Cliburn semifinal: Round 7

Mon Jun 05, 2017 at 12:22 am
By Wayne Lee Gay

Yury Favorin shakes hands with conductor Nicholas McGegan following his performance Sunday night. Photo: Ralph Lauer

Sunday night, on the second of three evenings of Mozart Concertos, conductor Nicholas McGegan and the Fort Worth Symphony once again provided sturdy, assertive, and stylish support for competitors in the concerto phase of the semifinal round of the 2017 Cliburn Competition.

Chinese pianist Yutong Sun failed, however, to take advantage of that solid foundation in his performance of the Concerto No. 20 in D minor. Granted, a performance of any Mozart orchestral work in a modern concert hall offers the unique challenges of balancing an appropriately Mozartian style with the need to project in a large room; although Sun clearly had some strong concepts about the piece, he was clearly underprepared—or possibly inadequately experienced—for the particular issues at hand. Although the disappearance of his soft passages into the orchestral texture was obvious, the larger issue for Sun was in the absence of a sense of properly placing this music in this environment. A sometimes tortured posture, even in the orchestral interludes, didn’t help in terms of communicating confidence of interpretation.

Honggi Kim presented the second undernourished Mozart of the evening in his performance of the Concerto No. 23. Failure to assert adequate volume against the orchestra was once again the problem. In this case, the fault definitely falls to the soloist for simply inadequately coming up to the level of projection of the orchestra, which was under the sure hand of one of the great Mozart interpreters of our time. Unsteady tempos on the part of the soloist made for muddled moments, and the proto-romantic middle movement failed to gain the breadth implied in the music. Kim had demonstrated a considerable gift for the piano music of the late twentieth century in his performance Thursday of Vine’s Second Sonata; this concerto performance exposed serious weakness not only in classical period music in general but in the specialized issues of Mozart concertos. Once again, one sensed a performer devoted to the cause of the work at hand, but short on the necessary expertise and, at the moment, temperament.

Russian Yury Favorin clearly demonstrated that his breadth and depth extended well beyond the impressive command he had demonstrated in late Beethoven and Shostakovich during his semifinal round recital performer. Here is a performer clearly ready for the world stage, meeting McGegan on his own ground with a performance of the Concerto No. 21. The first movement clearly announced Favorin’s understanding as well as his unique approach to Mozart, tinged, as one might expect given his background, with romantic pianism. This was particularly evident in his choice of the cadenzas of twentieth-century French pianist Robert Casadesus; Favorin very successfully integrated this slightly showy romantic episode into Mozart’s eighteenth-century textures, and McGegan likewise contributed to making the leap from one century to another. This one aspect epitomized Favorin’s approach throughout the concerto, as he melded his own virtuosic personality and approach with this joyful, lyrical manifestation of Mozart’s genius.

Conductor McGegan set up a particularly broad, appealingly dark orchestral buildup for Russian Georgy Tchaidze’s entry in the Concerto No. 20 in D minor; after this appropriately turbulent reading of the opening exposition, Tchaidze came in with arresting understatement, from which he and the orchestra built a wonderful momentum throughout this darkest of Mozart’s concerto movements. Tchaidze found a perfect balance of emotion and classicism in the slow Romanze movement; he highlighted the third movement with an original cadenza (albeit with a heavy Russian accent), reiterating darkness before the final joyful close, made all the more exciting with a perfect poco accelerando of the sort that can happen when a great conductor and great soloist are working together.

One Response to “Cliburn semifinal: Round 7”

  1. Posted Jun 05, 2017 at 11:41 pm by Giselle

    I enjoyed reading your reviews Wayne Thank you!

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