The 2nd International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments 5-15 October 2023 - Warsaw, Poland
|Rare preparatory sketch by Delacroix for a portrait of George Sand and Fryderyk Chopin|
The 2nd International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments
5-15 October 2023
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Piotr Gliński, Minister of Culture and National Heritage and Artur Szklener, Director of the National Chopin Institute, at the Press Conference on October 3rd at the Chopin Museum Warsaw. They are drawing the first participant name to appear in the competition from a revolving, historic lottery box. (Derek Wang)
|The participants of the Competition|
REVIEWS and RESULTS
The Laureates and Honorable Mentions
Younghuan Zhong ex aqueo 3rd Prize
Piotr Pawlak - 2nd Prize
October 14th - DAY 2
Martin Nöbauer - Chopin E minor concerto Op.11 1842 Pleyel
I thought the orchestra were more subtle and integrated this evening without over-prominent tympani.
Certainly Nöbauer gave us a definite maestoso opening with an attractive restrained but singing cantabile. I felt he created fertile contrast of moods and colour with a gradual accumulation of dynamic which gave the movement rather a sense of balladic narration. Delicacy and elegance of expression were much in evidence which would have not been lost in a small palace music room of the period. His phrasing was eloquent with many poetic cantabile touches on the emotions. I felt however it lacked the true style brillante and internal energy which the concerto intensely asks for. I became aware of a loss of momentum towards the conclusion.
I felt the opening he gave the movement was a subtle, sensitive and a fine expression of period sensibility following refined string playing from the orchestra. The slowish tempo he adopted was alluring to a painterly imagination. At moments I felt an extraordinary return to life as if waking from an enchanted dream. Troubled thoughts passed and disappeared like autumn leaves in the wind. He augmented this movement to one rather substantial through sensitive phrasing. Again no attacca into the Rondo.
I felt he understood well the attractive krakowiak dance rhythm and tempo. Perhaps the warm, almost velvet softness of the Pleyel made a true style brillante of glitter and bravura not as straightforward to achieve. However, in the final analysis I did not find his Rondo sufficiently youthful, exciting, enthusiastic or joyful. However, one must never forget that this rondo is a tremendous challenge on a period piano. Everything is different - key dip, width of keys, sound, response to repeated notes, damping efficiency, pedals. Most participants would have had limited time to practice on a period instrument and had limited access (except in Warsaw!).
Piotr Pawlak - Chopin E minor concerto Op.11
His authority in this work impressed itself immediately from the grand, noble maestoso phrasing of the opening. I felt the Érard with its upper register glitter and clarity was suitable for any style brillante writing that may appear. The rich bass gives distinct substance to the piano sound and often harmonic interest to L.H. counterpoint. The various orchestral soloists on period instruments (bassoon, flute, natural horns) fitted well and more importantly were in the correct dynamic balance with the piano. Overall a more suitable instrument for this concerto.
I felt Pawlak made this movement into an exciting moment of logical, coherent musical speech that achieved much forward momentum giving a narrative feel to the whole. One felt his deep familiarity with this work which betrayed immense authority over the keyboard and the notes themselves. His cantabile throughout was lyrical and emotionally deeply moving at times. He seemed quite at home on the Érard. The audience were captivated in a manner rarely experienced. Absolute silence reigned in the full hall as the listening became more intense. I felt Pawlak understood well the remark of Princess Marcelina Czartoryska, an outstanding pupil of Chopin, when she spoke of and advised pianists to create 'le climat de Chopin'
The moving love yearning of a rather illusioned youth was clear from the beginning of the movement. His changes of emotional mood were as if we were being taken by the beautiful melody of love through the shadows of forest glades into the sun shining on a dappled lawn. There were persuasive and radiant harmonic transitions, gossamer runs unrolling like Venetian Burano lace. Often his playing seemed to meander like an endless river of thought, surely the spirit of the Chopin soul.
From the outset the movement was full of bucolic, country life, spontaneity and the krakowiak dance. Pawlak obviously had an excellent relationship with the conductor. His approach was lighthearted, humorous, whimsical at times and youthfully joyful all at once. The style brillante was much in evidence and also virtuosic bravura. Breathless, youthful energy.
I felt Pawlak was one of the few participants in the competition who understood the musical idiom of the young Chopin. The change of key towards the conclusion was most effective. Wild cheers and a standing ovation to conclude!
As Joseph Conrad (Korzeniowski) observed in his story 'Youth'
'O youth! The strength of it, the faith of it, the imagination of it!'
I found her opening possessed nobility and was a true maestoso in ambience. Her cantabile was evocative and poignant as she 'sang' so expressively in such eloquent phrases. I also felt she had a close connection with the engaging conductor and orchestra. A sudden and quite unexpected error unsettled her although with great courage she continued with her fine performance as if nothing had happened. The conductor was most supportive at this difficult moment. I very much liked her transparent counterpoint in the L.H. on the Érard.
The glorious love melody emerged as most affecting and deeply suggestive of romantic love. She created a gentle and enveloping atmosphere of illusioned affections, successfully creating the shifting moods of the fraught emotional life of this youth of genius.
I felt she had become increasingly unsettled by that moment of cruel destiny and was not entirely healed. She did not give of her best in this movement with many solecisms although flashes of her clear brilliance and musicality were always obvious. My reviews of her Stage I & II indicate more accurately her true talents.
Just in passing, I felt she and the others were not really assisted sufficiently by the orchestral balance in this remarkably accessible yet inaccessible music. The conductor Vaclav Luks is immensely committed emotionally and more than usually supportive of the competition participants. The audience too were extraordinarily supportive in her plight and gave her a part standing ovation. An uplifting moment of true humanity. It is so Polish to emotionally support the beleaguered underdog and cruel victim of indiscriminate fate.
October 13th - DAY 1
Angie Zhang - Chopin Piano Concerto in E minor Op.11
Yonghuan Zhong - Chopin E minor piano concerto Op.11
I find the courageousness and talent of this young 18 year old pianist who had the temerity to perform this concerto in a public competition quite remarkable. Yet he is much the same as age as Chopin when the Pole created the work.
Zhong produced a rich and convincing sound from the Érard which sounded to me slightly superior and slightly more appropriate than the Pleyel for this work. His own youthful energy and vivacity drove the movement forward in an approach in the style brillante. Overall this movement was a bravura performance in many respects. He produced an alluring ringing tone with fine, glittering articulation to render the polyphony transparent. His stylish running thirds along the keyboard compass sent shivers along my spine, a sign of the presence of true art. I felt a significant internal dynamism which accumulated in momentum as the movement progressed. His evenness was a marvel and as ever reminded me of the French jeu perlé. A variety of colours, tone and touch were displayed. Reflective moments were effective owing to the contrasting tensions and relaxations and a feeling of almost balladic narrative impetus.
This movement possessed the right degree of sentiment and yearning in the expression of the divine romantic feelings contained in this song. There was a true ebb and flow in character and intensity of the affective moods and emotions of love. Delicacy rose and fell but underpinned by strength. The pianissimo runs so sensitively possible to execute on a period instrument remained in elegant accompaniment to the orchestra. His concluding phrasing was both refined and elegant.
Here we had an abundant style brillante style in the energy of the Polish krakowiak dance, a syncopated, duple-time popular dance in contemporary Kraków. The rich polyphony and L.H. counterpoint was clear especially on this Érard. The glorious, stylish period sound he produced with his magical touch was present and in addition was often mentioned in my reviews of his Stage I and II. I felt a high degree of youthful exuberance here and his fervent joy in luxuriating in simply playing the piano. The accumulation of energy at the conclusion of the work was like the release of electrical energy from a large, fully charged battery. The audience gave him an immense popular reception and applause.
Eric Guo - Chopin E minor concerto Op.11
The fact this pianist is a great communicator (vital as a concert artist) was obvious from the first embracing smile towards the audience. His playing is a marvellous example of coherent musical speech with a variety of timbre, tone and dynamics. As I mentioned in his Stage I & II, one is struck by his fertile musical imagination and extrovert personality. He demonstrated the variegated sound and colour potential of a period piano. We were offered bravura playing, style brillante and ultra-pianissimo effects that were as elegant and delicate as Venetian Burano lace. His dramatic accumulation of vivid colours and variety of touch, timbre and the revelation of polyphony came to a triumphant conclusion.
Guo adopted a natural, unexaggerated or mannered tempo and did not indulge the sentimental romantic side so tempting to pianists of Chopin. He seemed particularly well integrated with the orchestra and conductor as the soloist. His eloquent phrasing revealed the sensitive potential of the Pleyel for expressive timbre, dynamics, tone and touch. What the Pleyel can do under the right fingers! The conclusion was luminous and supremely refined with sensibility of the age.
For some reason the conductor does not launch into this movement immediately from the Romance although it is marked on the score attacca. I felt this as a definite loss of the dramatic change of mood to spontaneously throw aside romantic 'dwelling', aspiration or regret and launch into a healing, distracting and joyful dance.
His intense enjoyment of this movement was clear in his abundant style brillante style and sound, the sheer energy he brought to the Polish krakowiak dance. An extraordinary range of colour, touch, articulation, texture, tone and touch came into play. I found this movement brilliantly expressive and even more rarely, full of spontaneous invention. Many arresting and eloquent internal voices I had never before heard were revealed, particularly towards the conclusion. The pianissimo on the Pleyel as Guo executed it is like a gossamer cobweb, dew dappled, stirring in the whispered breeze.
|A few words about the Chopin |
E Minor Piano Concerto Op.11
I would like to recommend this poignant, intimate recording made by Yves Henry, a distinguished member of the jury. Chopin spent 35 months at George Sand's summer house at Nohant between 1839 and 1846. In great happiness he wrote many of his most renowned works there. They are collected on this superb recording.
My account of the 53rd Nohant Chopin Festival - 'Chopin and the Romantic Exile' - Reviews of recitals from 17th July - 24 July 2019
The Finalists of the 2nd Chopin Competition on Period Instruments
List of Participants 11th October 2023
Hyunji Kim, South Korea
Mariia Kurtynina, Russia
Nicolas Margarit, Australia/Spain
Martin Nöbauer, Austria
Piotr Pawlak, Poland
Kamila Sacharzewska, Poland
Jannik Truong, Germany
Ludovica Vincenti, Italy
List of Participants 10th October 2023 in order of appearance:
Derek Wang (US)
Angie Zhang (US)
Yonghuan Zhong (China)
Alice Baccalini (Italy)
Joanna Goranko (Poland)
Eric Guo (Canada)
I feel it is not appropriate for me to give my personal opinion of participants' performance in public until the jury have decided on those participants who will progress to the Finals
Stage II -Works
Mazurkas from the following opuses:
17, 24, 30, 33, 41, 50, 56, 59
Mazurkas must be played in the order they are numbered in the opus. In the case of opuses 33 and 41, the following order applies:
Op. 33: in G sharp minor No. 1, in C major No. 2, in D major No. 3, in B minor No. 4
Op.41: in E minor No. 1, in B major No. 2, in A flat major No. 3, in C sharp minor No. 4
Waltz in E flat major Op. 18, Waltz in A flat major Op. 34, Waltz in A flat major Op. 42
Sonata in C minor, Op. 4 or Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 35 or Sonata in B minor, Op. 58
Repetition of the exposition in the first movement of the B minor Sonata should be left out; the repetition of the first movement of the B flat minor Sonata is optional.
Thoughts and Highlights from Stage I
Without what might appear as hyperbole and gross exaggeration, this competition is surely a unique event in the musical life of Europe and the world. I remember when the idea of a Chopin Competition on period pianos was first mooted over five years ago, how this concept was met with a degree of derision and scorn except from musicians with vision and the experience of playing instruments of the period, evoking that rare, irreplaceable soundscape and 'opening the doors of perception' of former times. With technological advances, we are moving exponentially further and further from the source of this sublime music, ravaged rather by the our constructed notion of linear time. The preservation and context of these precious lost worlds of sound has massively advanced in importance.
The range of original and newly crafted period pianos assembled in Warsaw for this competition is greater than ever as are the number of experienced applicants taking part. After the completion of Stage I it is clear their pianistic abilities and musical accomplishments are also substantially greater than ever.
I see an analogous situation evolving to that which pertained in the late 1960s and 1970s. At that time, there emerged a revolutionary revival of baroque performance practice and the replacement of 'modern' harpsichords designed by say Pleyel or Challis with acoustic, uniquely resonant period instruments restored or newly built by craftsmen along traditional national lines. New life was breathed into the domain of J. S. Bach, François Couperin, Johann Jakob Froberger and other great composers from the more distant past by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gustav Leonhardt, Christopher Hogwood, Trevor Pinnock, Tom Koopman and other now renowned musicians. The use of new historically designed or restored harpsichords as solo instruments or in period orchestras, fully embracing the music written for them, has now become an accepted commonplace. This was not always the case. An entire performance art of previous centuries has been raised from the dead like Lazarus.
This irresistible process is now being extended into the closer past of the nineteenth century and the exploration of the eloquent potential of period pianos to revivify the past sound, context and performance of Chopin, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms as change rockets balefully before us.
The first sign of this sea change was surely the inauguration of the competition with a contemporary commission for fortepiano of work entitled presciently Bridging Realms by the Japanese composer Dai Fujikura. This remarkable premiere with other celebrated musicians (detailed below) was on a copy of an 1819 Graf played by the renowned Naruhiko Kawaguchi with the [oh!] Orchestra. The long solo opening soliloquy exploring the sound utilized with ethereal delicacy the una corda possibilities of the Graf.
The Competition participants were pianists from all over the world, aged 18 to 35. The acceptance programme was presented on video performed on an historical instrument. Finding a well-maintained, accessible period instrument is not always easy. The Competition jury was comprised of outstanding representatives of the music world whose artistic and professional activity places them among the most distinguished specialists in the field of historical performance.
The Competition participants chose period pianos from the collections of The National Fryderyk Chopin Institute (a Paul McNulty copy of an 1830 Pleyel ; his copy of an 1819 Graf ; also his recent copy (2017) of the 1825 Polish Buchholtz (with a slightly extended compass and extra moderator pedal). In addition there is an 1838 Érard and a unique and magnificent 1842 Pleyel from the Edwin Beunk collection; an 1846 Broadwood from the Andrzej Włodarczyk collection and an original 1835 Graf from the Chris Meane collection.
The competition opened with Derek Wang from the US. His Bach Prelude and Fugue with the marvellous, polyphonically transparent sound of the 1842 Pleyel was memorable and the Karol Kurpiński Polonaise a light salon delight on the 1835 Graf. I was fascinated as so many different period pianos (as many as three) were moved around the stage with efficiency and alacrity as each new contestant emerged. A unique sight certainly !
Angie Zhang gave us some excellent Bach on the 1838 Érard and a superbly evocative and narrative Chopin G-minor Ballade Op.23 on the 1842 Pleyel. Yonghuan Zhong produced the most exquisite poetic, singing sound (just as Chopin directed) also from the this instrument during the youthful Polonaise in D minor. The theme emerged as a ghostly trail - marvellously irreplaceable in existential life. Also as impressive was his excellent in glowing yet powerful sound, again on the Pleyel, of the Chopin Ballade in F major Op.38. This was a passionate, lyrical accumulation of tension and controlled, yet explosive emotion that lies at its heart, moving towards the nervous exhaustion of brief final resignation.
As might be expected from an artistic Italian, I found Alice Baccalini's choice of the Maria Szymanowka Polonaise in F minor fascinating using the time traveller's sound world of the 1825 Buchholtz copy. The history of the construction of this piano is too involved for this space but riveting, so do research it. On the 1842 Pleyel Baccalini improvised decorations and embellishments for the Chopin youthful Polonaise that were both appropriate in period and charming. The sound of her Chopin Ballade in F-minor Op.52 on this same instrument touched the heart and soul in a manner and depth unobtainable on a modern instrument of our time. It was a dramatic interpretation full of Latin fire and irresistible impetus. The lady is a definite Chopinist.
The variations on pianists' approach and choice of instrument for the miniature Mozart Fantasy in D Minor K 397 has given me enough material for an entire conference ! The interpretative range of the 'Fantasy' extended from a youthful Viennese confection, through accurate Urtext adoration to philosophical existential dilemma, with all the dynamic, sound and textural differences possible on these period instruments. Alfred Einstein describes the final Allegretto as having a 'celestial childlike nature, which is far too short really to complete the work.' He felt it was an introduction to other more extensive works.
I liked very much Aleksandra Bobrowska on the 1835 Graf. Under her fingers it became a true fantasy with many changes of mood and attitude. On the 1842 Pleyel her approach to the Ogiński Polonaise 'Farewell to the Fatherland' was intensely emotive as reflection changed to militant resistance. Her Barcarolle on the same instrument was also seductive in a soft setting - one could feel the movement of the lagoon.
Akeksandra Hortensja Dąbek appropriately chose the 1846 Broadwood for the clear polyphony highlighted in her Bach on this instrument. The piano looked rather large compared to the elegance of the others ('le rosbif') but gave Chopin's music a deeper sound substance verging on modern renditions. When revolution broke out in Paris in 1848, Chopin and many of his acquaintances came to England. Pleyel recommended that Chopin place himself in the hands of John Broadwood & Sons, from whom he chose three pianos; one to be shipped to Scotland, one for his lodgings and one for his public performances in England. The Ballade performed by Dąbek was possessed of great drama, theatre and a strong sense of narration.
Bach was emerging as a great strength of participants in this competition. Joanna Goranko on the 1842 Pleyel presented us with fine Bach that although fairly straightforward showed rare emotional imagination. Also she created superb sound and registration colours from the McNulty copy of an 1830 Pleyel. I also found the Yuina Hayakawa recital very satisfying. The Karol Kurpiński Polonaise on the 1820 Pleyel copy was very spirited as it should be. The strong sense of cumulative emotional heat in the tragic narrative and żal of the Chopin G-minor Ballade on the 1842 Pleyel displayed her fine technique in terms of articulation, touch and tone production.
Day 1 concluded with a marvellous entire recital by Eric Guo. The Bach on the 1835 Graf had expressive polyphony and great nobility of utterance. I also felt he understood the nature of the Polish Polonaise in the Chopin and Kurpiński and the narrative thread, even the humour of it in this case which most players missed
‘The polonaise breathes and paints the whole national character; the music of this dance, while admitting much art, combines something martial with a sweetness marked by the simplicity of manners of an agricultural people…….Our fathers danced it with a marvellous ability and a gravity full of nobleness; the dancer, making gliding steps with energy, but without skips, and caressing his moustache, varied his movements by the position of his sabre, of his cap, and of his tucked-up coat sleeves, distinctive signs of a free man and a warlike citizen.’
(The 19th century poet and critic Casimir Brodzińsk)
The Mozart Fantasy was theatrical. His sensitivity to the glorious sound of the 1842 Pleyel in the Chopin Barcarolle was clear from the poetic opening and his use of graded dynamics gave the work significant musical meaning. Beautifully wrought lyrical cantabile and great musical authority were always in evidence.
Having listened to 12 contestants each for 40 minutes and 60 pieces on many different period pianos with little sleep or food, I entered the Kameralna Hall in Warsaw the next day somewhat shell-shocked for the next phase of the marathon. The competition is particularly demanding on the participants for they must master a specialist instrument as well as master the musical material.
The Japanese competition pianists generally have an excellent and highly competent approach to the Bach Preludes and Fugues. This was true of Satochi Iijima on the 1842 Pleyel with his fine articulation and absence of pedal. Saya Kamada is clearly an accomplished pianist. Her Bach on the 1842 Pleyel betrayed immense authority and musical penetration of the polyphony. The Chopin Polonaise on the same instrument was as spirited as the partying young Chopin in his youth in Warsaw. This was equally true of the spirit and expressiveness threaded through the Szymanowska Polonaise. The Chopin F-minor Polonaise Op.52 was on the excellent 1838 Erard which was impressive pianistically and expressive musically but occasionally too harsh a tone for period instrument.
Of the recital Hyunji Kim I was much taken by her Chopin Barcarolle on the 1838 Érard. The gentle beginning set a perfect tonal landscape, a Turneresque watercolour atmosphere for this romantic and nostalgic excursion on the Venetian lagoon. The work emerged as a poignant dream of love with a subtle gesture towards a blighted disturbance or argument of a not too extreme variety, as inevitably occurs with romantic affections. There was a play of many moods between these lovers as they cross the lagoon. She created an entire poetic narrative where happiness finally arrives in a rare ecstatic polyphony. A most poignant account that eschews violence but paints the reality of love with disturbing hints of disillusionment.
I was moved by the expressive Mozart Fantasy played on a the 1835 Graf by Song-Ha Kim. Tasteful and not exaggerated or mannered or pretentious in any way as with many other accounts. The Ogiński Polonaise was musically expressive and the Bach on the 1842 Pleyel drew the audience into its polyphonic orbit. The Chopin Polonaise on the same instrument was quite lovely if a touch sentimental.
Mariia Kurtynina is by far the most interesting, creative and imaginative competitor in the competition. Life force seemed to enter the hall with her playing ! She composed her own rather extensive introductory prelude on the 1825 Buchholtz copy which fitted Bach seamlessly.
This activity of 'Preluding' in the key of the following piece to be performed is quite a popular period feature in this competition unlike the first competition five years ago. Education is the explanation! Unfortunately with many players, all too often the 'Prelude' bore no relationship I could fathom with the key of the work to follow. Not the case here. Research indicated this activity was common in period but thought and imagination are required for it to sound natural and organic. Mariia has this in abundance.
The Mozart expressed her unique concept of the work. Her personality and extrovert character shone in the Kurpiński which became a true spirited Polonaise. There was another long 'prelude' to the Chopin Polonaise. I detected great individuality, spontaneity and creation 'on the spot' here which made such a change from the ubiquitous notion of over-preparation before a competition performance. The Chopin F-minor Ballade Op.52 on the 1842 Pleyel revealed a tremendous musical communicator with noticeably strong L.H. counterpoint. Nothing less than a revelation and superb structural and musical conception !
Nicolas Margarit also indulged in some 'preluding' before excellent Bach on the 1835 Graf. His authority at the keyboard, feeling for nobility, even humour, was evident in his approach to the Kurpiński Polonaise. He also had a great deal of personality and character to communicate. His Chopin Polonaise had the correct rhythm (rare) and nobility as well as control of moods. The best Polonaises in the competition so far. The Chopin Ballade in G minor Op.23 was a brilliant performance with the advanced keyboard command allowing him to express his ideas without technical hindrance. He communicated the living force of the narrative.
I have received from Chopin a Ballade’, Schumann informed his friend Heinrich Dorn in the autumn of 1836. ‘It seems to me to be the work closest to his genius (though not the most brilliant). I told him that of everything he has created thus far it appeals to my heart the most. After a lengthy silence, Chopin replied with emphasis: “I am glad, because I too like it the best, it is my dearest work”.’
The Polish renowned musicologist Mieczysław Tomaszewski paints the background to this work best:
'It was during those two years that what was original, individual and distinctive in Chopin spoke through his music with great urgency and violence, expressing the composer’s inner world spontaneously and without constraint – a world of real experiences and traumas, sentimental memories and dreams, romantic notions and fancies. Life did not spare him such experiences and traumas in those years, be it in the sphere of patriotic or of intimate feelings. [...] For everyone, the ballad was an epic work, in which what had been rejected in Classical high poetry now came to the fore: a world of extraordinary, inexplicable, mysterious, fantastical and irrational events inspired by the popular imagination. In Romantic poetry, the ballad became a ‘programmatic’ genre.
It was here that the real met the surreal. Mickiewicz gave his own definition: ‘The ballad is a tale spun from the incidents of everyday (that is, real) life or from chivalrous stories, animated by the strangeness of the Romantic world, sung in a melancholy tone, in a serious style, simple and natural in its expressions’. And there is no doubt that in creating the first of his piano ballades, Chopin allowed himself to be inspired by just such a vision of this highly Romantic genre. What he produced was an epic work telling of something that once occurred, ‘animated by strangeness’, suffused with a ‘melancholy tone’, couched in a serious style, expressed in a natural way, and so closer to an instrumental song than to an elaborate aria.'
Yuya Nishimoto played to a Japanese strengths with excellent polyphonic transparency in the Bach. Martin Nöbauer was similarly excellent in Bach although his excessive declamatory dynamic rendered the sound on the 1842 Pleyel rather over-stressed and unpleasant. It is remarkable how different pianists extract a different sound from these period instruments.
The final contestant for the day, Shun Oi, communicates well with the audience. His Bach on the 1835 Graf was possessed of great rhythmic energy but I wished he might slow the tempo so I could decode the polyphony more comfortably. His Kurpiński Polonaise on the 1825 Buchholtz copy showed understanding of the rhythm and was even quite jolly as he explored the dynamic range was clear in the Chopin Polonaise. His understanding of the genre did not involve exaggerated dynamics. The lyrical sections were extremely beautiful as he used the range of colours available on the Buchholtz to create a painting. This account was excellent and by far the best Polonaise so far in the competition. The Mozart Rondo on the 1835 Graf was in the Viennese style but is not Beethoven. Overall an excellent interpretation with many attractive, delicate details. The Chopin Ballade played on the 1842 Pleyel had a fine, sensitive opening as the singer/storyteller began his tale.
Arisa Onoda on the 1837 Graf has an excellent command of the style brillante that is so vital to understanding the youthful Chopin, so influenced by Hummel and Moscheles. Piotr Pawlak penetrated well what Chopin referred to as 'the Polish element' in his music on the 1830 Pleyel copy. He has an acute sense of the polonaise rhythm and produced in fluent playing in one of the very best of the early polonaises of Chopin in the competition. He utilized the moderator on the 1825 Buchholtz copy with great understanding of the effect on Bach and the polyphony of the fugue.
Kamila Sacharzewska is a sensitive, elegant and impressive artist. Her Bach Prelude & Fugue on the 1825 Buchholtz copy was most impressive. In Mozart she injected a warm element of nineteenth century Romantic fantasy and fragile emotion which lifted the overall impression to the heights. I truly adored her Chopin Polonaise in A-flat major (WN3) on the 1830 Pleyel copy as it is my favourite of his youthful dalliances with a deeply affecting, refined and elegant melody. The work is rarely played in this competition. I found it idiomatic and profoundly satisfying as a work of art.
It is hardly surprising Chopin was known in his youth as the Polish Mozart. The Ogiński Polonaise on the 1825 Buchholtz copy embraced the mood of melancholic nostalgia and sense of loss that I would anticipate. There was immense nobility and pride in the militaristic elements with no misplaced dynamic exaggerations. The mists of regret overcame me as I experienced the perfectly created mood of such a famous work, so rarely played today with the national understanding of the suffering of partitioned Poland of the time.
A Spanish jury member years ago told me that it was entirely unnecessary to listen to so many pieces at Stage I of any competition. All that is needed is ten minutes of Bach to judge the quality of a pianist!
This was clear to me when Dávid Szilasi opened his recital with the long Bach Prelude & Fugue in G-sharp minor BWV 887 from Book II of the WTC on the 1825 Buchholtz copy. An expressive and impressive account full of driving energy yet with clear polyphony in the fugue. Also on this instrument he performed an excellent early Chopin Polonaise, one of the best I have heard. The Mozart he presented inhabited the cusp of the classical and romantic. A balanced account without dynamic exaggerations or 'cheap tricks'. I felt it as an inner restrained drama. The Ogiński Polonaise 'Farewell to the Fatherland' was suitably nostalgic, melancholic and elegiac.
Playing these four pieces on the same instrument was perfectly in period and an advantage to my mind. He chose however the 1842 Pleyel for the Chopin Ballade in F minor. A simple, childlike opening was followed by a nuanced approach rather than overt declamation which young pianists often find tempting. A subtly and beautifully understated performance of this great masterpiece. By far the finest Ballade I have heard in the competition.
Any spirited performance of a Polonaise with Polish rhythm and execution wrestles my attention and so it was with the Kurpiński Polonaise played by the smiling and clearly happy pianist (rare enough!) Nao Takahashi on the 1835 Graf.
The hair of concert pianists is often commented upon. Here we had an Italian lady, Ludovica Vincenti, with a huge aureole of spectacular hair and I hoped talent to match. I was not disappointed ! Bach on the 1825 Buchholtz copy began with a rather up tempo Prelude but finally most impressive in the fugue. For the Kurpiński Polonaise she effectively utilized many of the moderator tonal effects possible on the Buchholtz.
Many pianists in the competition used the special effects possible on period pianos but all too often the logic or musical reasoning behind their use escaped me. Not in this case of her always expressive enhancement. The early Chopin Polonaise on the Broadwood was fine indeed. An alluring, seductive tone and touch informed her Chopin Ballade on the 1842 Pleyel.
Jannik Truong gave us some magnificent, polyphonically transparent Bach on the 1825 Buchholtz copy. He gave a spirited approach with colourful embellishments and decoration to the early Chopin Polonaise on the 1842 Pleyel. I also consider his choice of the Chopin Ballade in F major Op.38 was particularly well informed but he made rather much of it as a virtuoso piano piece. Such a masterpiece of musical condensation Chopin has given us here. I feel the opening should be more like a gently hovering meditative thought that passes over the fraught dramas of a past love life, opening like a landscape of memory below.
List of Participants 8th October 2023 in order of appearance:
Arisa Onada (Japan)
Madoka Okada (Japan/France)
Piotr Pawlak (Poland)
Kamila Sacharzewska (Poland)
Viacheslav Shelepov (Russia)
Dávid Szilasi (Hungary)
Mana Shoji (Japan)
Nao Takahashi (Japan)
Ludovica Vincenti (Italy)
Jannik Truong (Germany)
Stage I Day 2
October 7th 2023
List of Participants 7th October 2023 in order of appearance:
Yukino Hayashi (Japan)
Satoshi Iijima (Japan)
Oscar Jiang (Australia)
Saya Kamada (Japan)
Hyunji Kim (South Korea)
Song-Ha Kim (South Korea)
Mariia Kurtynina (Russia)
Nicolas Margarit (Australia/Spain)
Danilo Mascetti (Italy)
Yuya Nashimoto (Japan)
Martin Nöbauer (Austria)
Shun Oi (Japan)
On October 8th I would prefer to give some of the highlights I noted at the conclusion of Stage I.
Also I feel it is not appropriate for me to give my personal opinion of participants' performance in public until the jury have decided on those participants who will progress to Stage II
Stage I Day I
October 6th 2023
It was a day that demonstrated outstanding talents performing on a most remarkable range of superbly restored or high quality modern copies of period pianos. Once again they 'opened the doors of perception' on new soundscapes in surprising and occasionally brilliant ways.
There will be twelve participants each day (of thirty-five in total) each playing for some forty minutes a range of five pieces. It is just not humanly possible for me in terms of time to listen to the performances, sleep, eat and give written criticism in detail of each performance of the sixty works heard each day of Stage I.
List of Participants 6th October 2023 in order of appearance:
Derek Wang (US)
Chaojun Yang (China)
Andrzej Wierciński (Poland)
Angie Zhang (US)
Yonghuan Zhong (China)
Alice Baccalini (Italy)
Aleksandra Bobrowska (Poland)
Simone El Oufir Pierini (Italy)
Aleksamdra Hortensja Dąbek (Poland)
Joanna Goranko (Poland)
Yuina Hayakawa (Japan)
Eric Guo (Canada)
Here is the demanding list of works each participant needed to choose from for Stage I of the competition. As you will see all pieces were not by Chopin.
As ever, I felt the Bach Prelude and Fugue almost instantly revealed the quality of the pianist! They were also required to choose a period piano they felt suitable for the works they chose. Most chose as many as three period instruments from different eras and countries of manufacture.
One of the lodestars the Chopin Institute has followed from its earliest days and a fundamental component of its programme is the endeavour to bring back the authentic sound of the music our composing genius created.
The participants have been selected from 84 candidates who submitted their applications.
The most represented countries will be:
Japan: 10 participants
Poland: 6 participants
Italy: 4 participants.
China, South Korea, the USA, and Russia - 2 participants.
Australia, Austria, France, Spain, Canada, Germany and Hungary - 1 participant
Official competition website:
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If you are more serious than 'normal' folk about the poignant effect of Chopin performed on period instruments do read my past report and detailed account of the first competition linked below.
Another rich interpretative dimension on sublime Chopin opened during the competition.
The use of period pianos should not be considered a replacement for Chopin on the modern concert instrument, but a useful and thought provoking corrective for the modern pianist and Chopin obsessive. Especially true if you use the National Edition of his compositions edited by the great Jan Ekier with his many possible subtle variant readings (a Chopin specialty) that are carefully noted.
Final Report on 1st International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments
Warsaw 2–14 September 2018
For photographs of the instruments used and a detailed, fully illustrated review of each participant and each piece at each competition stage: