As of Thursday evening, all thirty-two contestants have had their first thirty minutes to introduce themselves musically to the two juries, the audience at the Bolton Theatre and, through WCLV broadcasts and CIPC webcasts, to thousands more listeners and viewers in Northeast Ohio and around the world. And we’re happy to note that as of midnight Thursday, more than 2000 people have read this blog’s CIPC coverage.
The last five to be heard in the first round were Marina Radiushina (USA), Ju-Eun Lee (Korea), Alexander Osminin (Russia), William Youn (Korea) and Soo-Yeon Ham (Korea), and their playlists last night gave us two chances to hear Chopin’s ‘Winter Wind’ Etude and Yun’s 5 Klavierstücke in the same session.
Since there’s no physical opponent in this contest, performers can be said to be contending against their repertory in putting their best fingers forward. In all six sessions, Beethoven has proven to be something of a stumbling block to everyone who chose his music over Haydn or Mozart in the required classical sonata category. The one size fits all approach doesn’t really work with LVB, but some players have approached opus 2 with the same strategy they might use for opus 110.
Happily, last night’s session opened with Marina Radiushina’s interpretation of opus 110, a strong, colorful performance of arching lyricism, beautifully voiced and balanced. Ju-Eun Lee followed with a less idiomatic performance of opus 109 (some passages sounded more like Chopin, balances went awry and a memory glitch left a blemish on the 3rd movement). Alexander Osminin took us back to op. 2, no. 3 in a solid, restrained reading full of nuance and detail, scaled appropriately to the musical material.
Pianists who didn’t choose Beethoven mostly went for Haydn. On Thursday evening, William Youn and Soo-Yeon Ham, both of Korea, chose the same piece, the Sonata in C, Hob. XVI:50, and were scheduled back to back. Youn’s performance was ‘big’ Haydn featuring heightened articulation and strong rhythmic play. Ms. Ham’s was a more intimate and delicate version, but both performers caught the composer’s wit and humor in markedly different ways.
Chopin: the ‘Winter Wind’ Etude was positively chilling in Marina Radiushina’s version. Alexander Osminin’s interpretation bent the tempo here and there for expressive purposes. Ju-Eun Lee’s account of op. 10, no. 10 might have paid more attention to inner voices, something William Youn’s reading of op. 25, no. 10 (b minor) did very well in the slow section.
What have we left out? Soo-Yeon Ham’s impressive and resonant performance of Ligeti’s ‘Automne a Varsovie’ ended the evening on a fine note. Then there was the Yun, an academic work of a certain age which got two very different interpretations from Ju-Eun Lee (angular and edgy) and William Youn (lyrical and expressive).
So—sixteen hours of piano music are behind us and sixteen more to come as the contestants enter the second round on Friday afternoon. One friend asked, “are you ready for eight more days of this?” Bring it on!