Wednesday was one of those truly special occasions where from the very opening of the Schnittke Improvisation & Fugue you knew could settle into your seat for an afternoon of good music making. Everybody today came through with unique personalities.
Esther Park (USA) delivered a rousing performance of the Schnittke, though she also demonstrated her delicate side in a really beautiful performance of the slow movement of Beethoven’s Sonata op. 111.
Evgeny Brakhman (Russia) made beautiful color changes in J.S. Bach’s Prelude & Fugue in f, WTC I, but his personality really came through in Mozart’s Sonata in C, K. 330. Here, he looked and sounded as though there were absolutely nothing in the world he would rather be doing than playing Mozart at that moment.
Pallavi Mahidhara (USA/India) was competely elegant in her Bach (Prelude & Fugue in C, WTC II) and Chopin (Etude in f, op. 10, no. 9), but we really got to know her in her outstanding performance of Schumann’s Fantasiestücke.
After intermission came 20-year old Zhang Zuo (China) to turn in the first performance of Haydn in the competition, showing a nice sense of line. She also did a wonderful rendition of Chopin’s Etude in F, op. 10, no. 8, but her performance of Ginastera’s first sonata was absolutely outstanding with a healthy tempo and eveness of sound in the slow movement from top to bottom of the keyboard. It won her the first callback bow of the contest (even though this isn’t strictly allowed, the audience decided to do it anyway!) Overheard behind me: “I’m not really fond of pieces you can’t sing, but that was a really good performance.”
From the very first notes, Martina Filjak (Croatia) took a stylish approach to Haydn’s Sonata in c minor. She showed wonderful control over the first of Luciano Berio’s Encores (Wasserklavier), and turned in athletic performances of the other two (Feuerklavier, Luftklavier).
Last up was China’s Yunquing Zhou with nice approaches to Bach (Prelude & Fugue in b, WTC II) and Chopin (Etude in C, op. 10, no. 1) and his performance of Brahms’s Paganini Variations left you smiling at the end of a long afternoon. It was fun to watch and he invited you to take part in his world.
I don’t want to go out on a limb and say that one player was better than another in the third session. They all had something to say, and that made for a truly enjoyable afternoon. It doesn’t always happen this way.