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From the Joseph Joachim International Competition: Hannover semifinals marathon III

Heather Kurzbauer

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Published: October 6, 2015 at 6:33 AM [UTC]

The last day of semifinal recitals at the 9th edition of the Joachim International Violin Competition Hannover showed great deference to Prokofiev: the first sonata was chosen by a pair of candidates and the second sonata closed the recital rounds.

(Note: If you wish to hear these performance, click here to listen to the livestream and click here to view archived performances.)

Shion Minami (Japan) seemed to operate in a world separated from both the enchanting pianism of Thomas Hoppe and Ravel’s rich metaphorical musical kingdom in her interpretation of the a gem of the 20th century literature, the Ravel Sonata. As expected from a semifinalist at a major competition, the young violinist possesses a well-groomed technician capable to project exceptional fast passage. However, the connection between impressive execution and communicated musical intention has a long way to go: Ravel’s blues lacked swing. The high point of her presentation was the atavistic second movement of Prokofiev’s f minor sonata, which crackled with fiery determination. The slow movement suffered from a lack of vibrato warmth and a reliance on portato to replace true legato playing.

Although one of the youngest amongst the semifinalists, the Japanese violinist Ayana Tsuji is blessed with a pronounced musical personality and a vibrant stage-filling presence. Performing from memory, the Stravinsky Duo Concertante was a perfect vehicle to communicate her outstanding command of both score and instrument. One of a handful of contestants who was at one with the piano score, one can only hope that her partnership with Thomas Hoppe will continue to delight audiences worldwide. Tsuji was able to move us away from a contest by opening the door to a wide and wonderful musical world. Cut up moved from a compulsory work subtitled ‘study’ to a worthy concert piece at the hands of a musical master who memorized the demanding score as well. Hoppe and Tsuji in Prokofiev’s f minor rivaled legendary performances from bygone days in their ability to change character, spin endless lines of dramatic text within the context of the composer’s intention. Welcome to the major league of great artists!

Anna Malesza (Poland) started her program with an extroverted take on Cut up before proceeding to Grieg’s Third Sonata (c minor) op. 45. An artist with a commanding presence, Malesza has a tendency to overplay in the heat of the moment, perhaps effective in concert audience but questionable when under jury scrutiny. Grieg was all Sturm und Drang with too many lapses in terms of intonation and phrase endings. Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy was delivered with enormous passion but once again, intonation lapses took their toll.

The honor of closing the semifinal recital round was accorded to the Taiwanese-American violinist, Richard Lin.

Richard Lin
Richard Lin

A musician of great charm with an expansive sense of style, his Prokofiev d major presented was delivered with panache. Back in the 20th century, a famed US advertisement proclaimed, ‘you don't have to be Jewish to love Levy’s’ and you certainly don't have to be Jewish to deliver Heifetz’ beloved encore, Achron’s Hebrew Melody with just the right amount of schmalz. Cut up was given an intelligent reading and Wieniawski’s Polonaise Brilliant on Faust was projected with a Technicolor palette of sound and shimmering acrobatics.

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