Reviews of the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition will run for each of the six finalists in separate files. The first review will be the piano quintet round with the Brentano String Quartet, from Wednesday and Thursday; and the second review, of the concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, will be added into each file.
To see bios and complete repertoire of all pianists here.
For quick links to all our Cliburn reviews, click here.
South Korea, 28
with Brentano String Quartet
Mark Steinberg, violin | Serena Canin, violin | Misha Amory, viola | Nina Lee, cello
DVOŘÁK Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 81
There is almost nothing to say about this performance but to offer superlatives. As far as being a collaborator, he was the best of the evening. Tempi were excellent, although the last movement was on the fast side.
He set a perfect tempo at the beginning and accompanied the divine cello solo as if they had played together for years.
This was one of the few times I was grateful that they repeated the exposition. They even could have played it a third time—it was that beautiful. Sunwoo’s balance was also excellent. He never covered the quartet but drove many a crescendo.
His balance between his hands was extraordinary. Frequently, his left hand only accompanied when it was the right hand we wanted to hear. The left-hand filigree was played way below the material in the right hand to maintain the balance. Any louder from the left would have intruded.
He was in almost constant contact with the first violin, looking over frequently at all of the critical places, like ritards at the end of phrases, so that the attacks would be simultaneous.
It was a marvelous performance, deeply felt, intelligently played, and true to Dvořák’s spirit. What more can you ask?
Also: The Brentano Quartet is brilliant. Special mention must go the violist and cellist, but it’s a tight ensemble. All four are superb and the intonation is dead on.
with Fort Worth Symphony
Leondard Slatkin, conductor
RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, op. 30
This is a famous monster of a concerto with bewildering difficulties that keep the faint of heart from even buying the score. Rachmaninoff wrote it for himself, as did Prokofiev with his second concerto that Yury Favorin played tonight. When virtuosi write concerti for themselves you can expect nearly impossible technical passages which match their abilities, leaving others to despair.
There was no doubt that Yekwon Sunwoo has mastered every aspect of this concerto and it is second nature to him now. He certainly has the nimble fingers that land like they are made of steel, like some bionic appendage. He can get an immense amount of sound out of the Steinway and his performance brought the audience to fits of ecstasy.
The only problem was that he liberally distributed the triple forte dynamic, sometimes keeping it at tutta forza levels for quite some time. This means that he had little ammunition remaining for the two or three big moments that are the real arrivals in Rachmaninoff’s carefully planned concerto.
When he learns to pace himself and not overplay, he will be able to deliver a stellar performance of this concerto. Everything else is there.
Other reviews of Yekwon Sunwoo:
CLIBURN COMPETITION SCHEDULE
See links to all of our reviews that have posted here.
See the schedule of final performances here.
- 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.