Tuesday night’s draw, though determined by lottery, defied randomness and produced an interesting lineup of pianists beginning with one of the two oldest contestants, Dmitri Levkovich (30, Canada), then proceeding down the age ladder (27, 26, 20) to one of the youngest, Chun Wang (19, China). These five are people to keep an eye on during the second round, and each for different reasons.
Levkovich was a semi-finalist in Cleveland’s 2007 contest and he proceeded to completely own his 30 minute slot last night. You could tell that he was both a veteran and a candidate who was dedicated to winning this time around. Every moment of his Scarlatti (Sonatas K. 45 & 17), Beethoven (Sonata in d, op. 31, no. 2) and Chopin (‘Black Key’ Etude in G-flat, op. 10, no. 5) was planned and controlled to the last detail. Impressive.
Hungary’s István Lajkó played a strong and clearly articulated set of Bach (Toccata No. 5 in e), Beethoven (Sonata in E-flat, op. 109) and Chopin (Etude in E-flat, op. 10, no. 11), though his performance was a bit tightly wrapped and he lost some digital control toward the end. Let’s see if he plays outside his personal box in the next round.
Maria Masycheva (Russia) returned to Cleveland, where she was a semifinalist in 2001, for Bach (Toccata in f), Chopin (Etude in F, op. 10, no. 8, which should be subtitled ‘Flying Fingers’) and an angry-sounding soviet-era piece, the Chaconne by Sofia Gubaidullina. Her playing was stylish and seemingly effortless until the final work, when she put her whole body into the action. At 26, she’s a veteran as well as a player with room to grow. Check her out in round two as well.
The evening ended with the lower end of the twenty-somethings. Just when the ears were beginning to get a bit weary, the USA’s Sean Chen provided a stimulus package with expressive Bach (Prelude and Fugue in B, WTC II), lyrical and well-shaped Beethoven (Sonata in E, op. 109) and a thrilling voyage through Chopin’s ‘Ocean’ Etude (op. 25, no. 12).
Occupying an even less promising time slot in the evening was China’s Chun Wang, who walked onstage at 9:30 pm. Unassuming and daring to draw the audience in through subtlety and quiet elegance, he gave a lyrical performance of Bach’s Prelude & Fugue in g, WTC I, followed by a handsomely shaped account of Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat, K. 333 and a fine finale in Chopin’s Etude in A-flat, op. 10, no. 10. The audience was riveted by the Mozart, giving Wang a lengthy round of applause immediately following the Sonata.
Repertory strategy becomes an interesting topic for discussion after last night’s session. When you have only thirty minutes to tell us who you are, what pieces do you use to put yourself forward? The great thing about the Cleveland Competition is the second chance everyone gets to do this all over again with different repertory in round two.
Chime in on this topic, dear readers. Let us know what you think as round one continues. It’s only $10 to witness each of today’s sessions at the Play House and seats are available. If you can’t make it down to 8500 Euclid, listen live to every note on WCLV, 104.9 FM. Or point your browser to CIPC’s web site for the live webcast. Yesterday, several hundred people used that option, clicking in from the US, the UK, Japan, Korea, Canada, Mexico, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Australia, Germany, China, Israel, Venezuela, Austria & Turkey. Cleveland International Competition indeed!