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Piano | Gustav Alink, June 28

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Jun. 29th, 2011 | 11:50 am

Differences ...


Alexei Chernov


The second evening of the piano finals we heard two very contrasting pianists. First, Yeol Eum Son from South Korea performed Rachmaninov's 3rd piano concerto. I had looked forward to this very much. The previous evening, the Russian National Orchestra had demonstrated a very Russian approach, which I liked but which may have been difficult for the soloists, and a few days ago, Yeol Eum had played the Mozart Concerto (KV491) very well (for which the jury had already decided to award her - and Trifonov - the Mozart prize).

However, this time, Rachmaninov was played quite differently than I had expected. It seemed as if the orchestra was holding back. The sound was milder (the day before it had been wilder). I assume the conductor and soloist wanted this change. Yeol Eum's approach was almost too gentle. She can play all the notes, but it seemed as if she did not want to force anything, especially in the first movement. Also in the 2nd movement, her style of playing gave the impression as if she was interpreting Ravel rather than Rachmaninov. The 3rd movement was better, although it still had somewhat the atmosphere of Chamber Music rather than a monumental piano concerto, and the soloist and orchestra were several times not together. Towards the end, they revived and the concerto was concluded in a triumphant way. Yeol Eum Son is an excellent pianist, but I would prefer to hear her with different repertoire. (Actually, in the programme book was written that she would play Prokofiev nr. 2.)

In the break, the Steinway piano was changed for the other Steinway, and Alexey Chernov performed Tchaikovsky. Before he could do so, the audience looked up to the balcony and cheered: Van Cliburn was there again! Another great pianist, Vladimir Ashkenazy should also have been present at these finals, as jury member, but he was absent. A great pity. Ashkenazy missed a fine performance: Alexey Chernov as well as the orchestra did very well. Chernov did not take such extreme tempi as has, regretfully, become so usual today with the younger performers. This was a solid Tchaikovsky, with good substance. The tempo was just right and the soloist and orchestra seemed to inspire each other. The orchestra produced its typical surrounding warm sound again. Also the sound of this Steinway seemed much deeper than the other one that Yeol Eum Son had played. Alexey Chernov is an intelligent performer who listens to the orchestra. The syncopic dialogue went a bit astray, but Chernov restored it. Five more concertos to go, and we will know the overall winner!

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