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2013 VAN CLIBURN INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITION


  http://www.theaterjones.com/2013vancliburninternationalpianocompetition/20130606225655/2013-06-06/Cliburn-Finals-Fei-Fei-Dong
Fei-Fei Dong in the second of two finals performances on June 8

Cliburn Finals: Fei-Fei Dong

Reviews of the final concerti performances by the 22-year-old Chinese pianist in the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Second performance added.



published Saturday, June 8, 2013

Concerto 1: Thursday, June 6

RACHMANINOV   Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, op. 30

With Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin

Photo: Robert Hart
Fei-Fei Dong in the first of her two finals performances on June 6

 

There was much buzz about Fei-Fei Dong choosing the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3, op. 30 for her big piece and first appearance. She has not proven to be a big romantic specialist, even though she did play the Liszt sonata in the preliminary round. Otherwise, she has played Scarlatti, Mozart, Chopin and Brahms. Rachmaninov was out of character for her and it proved to be too big a bite to chew.

There is a difference between loud and grand and we got lots of loud from her, many times at the cost of the notes. Now, many times pianists will toss notes to the wind in the service of an exhilarating performance of this work. But, in this case, she should have done just the opposite and valued the notes over exhilaration. The places where her particular talents for a singing line and just the right touch of rubato made many parts of her performance quite wonderful. The big moments were disappointing.

Photo: Robert Hart
Fei-Fei Dong in the first of her two
finals performances on June 6

She has the technique to play this concerto in a note-perfect and a more modest performance that  would have brought out many details that we don’t usually hear. Alas, such was not the case. Instead of playing it in her own unique way, she emulated other pianists who treat it in a more traditional bangarama manner.

She will have another chance to sway the judges on Saturday in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, a piece much better suited to her many fine points as a pianist. She has impressed right from the start and is one of a handful that has been on everyone’s list to advance through the various rounds. My friend, one of the country’s most distinguished piano teachers, also marked her right away as a contender. This performance was a detour but may not stop her on her journey to a medal.

 

◊ Links to the other finalists in this session: Nikita MndoyantsBeatrice Rana 


Concerto 2: Saturday, June 8

BEETHOVEN   Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, op. 58

With Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin

Photo: Robert Hart
Fei-Fei Dong in the second of two finals perrformances on June 8

 

Fei-Fei Dong had some troubles earlier in the final round with the Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto, so she had a lot riding on her performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, op. 58.

Photo: Robert Hart
Fei-Fei Dong after the second of two finals perrformances on June 8

The opening is quiet, but she lacked the firmness needed for Beethoven. Later on, she corrected this early impression and demonstrated a command of the composer’s style. But she frequently exceeded the marked dynamics in an effort to be majestic and bold. Her soft playing achieved some truly beautiful results and she played with attention to the shape of the phrases, adding an occasional ritard and marking more of the ones that were written.

The biggest problem came in the loudest parts. Some of accents were harsh and she remained at the top level for long stretches of time. Even in these passages, there are waxes and wanes of the level of intensity. Otherwise, the ear dulls and nuances are missed. Overplaying can also lead to an unfortunate splat as fingers hit neighboring notes.

This is not an error or even wrong note per se, just bad aim, and it only happened once or twice—more so in the Rachmaninov. Normally, this wouldn’t even be worth mentioning except that it was caused by a more systemic problem.

 

 

◊ Our profile of Fei-Fei Dong, 22, China

Review of Semifinal Recital and Chamber performances

◊ Review of Preliminary Recital Phase I

◊ Review of Preliminary Recital Phase II

◊ You can see quick links to the reviews of the other finalists here Thanks For Reading




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Cliburn Finals: Fei-Fei Dong
Reviews of the final concerti performances by the 22-year-old Chinese pianist in the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Second performance added.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

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