SIPCA 2016 3 – the verdict

On Friday and Saturday with D to the C19 and C20 concerto finals of the Sydney International Piano Competition.

We were home for the announcement of the prizes.

No complaint about the winner: Andrey Gugnin looked a likely winner from the first round (according to others I respect).  I really liked his Kreutzer sonata with Tasmin Little and his Prokofiev, and his semi-final recital was also impressive.  And though we only saw his C18 concerto streamed, D and I both thought he was the best of that night.

The special prizes awarded by the jury, so far as I correlate them to players I heard live (or, if streamed, the comments of those who were there), also seemed well-judged.

The Sydney Symphony gave their own prize for best concerto to Gugnin.

With the introduction of internet voting and also earlier “paper” voting the people’s choice prize was always going to be a bit of a wild-card. You wonder how exactly the voting could be audited – in previous years a vote at the finals with a piece of paper from the program had at least a fairly straightforward means of verification of votes.  I was a bit surprised to see this prize go to Xie Ming, given that he hadn’t reached the finals, but he was definitely a likeable and popular competitor.  As Mr Flamboyant it was fitting that he received an award in commemoration of Dennis Hennig.

It was gratifying to see each that each of the three players whose failure to progress to the semi-finals I regretted were awarded special prizes, including the jury chipping in for a special prize for Martin Malmgren.

But I might as well cut to the chase.  Given that the jury thought Kong Jia Ning played the best semi-final recital (memorable Bach and then the Diabelli variations) and that he played the best eighteenth century concerto, it seems strange that at sixth place he came in last of all the finalists.  Was his Brahms concerto (by far the most difficult choice and yes, an ambitious choice for him) really that bad?

It didn’t seem so to me.  In The Australian Murray Black had a go at Kong for forcing his tone in the first two movements (“all iron fist and no velvet glove”).  This is not an area where you can educate your taste with recordings. In my experience of live performances (in recent years: Hammelin with the WASO in 2009, Bianconi with the SSO in 2012) there has always been some stringency of tone.

I know  (eg but not only him) I’m not the only one who thinks Kong could have been more highly placed.

One Response to “SIPCA 2016 3 – the verdict”

  1. gerryrobertsblog Says:

    I’m of the same opinion. His Brahms 2 did not feel like a prize winning performance, but along with his exquisite Mozart 21 I expected him to finish higher than 6th. Still, he is a pianist of rare skill and insight. The Diabelli variations were my personal highlight for Sipca 2016.

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