The first and last of the final five competitors to be heard for the second time on Sunday evening thoughtfully chose very interesting repertory, a boon for ears that were about to get a bit weary.
Marina Radiushina (USA) began with a bravura performance of Leighton’s impassioned ‘Fantasia Contrappuntistica (Homage to Bach)’, went on to a beautiful and shamelessly pianistic reading of Handel’s Chaconne in G and ended with a finely paced version of Schumann’s austere Variations on a Theme of Clara Wieck. Elegant, graceful and demonstrating an excellent sense of style and technique, Radiushina made a fine impression.
Korea’s Ju-Eun Lee began with Scarlatti sonatas. K. 119, 96 and 394 were nicely played with hyper bright articulation (a good thing because she used a lot of pedal), and when the audience got confused and wasn’t sure the set was over, Lee demurely turned to the house and smiled. Applause. She wrapped up her part of the evening with Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 in b-flat (the one with the famous funeral march) in a performance which might have benefited from more depth of tone and rhythmic coherence, but still left a good impression.
Unassuming and quiet at the keyboard, Russia’s Alexander Osminin delivered expressive and super accurate versions of two Scarlatti sonatas (K. 247 and K. 118, including some tricky cross-hand action) before turning to Karamanov’s charming Rondo in e minor, a capricious and tuneful little piece that gets boisterous in the middle before returning to the original material. Osminin’s big work was Schumann’s Carnaval, distinguished from the very beginning for his adroit handling of repeated chords — he stays close to the keys and keeps the clanging to a bare minimum. What followed was a technically assured, colorful reading of Schumann’s score which was impressive for its restraint but lacked nothing in terms of expression.
William Youn (Korea) produced quite different sounds in Brahms’ Sonata op. 2, no. 2, unfortunately on the harsh and brittle side. He has a brilliant and flashy technique, but never quite got under the skin of Brahms the composer tonight. His opening Scarlatti sonatas were sensitive to counterpoint (K. 87) and dazzling in execution (K. 436).
Competitor No. 32, Soo-Yeon Ham (Korea), delivered a round’s end bonus: all 12 of Chopin’s Etudes, op. 25. Smiling throughout and looking as though this were the easiest task in the world, Ms. Ham took us on an unusual tour through Chopin’s imagination, reprising some etudes which have come up several times in these rounds, but which seemed like new friends heard in context. She played with complete conviction, technical assurance and mellow tone.