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Thirteenth Van Cliburn Piano Competition

Discussion in 'Pianists' started by sarah, Mar 7, 2009.

  1. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    I condemn thee not... :D I can easily see why you like Bohzanov's playing. You'd have to be deaf not to. :wink: I appreciate him as well, although I do perfer the more "traditional" approaches of some of the other finalists. I thought for sure that the judges would recognize his innate musicality and give him the gold. My dad was positive he was "THE" one. And to see the poor fellow given only a passing notice at the awards ceremony was just a bit much.
     
  2. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    :D

    I too thought for sure he was the gold medalist. His innate musicality is simply incredible; I'd hesitate to label him the next Horowitz, but he is just that kind of pianist.
     
  3. diminished2nd

    diminished2nd New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well, I'm finally home and unpacked and everything, and had time to catch up on this thread.

    I must say that I disagree with what most of you are saying really. Bozhanov was probably my 2nd favourite after the semis, his frank quintet and schubert sonata were both incredible. But his final round solo recital was sloppy (even the Schumann that somebody else here mentioned)... the last chord of the whole recital (in the exciting, but again, sloppy faust waltz) was a complete splat! I had dinner with one of the competitors from the semis who was eliminated, who said about Bozhanov's Chopin, "I'm really familiar with the Chopin Concerto and love it, but I had never heard the Bozhanov Concerto before..." I think that's going a little far, and I liked it (the concerto). But what he did with the Rach 2 was completely disgusting. I couldn't even hear the orchestra half the time because he was just banging his way through it!

    My choices for awards after the finals were:

    2 golds:
    Haochen Zhang
    Yeol Eum Son

    2 silvers:
    Mariangela Vacatello
    Di Wu

    I'll explain:

    Zhang really didn't have my attention at all (I actually disliked him) until the finals, but his Gaspard was the best we heard the whole time (the control in Le Gibet!), and I don't see how his concerti were "boring". Sure, his Prokofiev was fairly docile next to Son's, but it was exciting enough in my opinion. And to play Mozart on the level he did was really amazing...

    Son was one of my favourites after the semis, and didn't disappoint in the finals for me. I thought her solo recital was a little gutsy (if not downright strange) with no... "bombs" :p on it, but it complimented the prok 2nd concerto well I thought. To play something as simple as the Bach-Petri piece she did, and to bring it off so well, would be extremely hard I think.

    Vacatello was a little like Zhang for me before the finals. She didn't seem to have a personality at all... but starting with Scarbo (the best of that particular movement of Gaspard that we heard, imo...) and through the Shostakovich p+f in her final round solo recital was awesome. I also loved her Prok 3, even though the last note of the first mvt was at least 2 beats ahead of the orchestra :p

    Di Wu, I was really looking forward to in the finals because her Miroirs was SO amazing in the prelims that I assumed her Gaspard would be equally good, but it just didn't do it for me. What DID do it for me was her Rach 3. Who was it here that said it was a disaster?! Could you explain? :shock:

    I don't see what ANYBODY here sees in Tsujii. He is really incredible as a blind pianist, but the Cliburn isn't for outstanding blind pianists, it's simply for the best young pianists in the world... Tsujii was clearly not on the same level as the rest of the finalists. For one thing, since he's blind he can't lift his hands more than about an inch or 2 off the keyboard or he would lose his place, but for that reason he can't prepare his hands for the different sounds required most of the time. If only he weren't so darn inspiring... :lol:

    My choices for the other awards were:

    Best Chamber Performance:
    Andrea Lam
    Evgeni Bozhanov

    Jury Discretionary Award(s):
    Eduard Kunz (who I thought by all means should've advanced to the finals over Tsujii or Vacatello, and before I heard the finals, Zhang)
    Ran Dank maybe? He seemed REALLY good to me, but I can't put my finger on what I actually liked about him so much (?)
    Michail Lifits (his Liszt sonata was incredible apart from the 3 memory slips, which shouldn't happen at this level even if you do hear 3 cell phones ring... STUPID CELL PHONES :evil: )

    Best Performance of a New Work:
    Michail Lifits
    Eduard Kunz (I thought this wasn't probable, just because he had to actually start over after the first 2 notes, and there was the one hesitation when the page turner was late... but I thought the feel for that piece was spot on in his performance more than anybody else who played the Bates. and the snapping fingers in the end was awesome!)

    Now... hopefully my message wasn't too long for everybody to wade through haha. And yes, that is me getting Kunz's autograph in the semifinal recap/highlights video! FUNNY STORY ABOUT THAT:

    I became facebook friends with him a couple days before that, and when I shook his hand there he was like "facebook friends? Austin, right?" I had NO idea what to say or think! Why would he remember me just from becoming friends on fb?? (I don't remember if I've already told this story here or not... it was so exciting hahaha)
     
  4. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    Glad that you made it back home safe and sound! You'd better catch up on your practice now. :D

    Well, I suppose we shall agree to disagree. :D Honestly, I think part of the reason for the bizarre outcome of the competition was because of the diversity of thought in regards to most competitors. Take Di Wu, for example - some really didn't like her, and others loved her (I fall in the latter group :wink: ). I think this problem affected not just us onlookers, but the judges as well. Many times there's a definite polarization in a competition, but not this time. Opinions were all over the place.

    That being said, I didn't get to listen to Bohzanov's Rach 2. I suspect that was a repertoire blooper on his part. :D But I did hear his Chopin's 2nd, and I thought at the time that his rendition would either help or hurt him because of its definite "originality" (to put it mildly). I have the sneaking suspicion that the contrast between Bohzanov's version of the concerto and Tsujii's performance of it a day later was what helped Tsujii get the gold medal. :wink:

    Great story about your encounter with Kunz. I wouldn't know what to say either! You must've made a very positive impression on him.
     
  5. diminished2nd

    diminished2nd New Member Piano Society Artist

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    yeah I loved di wu also for the most part, I just wasn't a HUGE fan of her gaspard...
     
  6. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    I didn't like most of the concertos ; the orchestra seems out of it. Many mistakes, horrible tempos changes (though to be fair some of the pianists did an amazing job coping with it, adding beats for instance, by replaying a final chord, etc.).
    Bozhanov's Rach2 was pretty bad in my uninformed opinion : he really overdoes his fortissimos, bangs on the keys (just the opening of the first movement where he hits the basses like mad is atrocious I thought), and he tries to bring secondary melodic lines when the primary should be calm, serene and emphasized. He lacked delicacy in many parts, just like Tsugi lacked strenght. I haven't witnessed it, but I've read the steinway was as good as dead after he played on it...

    I don't understand why they all played that Bates piece, weird Debussy / Gerschwin hybrid with many register changes to sound deep... I find it boring... Especially when there was such a great hammerklavier. Was he a sponsored composer ? Trendy ? Amazing piece of misunderstood (by me) genius ? Free win ?

    Overall I didn't really like that competition. The players lacked charisma... I mean, you can't help but go "woah" when you hear, say, Pogorelich at that Chopin competition. There I haven't wow'ed... (though I haven't seen everything yet).
     
  7. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    If my memory is serving me correctly, Teddy, the reason why so many of the pianists you heard played Bates' "White Lies for Lomax" is that all semifinalists were required to play one of the four winning compositions of an affiliated composing competition. Bates' piece ended up being the favorite of the four, and he got a prize from the Cliburn Foundation for that.

    I don't quite understand why Bohzanov started banging away during the finals. I don't remember much of that going on during the prelims and semis. Maybe he got so sleep-deprived that he either went into "default mode" or lost control. :? Don't know.

    The pianists in this competition may not have been the best we've ever heard, but hearing so many talented young people at one time has made me wish harder than ever that I had the abilities of the least of them. I guess I've just got to practice harder! :D
     
  8. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    Of course don't get me wrong they were all great pianist ! Just, you know, classic piano is such a demanding art I guess, only a handful make it to stardom :p

    Thanks for the explanation on the Bates affair, I just couldn't fashion why they were playing that...
     
  9. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    Great post, Sarah! I agree. :D

    My personal theory is that Conlon's nasty habit of micromanaging the soloists to some degree or other pissed Bozhanov off.
     
  10. diminished2nd

    diminished2nd New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yeah I didn't remember Bozhanov banging in the prelims/semis either (Schubert? amazing.) Have you heard the recording of Rachmaninoff himself playing it? In the beginning section that you mentioned, he actually does the same thing that Bozhanov did... I don't like it either though (is that a bad thing? not liking what the composer does with his own piece? :p)

    And about the concerti... the orchestra was CLEARLY incompetent. If you watch the documentaries from '05 and before, and then look around at the orch. this year though, there are a LOT of new people, so maybe that's why? Some things were completely disgusting though (coming out of the 1st mvt cadenza in Yeol Eum Son's Prokofiev 2nd, the low brass came in way late and at like... half tempo........ or the jump forward at the beginning of Tsujii's Rach 2...)

    Memory did serve you right, Sarah. And I actually liked the Bates piece... in fact, I liked it so much that I bought the score (that and the Hagen suite, which I actually wasn't too thrilled with until Lifits played it. everyone here should check out his whole semifinal recital btw... liszt sonata, hagen suite, and the best prokofiev 7th ever)

    As for the pianists this year not having the "wow" factor... maybe it was just because I was actually there, but quite a few of them seemed to have that for me. So much so that I lost count of how many "passed the goosebumps test", and 4 or 5 performances even brought me to tears... Di Wu's Rach 3, and her Miroirs from the prelims, Stephen Beus DEFINITELY had the "wow" factor w/ his barber sonata and spanish rhapsody (prelims), Eduard Kunz did in a different way in his Dvorak Quintet, in which I heard a ton of melodies I didn't even know existed before that he brought out, Zuo Zhang's Fireflies Etude (prelims), Haochen Zhang's Gaspard (finals), I could list more...

    The one thing that disappointed me about this year was that we didn't really hear any Hungarian Rhapsodies, or the Reminiscences de Don Juan (sp??) :(
     
  11. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    Ahah Diminushed2nd, that's funny you mentionning the original recording by Rachmaninov himself ; I happened to watch it a few minutes after I posted here, and I was forced to hear that he too did emphasize the opening basses quite a lot. I must say I don't like it a lot, so I will blame it on the age of the recording and faulty equalizing ! However, I've heard Lugansky say that only Rachmaninov could hold his own in this concerto against the orchestra - or was he talking about the 3rd ? I can't remember, so maybe he intended to have the piano mark the basses by himself ; anyways I much prefer the orchestra doing the ground work on that... And like I said, it was far from the only glaring fault in Bozhanov's concerto (though I admit he played fine and well for the solo parts of the concert).

    Yes, the orchestra was horrible in many parts (I mean, if I heard many mistakes in the orchestra with my poor orchestral skills, that must mean something !). I guess such a competition is tiring, not only for the pianists, but also for the accompaniment. I wish they could find some kind of solution, because I find the concerto, which indubitably weighted HEAVILY in the final verdict, were somewhat meaningless because of those mistakes.

    Regarding the "wow" factor, I'll admit it was probably due to the repertoire ; I've heard the concertos so much lately they don't do me much, and most of the other works (except the hammerklavier) I never appreciated much anyway (impressionism...) - but I must have missed that Prokoviev 7th (though I'm quite picky on that one, after the second it must be my favorite sonata by him) since I mostly listened to the concertos (bad idea uh...). Sure I've also heard voices I didn't know were there, but that's not what makes a good performance I think ; it's the way they help construct the piece that matter. Many piece have secondary lines you hardly hear, some that really are beautiful and make you warm and fuzzy inside when you discover them (really !) ; but bringing them out detracts from the overall meaning. Bozhanov rach2 to me was really a fitting example of that ; sure he did many weird and novel things, but it just messed with the calm beauty of the overall melody.
    I'd never ever play that Bates piece... I might have heard it five or six times, each I dozed off in the middle of the piece thinking about how I'd rather play some Rach myself (still it sounded like an impressionist work to me, so I must be to blame again...).
     
  12. diminished2nd

    diminished2nd New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I agree with everything on Bozhanov, and with the strange things he did. The artist must always ask not if the idea is just "new and exciting", but whether or not it will also work well. Anything can be done, but not everything is effective. I found Bozhanov's ideas in the rach 2 definitely not effective, but I really enjoyed Kunz's ideas in the Dvorak quintet (which sadly isn't archived :( )
     
  13. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    Yeah, something was amiss with the orchestra for sure. That's a good observation about there being so many new members. I respect Conlon a lot as a conductor (having done some conducting myself - on a much, much smaller scale!); he is definitely amazing at what he does, but one can only do so much with a struggling ensemble. For the orchestra to learn a gazillion concerti accompaniments on split-second notice with brand-new folks who aren't used to the system is something like a death sentence, I feel sure. And, just so you know, the FWSO has had problems in the past with high turnover rates and quibbling orchestra members. Or so I hear. :wink:

    If you ever record the Bates, do post it! That would be fun. :D And I'll have to listen to Lifits' semis performance - I missed that. Only heard his prelims.
     
  14. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    It wasn't archived? What's wrong with them? :shock:
     
  15. diminished2nd

    diminished2nd New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I know right? there are only 6 quintets archived I think, but they aren't the 6 finalists (andrea lam's is one of them... which I'm happy about! :D) so it's really random

    IF I ever learn the Bates, it's gonna be a looooong time from now. The score looks like.. *paint splatter*. :p It really seems extremely complicated to _learn_ because of the rhythms. If I do though, I'm totally snapping my fingers at the end like Eduard did :D
     
  16. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    Oh, that's different. I was under the impression that everything was going to be archived. So much for that! :roll:

    :lol: :lol: I heartily believe you. I really like the "snapping fingers" business, though! :D
     
  17. diminished2nd

    diminished2nd New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I can't remember if this has been said yet or not, and don't feel like going back to see, but...

    EVERYONE should listen to Bozhanov's Schubert sonata D. 960. He played it in the semifinal round, and it starts at around 25:00 into the recital. Or, if you want, you can listen to the whole recital, which was really all great. I love his Beethoven too! But his Schubert is really a must hear for anybody who loves good music :p
     

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