Chopin Piano Competition Followup

November 17, 2021, 7:28 PM · I listened to every single performance of the Chopin competition (it took me a minute) and thought I'd share my thoughts, and some more under-the-radar performances. (Looks like my previous thread got archived)

Overall, the competition was at a super-high level. I have no major qualms with the finalists they chose, although I would have chosen some participants that I thought had very advanced musical conceptions, but I suspect didn't make it to the end because of a few fat finger moments - a wrong note can be more or less important depending on where the note is, but I guess the judges tended to weight mistakes on a level that I don't as someone who doesn't have to sit on a judging committee.

The winner Bruce Liu, really never played badly, even if he didn't quite capture my heart. Kyohei Sorita was my favorite early, based on his totally excellent and next level performances in the 1st and 2nd rounds, but he seemed to really underperform in the 3rd round, which might be why he got 2nd prize and not 1st. I also was quite riveted by Aimi Kobayashi's playing.

I thought Jakub Kuszlik could have easily won, as he got stronger and stronger throughout the competition, and his 3rd round and concerto were I think the best of the field (his mazurkas were top notch), and I think Hyuk Lee was a very interesting player who played with a great sensitivity in general, and was one of the rare non-Polish players who really understood how to play mazurkas (his 3rd round is excellent). It was also a mystery to me why Kamil Pacholec was left out of the prizewinners, as his 3rd round and final round in particular stood out to me.

After throwing a bunch of names at you (and you will be repaid for seeking their playing out), I wanted to highlight a few performances that I thought were really worthwhile, but again, perhaps a few tiny thrown notes kept the judges from seeing the overall interesting and individual artistry, so I will include them here. Sometimes I just can't figure out what kept them from advancing.

Good listening!

Sohgo Sawada (Out of anyone in the competition, he is the one I was saddest about not being passed onto the next round)

Piotr Alexewicz (If you ever wanted to understand how to play mazurkas idiomatically, this is the absolute best in the competition)

Miyu Shindo (I'm totally baffled at her not making it to the final round)

Mateusz Krzyzowski

Anyone listen? Any thoughts?

After lifting myself out of my depression for not having practiced piano as a child, I'll just have to settle for the fiddle - Expect all my solo Bach playing from here on out to be infected with a throbbing, romantic rubato!

Replies (6)

November 17, 2021, 7:51 PM · Hi Christian,
a lot of participants were Japanese this time round(or i tight be the norm) so of course, NHK was doing its usual jingoistic coverage or Sorita during my early morning news watch. He was worth it though. I was completely blown away by his unreal technique and artistry. It’s hard to imagine how a mere human being can do what he does. I would have put him in first place by a fair way.
Edited: November 17, 2021, 8:15 PM · It really seems like Japanese players have a particular affinity for Chopin. Koreans too, but maybe not quite as much as Japanese.
November 17, 2021, 8:49 PM · Thanks for this Christian - I would not have a clue where to start judging!
November 17, 2021, 8:54 PM · Maybe the Japanese have got the elusive Mazurka gene.

The big deal a few years back was the facial expressions of some of the pianists, notably Alessandro Deljavan

November 17, 2021, 10:17 PM · Christian,
the Japanese /Chopin affinity thing is extremely strong, as you say. I first noticed it when Iwent to RCM back in the beginning of time. These days, when I talk to talented young players who aren’t turning pro it still seems like everyone plays Chopin and not much else although that can’t really be true , can it?????? I’d hesitate to suggest that Chopin requires a certain deft, lightness of touch that suits the s tendency to slighter physiques here…Don’t know enough about piano playing.
Edited: November 18, 2021, 8:08 AM · At this point is where someone usually inserts some rubbish about the type of piano that Chopin himself probably played.

I don't think a "slight physique" has much to do with pianism. The student learns how to focus the physicality they have -- just as violinists do. Having studied both instruments, I can attest that the mental process ("weight" and "posture" and so forth) is strikingly similar.

Is there an unusual affinity for Chopin among Asian piano students and their teachers? I don't know. If there is, understanding why would be another can of worms that I wouldn't care to stir on a public web forum. I'm grateful for the skill and artistry of young pianists the world over, because my Cortot shellacs wore out long ago.

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