Reviews of the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Quarterfinal Round, session 4 (10 a.m. Tuesday, May 30). You can see bios and complete repertoire of all pianists here.
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SCHUBERT Impromptu in A-flat Major, D. 935, op. 142, no. 2
SCHUBERT Impromptu in B-flat Major, D. 935, op. 142, no. 3
PROKOFIEV Sonata No. 8 in B-flat Major, op. 84
The two Schubert impromptus were played as a set and made an attractive program starter. Tchaidze’s ability to keep the melody above everything else, even when it is the top note of a chord, requires a different pressure on one note than when the other fingers are playing at the same time. His approach is best described as elegant. He never overplayed the music’s modest aims, and the runs felt like they were there for musical reasons rather than tacked on for show.
This Prokofiev sonata is the third in the series known as his war sonatas. The second one (No. 7) has been played in the competition several times in the recent past. While the seventh is a brutal work that demands rough treatment, the eighth is quieter but its tonality is ambiguous with many flights into distant keys.
It was wise to program this right after the Schubert because it starts in much the same mood as the B-flat Impromptu exhibits. It adds some displays of technique that the Schubert lacks. A competition program should show the judges the competitor’s full range of abilities. He gave it a reserved reading, minimizing the dissonance and bringing out the lyrical melodies that the composer lavished on it. He was in complete control the whole way and nothing was left unexamined. The third movement’s main challenges are technical and require nimble fingers galore, whereas the seventh requires bare knuckles and a bloodlust attitude.
Many in the audience were not familiar with this sonata, but he made a good case for it and some positive comments about both the sonata and the pianist were heard in the lobby.
United States, 23
SCRIABIN Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp Major, op. 30
CHOPIN Three Mazurkas, op. 59
CHOPIN Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, op. 52
LISZT Après une lecture de Dante (Fantasia quasi sonata)
F-sharp major is the key that has six sharps in the key signature. Thus, all but B-natural is sharp so it is mostly played on the black keys. We heard this sonata earlier when Dasol Kim played it. Kenneth Broberg started it with a sense of uncertainty, as if he was unsure of where the piece was going and didn’t want to set foot in the wrong direction. This made for a very effective opening of the sonata and thus the whole recital. The music soon found its footing within the help of Broberg’s sharply delivered staccato chords to drive it forward. He carefully layered all the complex music by using different levels of dynamics, which brought some vivid clarity.
The mazurka is defined as a Polish folk dance in triple meter, moves quickly and accents placed on the second or third beat. Chopin wrote these as a set. Broberg removed them from the confines of the traditional mazurka liveliness and either slowed them down or had an over-application of rubato. In either case, they felt slow and lost their definitive kick.
Chopin’s Ballades are in one movement, but full of different-but-related parts and tell a story (thus the title). In this case it is based on the adventures of three brothers who are off to make their fortune, and each returns with a Polish bride. This is considered to be the most difficult of Chopin’s four ballades, but Broberg tossed it off with élan while still keeping its overall melancholy mood. Once again, it is the ability to play many different layers with each in its own different dynamic level that is the takeaway. This is especially noticeable in the fugue, which is not found in the other Ballades. He was a hit with the audience.
Hong Kong, 25
MOZART Sonata No. 2 in F Major, K. 280
CHOPIN Nocturne in B Major, op. 62, no. 1
CHOPIN Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, op. 54
SCRIABIN Sonata No. 5, op. 53
Rachel Cheung opened with Sibelius’ well-known Valse triste. (At least the first theme, which in a simplified version is a standard on student recitals). It was originally written as incidental music for a play but has achieved a popularity all on its own. She gave it a sensitive performance. The only drawback was that, the way she approached it, there was a series of false-alarm endings.
An earlier performance of the Op. 28 made a convincing argument for playing all 24 as a nonstop set. (Chopin reportedly said no more than a few should be played on a program. He never played more than four himself.) There is little value going into each prelude and commenting.
It was not perfect (what is?). Once again, it was a matter of a tempi too fast or too slow. Even a small difference from how the music wants to go can affect how it is perceived.
CLIBURN COMPETITION SCHEDULE
See links to all of our reviews that have posted here.
See the schedule of quarterfinal performances here.
- Monday, May 29: 10 a.m., 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
- Tuesday, May 30: 10 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
- Thursday, June 1: 7:30 p.m.
- Friday, June 2: 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, June 3: 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, June 4: 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
- Monday, June 5: 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, June 7: 7:30 p.m.
- Thursday, June 8: 7:30 p.m.
- Friday, June 9: 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, June 10: 3 p.m.
- Saturday, June 10: 7 p.m.