Last night, the audience was much larger and the stage was filled with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra for the finals of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
Leonard Slatkin, in his first appearance at the Cliburn, led the orchestra through some very challenging repertoire. This gig makes unusual demands on everyone involved. Each pianist has about an hour to rehearse with the orchestra, precious little time when the works they are playing can fill as much as 50 minutes.
Kudos to Maestro Slatkin and the orchestra for providing excellent support for each of the competitors.
Rana began the evening with a gorgeous reading of Beethoven’s 4th Concerto. I can only say that I do not expect to hear a more beautiful performance of this work. Rana’s mother was, once again, seated near us. Her pride and exhilaration were wonderful to see. She said that her daughter no longer practices for technique, “only for music.” This is a fine approach that has served her well.
The tender opening of the Prokofiev 2nd Concerto, played with gentle beauty by Nikita Mndoyants, gives way to hugely technical, often brutal, music. Mndoyants has all the technique and power required to pull this off. He gave a fine performance, but I had the feeling that he was not happy after the first movement.
Today we attended Fred Child’s conversation with conductor Leonard Slatkin who inadvertently revealed that Mndoyants had a memory slip requiring a split-second recovery by both pianist and orchestra.
Maestro Slatkin was being so careful not to reveal which pianist was involved but a pronoun slipped out. Being able to recover from a memory glitch and to continue without disintegrating is, at the very least, a sign of artistic maturity.
Fei Fei Dong chose to play Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto, a fearsome piece with a deserved reputation for eating pianists alive. Dong survived and demonstrated once again her impressive technical gifts. However, the huge demands of this piece left her with meager reserves for pulling the audience into her usual powerful emotional vortex. My mind drifted.
On stage tonight: Japan’s Tomoki Sakata, American Sean Chen and Vadym Kholodenko of the Ukraine playing respectively, Mozart, Beethoven and Prokofiev.