The Semi Finals (Artist Category) of the NPVC* (National Piano and Violin Competition) 2017 was held this afternoon at the Orchestra Hall of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM).
Four participants were selected for this round; three of them will be selected for the Finals to be held on Sunday afternoon, which I will not be able to attend. This afternoon’s session was almost like a concert, with each pianist playing for 50 minutes.
I was disappointed by the young man who so impressed me with his Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in the previous round. The Chopin Sonata (in B minor) which was cut very short during the Quarter Finals was performed in its entirety today. This is perhaps one of Chopin’s most complex composition, which is designed to showcase the performer’s agile fingerwork, with a long, flowing, rhapsodic section. This frames a contrasting gentle and delicate figure which I felt this pianist did not perform as enchantingly as he should have. Brainstorm (by Sebastian Currier, b. 1959) is another piece that showcases rapid notes and loud chords, schizophrenic jumps and odd clusters. In Chopin’s Concerto No 2 in F minor Op 21, this performer again showcases his virtuosic skills which overshadows any heartfelt elegance that should be there. Perhaps this is the reason this pianist is not selected to play in the Finals.
The lady who performed after him displayed a better balance between technical prowess and sotto voce melody in her Ballade No 2 in F major op 38. Debussy’s Pour le piano L95 consists of a platlette of tone colours amidst the fast and energetic passages. There were some memory lapses in Mozart’s Concerto No 20 in D minor K 400, and I found her interpretation too quiet and uninspiring. I doubt she can win the competition on Sunday.
The next participant is self-assured and plays with confidence and maturity. Her playing is at a whole different level from the two who played before her. Her Schumann’s Fantasie Op 17 was played with such a confident technique and solid touch that it is just as rhapsodic and passionate as it is majestic and meditative. She conjures up an image of the constellation and a spectrum of colours. Her tone is simply beautiful and I can only describe her playing as glorious. I was transported into yet another world with her Ravel’s Sonatine (3rd movement). There are different textures, fludity, colouring, expressive as well as virtuosic. Listening to this playing is like looking at a refined piece of art. Her Chopin’s Concerto No 1 in E minor Op 11 is as powerful and impressive as enjoyable and satisfying. This is a true talent in a class of her own. She’ll be contending for the First Prize with the next participant.
This next participant quite defies his status as an undergraduate. (He can give Lang Lang a run for his money.) Whether or not he wins this competition very much depends on his performance on Sunday and the adjucators’ preferences. Composed by Carl Vine in 1990, the Piano Sonata No 1 is a piece so full of rich chordal movements, unusual flowing harmonies and tonalities, with great extremes of dynamic and energy, I felt I was transported into the extraterrestrial. And came back to earth with Chopin’s Fantasie in F minor Op 49, but wondering if I was at a recital or a competition. It is intense and passionate; there is excitement and also melancholy. Beethoven’s Concerto No 5 in E-flat major Op 73 is impressive in its majesty; it demands virtuosic techniques to bring out the heroic character, yet it is also expansive and evocative. I cannot envisage many pianists who can be more effusive in his interpretation or bring more pleasure or gratification. Need I say more?
Though I would not be at the Victoria Concert Hall this Sunday, I will try to find out the results as soon as possible; if nothing else, to know if I have made the correct prediction.