Let me start by saying that I find the jury's selection of the six prizewinners absolutely spot on. I think these six have some very special qualities, and I wish all of them all the best on their thorny musical path ahead but, now, let's turn to business.Tweet
Having to rank such wonderful players is no easy task. I ordered the CD set of the competition a a week or so ago and so, being quite unhappy with the final results, I began by thinking what I would like to have on those CD's.
Starting with the finals, I would be sad if, first and foremost, Tatsuki Narita's Paganini would not be there. I would also like to have and be use for my future university students Yu-Chien's Brahms' concerto as well as Hyun Su Shin"s Brahms.
Baranov's Shostakovitch I would not want. While the first movement had some great moments, it also had out of tune notes which multiplied exponentially during the subsequent movements. His sound quality in the second and fourth movement was unacceptable, and his tempo choices not supported by a good enough command of the instrument's technique. There were moments when the music was quite unintelligible. The other concertos all were struggles of over-tired players.
For the sonatas, I liked very much Esther Yoo's choice of Mendelssohn, and the youthful way she delivered it. Again, Baranov's Prokofiev was great, except the second movement where he once again proved he cannot play off string music with good quality sound.Shishkov's Brahms had some amazing moments like the beginning of the third movement, but sometimes he seemed to not penetrate the music beyond slavish adherence to the score. Some choices of keeping the tempo steady in the second movement where rubato would have been appropriate and quite accurate stylistically (whether we think of either today's performance practices of nineteenth century performance practices) managed to effectively kill the mood. The same, in my opinion, was the result of his choice to use the mute for the second movement of the Tchaikovsky concerto. It is in the score, but it did not work for him, and he could have done much better without feeling he has to struggle for a big sound to surface above the orchestra.
For the compulsory pieces, Yu-Chien Tseng was by far the best in Kissine (oh, I hope it is going to be on the CD!) and he, together with Tatsuki Narita and Hyun Su Shin, delivered maybe the only good versions of the Kenji concerto.
As for the semi finals: I would love to have Artiom Shishkov and Yu-Chien's Mozart concertos, Tatsuki Narita's whole recital and Hyun Su Shin's Chausson. I would also love to have Kristi Gjezi. whole recital.
I would spend money to either buy the CDs or go to listen live to Tatsuki Narita who was a real revelation and showed to be an outstanding musician, to Yu-Chien who delivered a most wonderful Brahms concerto and a semi finals round to be remembered, to Artiom Shishkov who is such a wonderful musician, so versatile, so sensitive: a real artist and, maybe, to Hyun Su Shin if she learns to control and diversify her monotonous and overpowering vibrato. I would never pay to listen to Baranov who didn't think it important enough to perfect his intonation and sound for such a competition and relied only on his talent, experience and politics to send him to the top. I saw in Baranov's playing neither the serious, respectful and insightful focus I saw in Yu-Chien Tseng's playing, nor the happyness of making beautiful, solar and meaningful music and sharing it with the audience, as it was the case with Tatsuki Narita (did you see his smile as he was playing?).
My ranking would be:
1) Tatsuki Narita for his joy of making music, for his oustanding performance, for his very special sound and all the colors he could produce, for not getting tired at the end of the concerto,
2) Yu-Chien Tseng for his amazing semi final round as well as for his wonderful Brahms concerto
3) Hyun Su Shin for her Chasson and Sibelius, but less for trying to make music with un undifferentiated vibrato instead of using her bow to create more shades.
4) Andrey Baranov because he is, after all, an accomplished musician, but less for a one color Russian program in both the semifinals and the finals, for a bad Mozart, messy Ysaye sonata, bad taste in Kissine, bad second movement in Prokofiev's sonata and sub par second and fourth movements in the concerto.
5) Artiom Shishkov for and outstanding semi final including one of the best Mozart concertos, for a great Brahms sonata, but less for being a victim of fatigue in the finals
6) Esther Yoo for her Mendelssohn sonata, for being a very accomplished musician at such an early age, but less for a bad choice of playing Beethoven's concerto in the finals. Suyoen Kim, the one who was bumped down to the fourth place in 2009 and whom, in my opinion, should have won the competition, played a Beethoven concerto many classes higher than Yoo's, and she was still bumped down to fourth place due to an unfortunate mistake.
Having Baranov as the winner quite depresses me. Even beyond the intonation mistakes, it was his choice of tempi in the fast movements of the concerto, his bad sound quality in these movements as well as in the second movement of the Prokofiev sonata, his old fashioned Mozart, his only-Russian program, which should not have led him to be the winner over much more interesting, more cultivated, more musically and technically accomplished candidates.
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