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2013 VAN CLIBURN INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITION


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Tomoki Sakata in his final performance at the Cliburn, on June 9

Cliburn Finals: Tomoki Sakata

Reviews of the final concerti performances by the 19-year-old Japanese pianist in the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Second performance added.



published Sunday, June 9, 2013

Concerto 1: Friday, June 7

MOZART   Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466

With Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin

Photo: Robert Hart
Tomoki Sakata in his first concerto performance of the final rounds

 

Tomoki Sakata opened the second evening of concerto performances in the final rounds. He played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466. This is one of the composer’s most frequently played concerti and it is easy to see the reason why. It is tuneful and delightful throughout. Mozart wrote some of it in his high operatic fashion and echoes of the The Marriage of Figaro, premiered just one year later, pop up here and there, especially in the subordinate theme in the Rondo. Sakata gave it a stylish and subtle performance.

The first movement opened with a bright tempo. Sakata was sparing with his use of the pedal; however, he added it with good effect when the passage work stayed within the chord. He displayed clean turns and trills and gave the ends of the phrases an elegant finish. The second movement was played with simplicity and understated grace. Further, he didn’t over-emote or overwork the melody, but let it speak for itself. The last movement was fast, but it never felt rushed. His performance had spirit and energy. There was one moment where Mozart changes from sixteenths to triplets to eighths. One exceptional section occurred in a passage where the winds and piano exchange the same pattern back and forth from every measure for an extended time. Sakata played off of the winds and it was a superb moment of interplay.

He did himself a lot of good with this performance, demonstrating that he can play with finesse. Some may have found it too subdued for the pianist who fired through Liszt and Rachmaninov earlier. That would be caused by not having the correct expectations. His Mozart was exactly on and showed a side of him we only glimpsed in the preliminaries, when he also played some Mozart. He can let fly with Tchaikovsky on Sunday.

 

◊ Links to the other finalists in this session: Sean ChenVadym Kholodenko


Concerto 2: Sunday, June 9

TCHAIKOVSKY   Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, op. 23

With Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin

Photo: Robert Hart
Tomoki Sakata in his final performance at the Cliburn, on June 9

Tomoki Sakata had a difficult time with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, op. 23. No matter how well you could play it, this is a risky choice for this competition with Cliburn’s own 1958-era recording still in recent memory—even for those born close to 50 years later.

From the very first chords, he lacked the gravitas that this warhorse of a concerto required. They were pretty instead of cannon-fire. Early on, some note splats didn’t help nor did a cue that Slatkin missed giving to the lower brass, which caused a train wreck for a few measures. Things got better as the concerto proceeded but it was difficult for him to recover from the rocky start and he never delivered on the tutta forza playing that this piece requires.

On the positive side, he did quite well with the lyric parts. Some of his playing was stylish and he had a good sense of where he was in the phrase. An odd ritard at the very end in the orchestra notwithstanding, he was at his best in the last movement and brought the concerto to a rousing close. The audience loved it but what the judges thought is another thing. It is impossible to guess.

 

◊ Our profile of Tomoki Sakata, 19, Japan

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: Tomoki Sakata
Reviews of the final concerti performances by the 19-year-old Japanese pianist in the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Second performance added.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

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