Cliburn Semifinal: Round 3

Fri Jun 02, 2017 at 10:34 pm
By Wayne Lee Gay

Yury Favorin

The centuries-old Russian tradition of piano virtuosity lives on, as 30-year-old Yury Favorin clearly announced in his high-octane approach to the opening measures of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata. Precision be damned, at least in the first movement: Favorin aimed for a distinctive power and color without playing every note in every chord exactly together, in a style harkening back to the early twentieth century.

He evoked a huge range of emotions with a lively energy in the first two movements of this monument of the canon, and followed up with an almost hypnotic quality in the Adagio. After the intriguingly meandering interlude, he launched into the volcanic final movement to give the sort of performance that wins medals at competitions. Here, in this incredibly complex fugue, precision matters, and Favorin proved he had plenty—along with fingers of steel.

He then turned to the twentieth century and a work clearly influenced by Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata, Shostakovich’s Sonata No. 1. Rife with technical pitfalls and drama, it made a perfect companion for Beethoven, and a perfect showcase for a pianist of rare power.

Gyorgy Tchaidze

The second Russian of the evening, Georgy Tchaidze, 29, opened his program with Schumann’s Waldszenen (Forest Scenes). He delicately laid out these eight descriptive movements, showing particular strength in wonderfully controlled melody lines, blended with Schumann’s gentle accompaniments—from the mysterious flutters of “The Prophet Bird” to the sturdy fanfares of the Jagdlied (Hunting Song).

Tchaidze detoured briefly from the standard repertoire for late romantic Russian composer Nikolai Medtner’s “Alla Reminiscenza,” the eighth of a set of echt-romantic Forgotten Melodies. A complex pattern of eight beats in the right hand against three in the left here produces a seductive mood of sweet serenity, which Tchaidze managed effortlessly and winningly.

Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition returned for the second time during the day’s proceedings to close Tchaidze’s program. His immaculate pacing, rich voicings, and obvious stamina breathed life into this popular warhorse and spotlighted Tchaidze as another Russian with a clear shot at a medal.

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