SIPCA 5 (Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia) – The first cut

Sunday afternoon with D to the afternoon and final session of Stage II.

In the morning I heard a bit of the playing, and in particular a pretty exciting Petruschka by Tatiana Kolesova. P, who was there, told me that it was gripping stuff, so for once the radio did not lie.

I wondered if someone had had a word to Gerard Willems about his radio commentary, because he was now describing the appearance of the male contestants as well as the female, though not to the extent of describing their clothes.

Of those I heard this afternoon, in the first half:I enjoyed particularly Sean Chen‘s Rachmaninov Etudes Tableaux; I wasn’t crazy about Sergei Saratovsky‘s Bach C# minor (Book II) though he was obviously a strong player – if neither as dark or as handsome as his PR picture; I was unimpressed by Ryan McEvoy McCullough‘s Schubert Impromptu (and take back some of my criticism of Emmanuel Ax‘s, which I know is rather an unfair comparison) but liked his Magin studies. Chun-Chieh Yen bravely took on 6 Chopin Etudes in a row, but not always, I thought, entirely idiomatically. And that’s not because I didn’t want him to do well, because – how shall I put it delicately? – neither D nor I felt he could be accused of being “str8-acting.”

In the second half, Eric Zuber made the strongest impression, especially in his Liszt Spanish Rhapsody. But I also liked, in different ways, both Yekwon Sunwoo (at 19, one of the younger competitors: maybe not yet up to a really brilliant Islamey) and Xun Wang (best in the Chopin Waltzes, which I really enjoyed, not so convincing in the Hungarian Rhapsody).

The thing is, by the end I was wearying of critical assessment. And now that the decision as to who is to progress to the next stage has been announced, I have lost the stomach for it.

Since the link doesn’t go straight to the list, here is the playing order for stage III:

Mon 21 July

09:30 – Hao Zhu
10.10 – Hoang Pham


11:10 – Alexey Yemtsov
11:50 – Tomoki Kitamura

14:00 – David Fung
14:40 – Fernando Altamura


15:40 – Mariangela Vacatello
16:20 – Jose Menor

19:15 – Christopher Devine
19:55 – Takashi Sato


20:55 – Miyeon Lee
21:35 – Yoonsoo Rhee

Tuesday 22nd July

09:30 – Konstantin Shamray
10:10 – Tatiana Kolesova


11:10 – Daniil Tsvetkov
11:50 – Ran Dank

14:00 – Charlie Albright
14:40 – Sean Chen


15:40 – Sergei Saratovsky
16:20 – Eric Zuber

D went home, but I hung around at the Seymour Centre for the announcement of the jury’s decision as to who should go ahead to the next round. I was one of the tragic 100 or so. After about an hour, the announcement was made. This is the nasty bit about competitions – if there are winners, there must also be not-winners (OK: losers, if you must). I am soft hearted about this bit. I took the bus home (rain was now falling: cf James Joyce, Dubliners) feeling rather sad.

Because I didn’t hear everybody, I’m not really qualified to give a firm opinion on the 20 selected. All of the obvious people (from either report or my own hearing) did get through, none of the ones who I thought would definitely not go through progressed, but of course there is room for some surprise or disappointment in the middle ranks – particularly because the voting system is a kind of modified first-past-the-post system. This is the point of the road not taken. As I look at the repertoire of those eliminated and realise that we won’t now be hearing it, I’m feeling just a bit regretful.

When the announcement was made, I was sitting with the Steinway gang. Of course, they have their own agenda and focus of interest. Apparently the score for the next round is Steinway 8; Yamaha 8; Kawai 4.

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