SIPCA 2012 continued and rejigged

Since last posting on this topic, I have been to quite a bit of the Sydney International Piano Competition [not Nova Scotia but] Australia. I managed to hear in the flesh all 12 of the semifinalists though not always for both their solo recital and their chamber music performance. Except for Stefano Guarascio I heard all of them in an earlier round even if I did not catch their semifinal recital.

I also listened to some broadcasts but I want to emphasise that broadcasts give a very different impression and fall far short of replicating the experience if you are there in the flesh. You might hear all the notes but you don’t hear the tone, the true volume or, in the chamber music, the true balance. More contentiously and probably less importantly (because one might wonder: why is this relevant?) you are deprived of any visual element. If you are actually there you can also assess the way that the performer holds the attention of the audience. That shared attention is an important part of the live performance experience and also, if you are being evaluative, a kind of double-check on your own response.

The six finalists to play with the orchestra have been announced.

Next Tuesday and Wednesday they will play Mozart concerti. Those will be K 467, 467, 453 and 453, 491 and 467 respectively.

Next Friday night and Saturday afternoon, they will play their nineteenth and twentieth century concerti. This is [correction: was, when first announced – see below] the roster:

Friday 20th July, 8.00pm (19th/20th Century Concerti)
Tanya Gabrielian – Tchaikovsky 1
Nikolay Khozyainov – Rachmaninov 3
Dmitry Onishchenko – Rachmaninov 3

Saturday 21st July, 2.30pm (19th/20th Century Concerti)
Avan Yu – Rachmaninov – Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini
Hao Zhu – Rachmaninov 2
Mikhail Berestnev Rachmaninov – Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini

That’s rather a lot of Rachmaninov, isn’t it? And it’s not as if the sole Tchaikovsky really breaks the pattern.

I would have preferred to have seen in the final one or both of the two Italians, Guarascio and Giulio Biddau, not just because they were down to play Liszt and Brahms 1 respectively (aside from Gabrielian they were the only semifinalists who did not choose Rachmaninov), but because those choices are a proxy for something more. They are both more interesting pianists (to me, anyway) than at least two of those who have been chosen.


There has been a rejig of the order: Berestnev has been moved to the first program and Khozyainov moved to the second program. This avoids two Rachmaninov 3s on Friday and two Paganini Rhapsodies on Saturday. The same could have been achieved by swapping Berestnev or Yu for Onishchenko – if Yu had gone rather than Berestnev this would have avoided 3 K467s on Tuesday.

This gives an advantage to Khozyainov, particularly in relation to voting for the “People’s Choice” prize, since that voting is by those who are present on the Saturday.

In my opinion it would have been better if things had been left as they were.

3 Responses to “SIPCA 2012 continued and rejigged

  1. Robin Says:

    I went to much of SIPCA.

    It is a great shame that neither of the Italians made the finals. Indeed it seems incomprehensible. All I spoke with in the audience thought the Italians were not only superb, but perhaps the best. The general view was that Nikolay and Dimitri had to go through with the two Italians, and the remaining two spots were quite open.

    Perhaps this will cause SIPCA to again, fail to produce a winner who goes on to greater things.

  2. Lizard Says:

    Stefano Guarascio was a shoe in I would have thought. Having attended the finals, the end result was something out of the box. It is hard to believe that Tanya Gabrielian could poll sixth, even if in parts of the Tchaikovsky, the piano and orchestra were slightly at odds. There were also impressive moments of great clarity and technique which also makes one wonder why the comments relating to her “lack” of technique graced the airwaves? The Rachmaninov 3’s again had a tendency to underline how subjective the competition is. The winner was a surprise and the guy who came fifth, was possible four positions back from his natural fit. Who is on mushrooms then?

    • marcellous Says:

      It’s “shoo-in” actually. (That’s just a passing remark about a [mis]spelling which I see often – don’t take it personally.)

      Your comment shows that opinions can vary: I don’t agree with you that Mr Berestnev should have been ranked higher than he was – sorry, I now see you meant Hao Zhu – I do think HZ might have done better but not necessarily first – I really loved his Messiaen, for example. In fact I was thinking of Berestnev as one of the finalists over whom I would have preferred either of the Italians. The jurors obviously reached a different conclusion on that, for whatever reasons (the prize they gave Berestnev for best performance of a Russian work is some indication of where they considered he was ahead at that stage). In the Paganini variations, Yu outclassed Berestnev on a whole host of criteria: accuracy; dynamic range; nuances (eg: swirling crescendi in figurative whirls); tone; structure and, most of all, interest and variety of mood in the different variations.

      You also have to remember that the jury’s decision is one reached by a committee – outliers suffer in this.

      As to the opinions on the airwaves – those too are just opinions. The jurors are the ones least likely to have heard them and certainly unlikely to be swayed by them. For what it’s worth, in the Tchaikovsky I thought TG flagged in the third movement and if remarks were made about her technique (I wasn’t listening to the radio for that) the comments were probably directed to that. Anyway, it’s all relative – they’ve all got good technique in absolute terms.

      From his comments after the results were announced, I take it that Gerard Willems would have preferred Nikolay K to have won. He is a brilliant player but I’m relieved he didn’t win because that to me would have been such a stereotypical “competition” victory. The prize shouldn’t just be for fast.

      Leaving aside the overlooking of the Italians, the spread/mix of the prizes (including the prizes for players in earlier rounds who did not progress) restored for me some confidence in the jury process. So I don’t think it’s a matter of mushrooms at all.

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