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Cliburn Preliminaries Move Into Second Half


by Olin Chism 25 May 2009

Sunday night’s performances at the Van Cliburn Competition were on a slightly lower plateau than those of early afternoon. There was something interesting from each of the three contestants, but nothing quite as riveting as the best of the daytime programs. Mariangela Vacatello of Italy (shown at left) ended her program, and the evening’s session, […]

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Sunday night’s performances at the Van Cliburn Competition were on a slightly lower plateau than those of early afternoon. There was something interesting from each of the three contestants, but nothing quite as riveting as the best of the daytime programs.

Mariangela Vacatello of Italy (shown at left) ended her program, and the evening’s session, with a spectacular Three Movements from Petrouchka by Stravinsky. This is an old Cliburn Competition favorite, but this was its first appearance of the 2009 edition (it’ll be back again Monday night). Vacatello has enormous strength and agility and a sense of playfulness and I was reminded of another spectacular Cliburn Petrouchka of long ago, by Alexander Toradze. Vacatello’s (and Toradze’s) was certainly a lively romp.

Vacatello opened her program with a superb performance of yet another Haydn sonata, this time in C, Hob. XVI:50. Cleanly played, this was high-spirited enough to cheer up a misanthrope.

Busoni’s Ten Variations on a Prelude by Chopin and Liszt’s Transcendental Etude No. 10 were competently played but not riveting.

Feng Zhang of China played another superb Haydn sonata (More! More!), this one the rarely played Hob. XVI:6 in G. Mendelssohn’s Prelude and Fugue in E minor, Opus 35, No. 1 was another welcome stroll away from overdone repertory, and I liked the fluttering birds of Liszt’s St. Francois d’Assise: La Predication aux Oiseaux. But Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No. 2 didn’t generate much interest.

Lukas Vondracek of the Czech Republic opened his segment with a beautifully articulated performance of Bach’s Italian Concerto and closed with three highly interesting dances by his fellow countryman Smetana. I don’t know what a skocna is, but if you want to lose some pounds, dance it. Vondracek’s performance of this fast whirl certainly cost him some calories. The other two dances were a furiant and a hulan. Two Chopin nocturnes and Liszt’s Harmonies du Soir scored some points, though I found my attention wandering.

The audience gave Vondracek a big round of cheers and applause.
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