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October 2010
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Like Chopin Camp

Just returned from the first day of the final round of the competition, and I have the second piano concerto in my head on repeat. That may be because I just heard it three times in one concert…what a riot! (Though Polish finalist Pawel Wakarecy performed the second concerto, allowing our ears a brief break before hearing it again. They get to choose which one to perform, and most choose the first.)

But I don’t mind…what a unique opportunity to really dive into a single composer’s work and explore the nuances that each performer brings. And I mean real nuances…it’s only in this concert hall at this time that such comparisons make any sense. Heard separately, these pianists offer technical perfection and equally valid interpretations.

But heard in comparison with each other, the audience is invited to discuss and argue over whether, for example, the second movement of the first concerto should be performed delicately or with full romantic force or if one prefers a witty third movement or a powerful one. It’s like Chopin camp.

Little consensus on the “best”

There are some shocking choices for finalists, which I won’t get into because it doesn’t make sense unless you’re immersed, but a summary of critiques provided by the Chopin Institute’s Facebook page makes it clear that “shocking” is in the ear of the beholder.

Here’s some of a summary of what Polish commentators said on TV regarding tonight’s concerts:

Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina They enjoyed PaweĊ‚ Wakarecy’s performance, mentioned he was concentrated on the music, noticed his good cooperation with the orchestra and in general stated that this final performance was his best during the whole Competition. After the performance of the last pianist – Evgeni Bozhanov – the commentators were not so enthusiastic as after his recitals in the previous stages.

Four pianists performed tonight, and in my opinion, contrary to the above, Evgeni was a cut above the rest. He did choke in the last movement…one mistake led to another and that led to another, but overall, while his interpretation isn’t my favorite, he seemed the best of the evening. How could I not enjoy his interpretation as much as the others’ and still think that he performed the best? Well, that’s the sort of internal debate that listening to music on repeat, at this high of a level, allows. And it’s fun!

No matter who ends up being named the winner…there’s no doubt that best new pianists in the world are congregated in one room. Here’s Lisa and me on the air live on air in the press room:

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