

The following contestants have successfully passed to Stage Two: Alexia Mouza, Alison Chiang, Arina Lazgiian, Fanya Lin, Gen Li, George Fu, Heemin Park, Hyejin Cho, Jean-Michel Kim, Kazusa Sagawa, Kyoungsun Park, Miki Matsumura, Musashi Ishikawa, Priscila Navarro, Quang Hong Luu, Rixiang Huang, Rokas Valuntonis, Roman Kosyakov, Su Yeon Kim, Vijay Venkatesh  and Yonjoon ‘Joon’Yoon.

 

Posted 18:26 Monday, Feb 26, 2018 In: Piano Concerto Competition diary

Also in: Piano Concerto Competition diary


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