Archive for the ‘SIPCA’ Category

SIPCA 2016 3 – the verdict

July 24, 2016

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.

Schumann Scherzo

July 21, 2016

schumann scherzo (2)

I’ve been at home with a shocking cold, so have had a chance to catch up with some of SIPCA that has now been posted to Youtube.  I hope legitimately, because otherwise it will presumably be taken down as the preliminary rounds were.

The two performances of the Schumann quintet were by Xie Ming and Kong Jia Ning.  Kong went through to the finals; Xie did not.

Xie’s performance begins at 1:15:30 in the link below.

My friend Lw thought Kong Jia Ning’s performance better, and in particular that it was better Schumann. I was a bit disappointed that Kong seemed so impassive – whether or not it actually makes any difference it is always nice to see some interaction between the players. Xie did more of that. Lw nicknamed Xie “Liberace.”

Liberace or not, Youtube revealed one little touch, at 1:30:19 and 1:30:42 which made me smile.

Although you can’t judge it very well from the recording, I think Kong’s balance was better.  Compare the beginning of the last movement, Xie at 1:34 Kong at 1:15:10 [correction: 1:16;40] below, though I like the way both of them move briskly into it in their own ways.

SIPCA 2016 2

July 19, 2016


Last week I got to some but not all of the semi finals for the Sydney International Piano Competition. I saw 6 of the semi-finalists’ 65-minute recitals, on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and I saw 9 of their chamber music rounds, on all of Friday and Saturday night.

Because I only went to day one of the preliminary rounds, there were still 3 semifinalists whom I never heard in any round, including the much-fancied Oxana Shevkenko from Kazakhstan.

On Saturday night the finalists were announced.

Dealing first with those who were eliminated, in playing order:

Gyu Tae Ha – one of the younger competitors, not yet 20.  My friend P preferred his Mephisto Waltz to that of his compatriot in the same session.  I otherwise only heard him in the chamber-music round, where he played the Brahms violin sonata.  Maybe not yet, my friend Lw opined, a true Brahmsian.

Sergey Belyavskiy  – I heard him o  nly in the first round when he launched, impressively, into a “Rage over a lost Penny.”  He struck me as a bit of a barnstormer.  Correction: I also heard him play the Franck Sonata with the violin, which was less “barnstormish.”

Xie Ming – early on the commentators described him as “flamboyant” – which always makes my heart sink.  Not because of him but because of all of us.  At some point he declared an allegiance to Jean-Yves Thibaudet which is manifested by something red in his footwear.  I heard him in round 1 and in the semifinals.  I liked his novelty number in round 1 which required the use of the sostenuto pedal.  I thought his statement of the theme in the Beethoven “Rule Britannia” variations was too bombastic: has he not heard Wellington’s Victory?  Xie Ming has loads of personality and had quite a following but perhaps for the jury the ratio of personality to music was too high.

I never heard Alexei Melnikov or Poom Prommachart in the flesh.

Tony Lee, the sole Australian semi-finalist, was slated to play last. I heard both his semi-final rounds.  The solo round started very well as he strode out with an air of determination and sat down at the keyboard to launch into Schubert’s 3 Klavierstücke D.946.  The first two were the best.  After that, as he moved on to Chopin, I began to worry if he was playing too much “pretty” stuff.  Is that a wise tactic?  It was a relief that he played Prokofiev 7 rather than the over-exposed Prok 6, even if I disagreed with what he did in the slow[-ish] movement, where I would have preferred he changed the colours rather than dragged around the tempi quite so much.

In the chamber music round, Lee played the Brahms [violin] sonata.  This started well, especially the slow movement, but something went amiss, I think, in the last movement, and the big finish eluded him.  There  was an agonising slightly non-plussed pause before rather desultory applause from the audience.  I think Lee deserved better than that and I really felt for him.  Maybe everyone was just exhausted.

As I am, other than to mention that the picture above is a tribute to Tasmin Little’s and Andrey Gugnin‘s performance of the Kreutzer sonata.  They may have been winging it for co-ordination (they only had one and a half hours to rehearse about 40 minutes of music) but both of them were sizzling pretty hot.  Tasmin could have done worse than to sweep up young Andrey from the keyboard at the end.

PS: It looks as though SIPCA itself has now put the semi-finals and finals up on Youtube. You can see the exhilaration at the end of the Kreutzer at about 2:47:47 here.







SIPCA 2016 1

July 15, 2016

This is a belated post.

Last Thursday I went to most of the first day of this year’s Sydney International Piano Competition. Having been delayed by torrential downpours, already too late for the first competitor, I also missed the second.  There was only one computer at the box office, manned by box-office personnel from the Opera House (to which the competition has outsourced its ticketing for this competition).

How it was that I hadn’t booked tickets earlier is another story. Suffice to say that an unwieldy computer booking system, SOH box office staff who weren’t entirely familiar with what they were selling and the notably more expensive tickets for this year each played a part.

Still, that left 6 more players at 20 minutes each in the first session, and another 8 in the evening.

That is almost too much piano music for me to sit and watch in one go (or, I suppose, two goes), though once you get into the rhythm of it, it has a certain Zen.

I now regret that I missed the gala concert the night before as this would have been a great opportunity to hear the active pianists amongst the jurors.

The competition is being live-streamed with visual as well as the audio which, as in previous years, is produced by ABC “Classic” FM.  Someone has now put up the streaming of the gala concert and the first two rounds of the competition on Youtube.  [See afterword below: it was evidently unauthorised and has now all been taken down.]  It’s not really a substitute for being there because recordings do not give a true record of how the instrument sounds in the hall.  This also varies according to where you are seated but the main thing which the recording doesn’t capture is that the hall is quite resonant.  Sound is clearest up the back upstairs where the jury sits.  My feeling is that it took a while for some competitors to make the necessary adjustments to speed and pedalling, though the recordings may not show that.

I had to miss day 2 and all of the second round, held from Saturday to Monday, though I caught some of the broadcast.

When the semi-finalists are announced there is always some disappointment – this year sharpened by the omission of an intermediary “Quarterfinals” round.  The main disappointment is, as ever, the omission of some interesting pianists as the verdict of the jury converges on potential “hero” concert pianists.

With one exception, all the semi-finalists are either from successor states to the former Soviet Union or of (in Australian terms) “Asian” background.  Only one woman made the cut.

The three pianists I heard in the flesh whom I was sorry to see eliminated were Daniel Lebhhardt, Alyosha Jurinic and Martin Malmgren.

It seems the competitors were asked to give a little statement about what they feel about the competition. The compilers of the printed program then extracted a sentence or two which is reproduced as part of the blurb about each.  Some of these are cringe-makingly politic (wonderful to play before such a distinguished jury; competition very prestigious etc).

Malmgren’s was:

I consider this event to be just as much a festival as a competition, celebrating diversity in repertoire and performing styles.  For the unprejudiced listener, there will be much to be discovered.

Unfortunately, we won’t be hearing some of Malmgren’s more interesting choices for following rounds, including the Medtner concerto, but we did hear his choice of Australian work for the first two rounds, Brett Dean’s Equality.  It starts at about 16:30  hereWords are by Michael Leunig, by the way.

Afterword:  Friday:  the Youtube links in this post are now all defunct.  Presumably they were all unauthorised rips from the livestreaming.  The dead hand of intellectual property has struck again.  I think it would have been worth leaving them up for at least the duration of the competition but obviously somebody has thought otherwise.  Perhaps the jurors took exception to the gala concert being put up – unlike the competitors, I doubt if they had signed all their rights away to the competition.


March 7, 2016

The 32 competitors chosen for the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition (SIPCA) have been announced.  Five only of these are women.  There is nobody from France, Germany (though some study there) or the UK. There are 5 each from Korea, Russia and the USA (including two who identify according to another background as well), 4 from China and 3 from Australia.

As I have previously noted, the syllabus for this year’s competition was rejigged in a number of respects. In particular, the concerto list was tweaked to include Bach, Haydn and early Beethoven in the “Eighteenth Century” first round, and some overplayed works (in particular Tchaikovsky 1 and Rachmaninov 3) were purged from the 19th-20th Century round.  A number of enticing (or maybe not-so-, as it turns out) relative obscurities were also included in the latter.

In my previous post, I thought this might lead to a Beethoven-ward drift in the first concerto round.  It’s just as well I didn’t put money on it.  As far as I can see, everybody has stuck with Mozart.  Maybe Beethoven 1 or 2 seemed like too big a burden.  Maybe nobody wanted to be an outlier.

As for the 19th-20th century round, nobody, to my disappointment, has elected to play the Litolff Scherzo/Franck Symphonic Variations double bill.  The only obscurity to attract attention is the Medtner 2, chosen by the single Swedish entrant.  Liszt 2, Chopin 2 and Grieg concerti have each been nominated by one entrant.  Two each have chosen Saint-Saens 2 and Beethoven 4.

Four have chosen Brahms 2.  That’s a big piece, but the overwhelming favourites remain the competition staples: Rachmaninov 2 – 9, and Prokofiev 3 – 11.



July 21, 2012

The winners for this year’s Sydney International Piano Competition were announced tonight.

They were/are:

6. Tanya Gabrielian (“Janet Jackson” in honour of her outfit in an earlier round.)
5. Hao Zhu
4. Mikhail Berestnev
3. Dmitry Onishchenko (our nickname: “The undertaker” – because of his lugubrious and rather deadpan stage presence)
2. Nikolay Khozyainov (“Cherubino” in honour of his youth, his blond curls and his performance of the Liszt Figaro Fantasy which is based on one song addressed to Cherubino and one sung by him)
1. Avan Yu

As an announcement it was a bit of a schemozzle. The revelation of the various special prizes (I went to the afternoon session but was at home listening on the radio for this) was entrusted to Marian Arnold, the ABC’s announcer.

Before that, Warren Thomson, the chairman of the jury, committed a little Freudian slip which gave the game away. Making some preliminary acknowledgements, when intending (I think) to say “able,” he actually said “Avan.”

“Aha!” D and I said to each other.

However, the cat was totally out of the bag with two special prizes: the Paspaley Pearl awards for best female and male players.

The best female player had to be Tania Gabrelian, because she was the only female finalist. Then Avan Yu was announced as the best male competitor.

Hang on! Unless SIPCA has any intersex competitors, doesn’t that tell us who the winner is?

Indeed it did, though the pretence of some suspense was then maintained right up to the moment of the announcement of first and second prizewinners. Logically the outcome even as to second place was clear once we were told who came third.

Nikolay Khozyainov won the “People’s Choice” award.

I only heard half of the Mozart concerti on the radio and a bit of one from the foyer on the second night (I was at Die tote Stadt next door). D and I went to both of the C19 and C20 rounds on Friday and Saturday. If the competition depended only on these concerti (which it doesn’t), then Avan Yu’s Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini was, at least as a percentage realisation of the work in question, head and shoulders above any of the others’.

From what I heard, from those chosen for the finals, I don’t disagree with the first three places. I’m not so sure about the order of 4,5 and 6.

SIPCA 2012 continued and rejigged

July 14, 2012

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.

SIPCA 2012 begins

July 7, 2012

The tenth Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia [ie, not Nova Scotia] has started.

This competition has punctuated my adult life since I attended the first one in my final year of school. It makes me think of those fairy stories where the fairy returns every seven years, though in this case the period has settled to 4. Another myth which comes to mind is the Nietzschean eternal recurrence, but I’m conscious that my perspective changes. When I first went, the competitors were all older than I. Now they all seem so young. Conversely, some of the regulars in the audience seem ageless.

My friend, P, with whom I went to much of the very first competition, told me that she recently showed her son a picture of me taken from about that time. He was shocked. Tell him (I said) his time will come.

I have been to one whole session and two half sessions of round 1. So far, in the sessions that I have attended, there has been more piano playing than music. It’s not that, I’m sure, all of the players are not capable of playing music which would give any hearer pleasure, but competition conditions (including the syllabus requirements, the silence between pieces and the 20-minute slots) and the requirement to “game” the competition can militate against that. Mostly this is because they are either playing too many notes (to show that they can) or because they are playing something which is too hard for them also to allow a margin for the beautiful. I’m told (I wasn’t there for it) that there has been at least one spectacular “bomb” and I saw one player severely afflicted by nerves.

The whole thing is being broadcast on ABCFM. Guy Noble, one of their commentators, describing himself as a lapsed pianist, gave voice to a feeling that I myself have when he remarked on the different experience of the competition for those youngsters for whom it is all new and exciting and those at the upper age limit for this (and many other) competitions for whom it is a final throw of the dice.

Why am I going? There’s something a bit compulsive about it – like watching series 2 of Downton Abbey.

I plan to go to more. The longer programs in the later rounds will, I hope, give more of a chance for the music. And despite my reservations about the competitive element, the event has its own cumulative Affekt.

SIPCA 9 – Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia – Auld Lang Syne

July 25, 2008

On Thursday night, I went to session 4 of Stage IV – that is, the semi-finals.

The program was:

Konstantin Shamray (Recital)
Hoang Pham (Chamber Music)
Tatiana Kolesova (Recital)
Tomoki Kitamura (Chamber Music)

This was good because it included 3 players whom I had not heard in the flesh, and one favourite (Kitamura) whom I wanted to see again.

The potential downside was that there were two Hammerklavier sonatas.

Which of the two anybody liked tended to depend on how you like your Hammerklavier. Both players were Russian, and the differences seemed really to boil down to gendered readings. Shamray (Steinway) gave the piano the classic thrashing. This was exciting in the big boilings up in the first movement, but for me less effective in the long slow movement, and a bit too much in the last movement, where he made a habit of landing on fugal trills with a kind of initial crushed note which must have been deliberate but just sounded messy. Shamray also played some Scriabin which amongst other things allowed him to deploy his large hands (protruding beyond his coat sleeves with no sign of a cuff) to advantage.

Kolesova (who also played the Steinway, by now a bit the worse for wear in its top register) took a feminine route – her dynamics had a lower ceiling which coincided with a politer range of pianistic tone. I thought her slow movement had more shape. She did, however, seem to have a tiny memory lapse at one point.

Juror Michael Brimer is probably the one to ask about this, since a few years in a critical cause celebre the Herald’s reviewer, Harriet Cunningham, accused him of memory lapses in this sonata, and he responded (backed up by Daniel Herscovitch and the recording of the concert) that this was just the way the sonata goes. (The only web-based link I can find for this, strangely, is in what appears to be Icelandic Swedish.)

As so often happens in contrasting approaches like this, I found myself wanting the best of both approaches, even though that may simply not be possible. Overall I enjoyed Kolesova’s more, though I would have preferred a bit less pedal. Nevertheless, having literally played up a storm (you could hear the rain beginning outside as it thrummed on the Seymour Centre roof – one of a number of technical deficiencies of the York Theatre) she seemed to get the warmer audience reception.

Kolesova preceded the Beethoven with an attractive arrangement of Gluck but which, with the shadow of an impending Hammerklavier hanging over it, was difficult to take too seriously.

Hoang Pham (Yamaha) played the Mendelssohn Trio with Dimity Hall and Julian Smiles. This was polished playing by all, though I still felt that Pham could have engaged a bit more with his fellow players. Most of the time the piano is playing so many notes that the other players simply have to go along with it. In that case, all the more important in the easy bits to establish rapport.

Kitamura played the Schubert B flat major trio with Helen Ayres and Timothy Nankervis. They are a more dramatic pair of players than Hall and Smiles and this does raise the question of whether there were advantages in playing with one pair of string players over another. Someone suggested to me at interval that they [gender neutral plural for anonymity] didn’t think Dimity and Julian had given one of the other competitors a fair go: they must have meant Miyeon Lee, who played the Brahms in the first half of the afternoon session.

I don’t know what was their [sic] basis was for saying that. I would be most surprised if that were the result of any conscious decision by Hall and Smiles. They have a slightly cooler, objective, way of playing than Ayres and Nankervis – and I think their long musical partnership might be a bit harder for the pianist to really break into in the competition circumstances. I’m now venturing into dangerously speculative territory, but if anything it feels as though Smiles and Hall are being almost self-consciously fair in their approach to the pianist: they will match his approach as possible, but also try their best to make it look as good as they can – the traditional accompanist’s approach. Ayres & Nankervis play more riskily, not always without mishap, but in a way which maybe leaves more openings for the pianist and for a collaboration to occur between all three.

All of this is based on precisely two hearings of each string pair (though many more of Hall and Smiles on other occasions), so it’s got to be dodgy and especially for one particularly obvious point: it could really be the pianists who were the decisive factor in each case.

Kitamura’s choice of the Schubert is technically, I would say, one of the easier choices, but everybody has that choice in this round, and what’s important is or should be what you can do with the music. I came already well-disposed to Kitamura, and I wasn’t disappointed. At the risk of sounding offensive, I can only say that when he is playing he narrows his eyes to slits – in repose when he was bowing at the end his eyes were not so. The look is definitely part of the charisma. It’s all part of his intensity of concentration – it doesn’t seem “bunged on” for effect. He can really play Schubert. I didn’t think he was quite as good as Dank at the chamber-music thing, but you could see and also hear the collaboration. Some of the result was quite electric – at least up to the last movement, where he seemed to get more back inside his own head space and for me the heavenly length began to make itself felt just a little. It was late in a long program, after all.

Since I first arrived late to one of the morning sessions in Stage One, I have regularly encountered a fellow-member of the audience at the downstairs coffee-cartish refreshment bar. He is always the first there to order a coffee. On the first time and also the next day, I was there having arrived too late for the first half, and had just ordered my coffee before the first interval exiter arrived. After that, because I too do not like to queue for interval refreshment, we met almost every interval. Last night we met also walking up behind the Seymour Centre, and he graciously allowed me to beat him for the first time ever as we strode purposefully down the steps at the head of the interval rush (there was open space behind us, let me tell you). As we were drinking or waiting for our coffee we were joined by some other acquaintances of mine (P, who had not been able to come since Stage II, Lx, who came yesterday, and R) which finally gave the occasion for some kind of introductions, including to each other.

RR, from Hobart, has been attending his second competition this year, having also come in 2004. He’s been to most sessions, but also fitted in some golf, and on Wednesday (when I noted his absence from the cafe bar) he and his wife went instead to Otello. They fly on Saturday to Hawaii for their daughter’s wedding. Last night was my last semi-final round. We said goodbye for this year. Provided we are spared, we may see each other again in four years’ time.

SIPCA 8 – Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia

July 24, 2008

On Wednesday night with D to the Seymour Centre for session 2 of the semifinals.

The program was as follows:

Mariangela Vacatello (Recital)
Daniil Tsvetkov (Chamber Music)
Takashi Sato (Recital)
Ran Dank (Chamber Music)

Mariangela Vacatello played Beethoven and Chopin and then Ravel Gaspard de la nuit.  That’s quite a program.  She is very competent and secure.  I especially got into Le Gibet, which is surely one of the longest pedal points in the history of western art music.

The other soloist was Takashi Sato, who played Beethoven and Chopin. 

For the second part of each half, we had the chamber music.  First Tsvetkov with Dimity Hall and Julian Smiles playing the Shostakovich Trio.  This is a great piece.  It must have been a bit odd for Ian Munro, one of the judges, to be sitting up the back and hearing someone else play with those two string players with whom he so frequently plays himself in the Australia Ensemble.

In the second half, Dank played the Brahms Trio Op 8 with Helen Ayres and Timothy Nankervis.  Lx, my former high-school drama teacher was there and had also been there for the afternoon session.  He said that Konstantin Shamray’s version had been boring and he was not relishing a repeat.  Indeed, some audience members near me left before Dank’s turn with a similar justification – that they had “already sat through it once today.”

D said he liked the Brahms more than the Shostakovich because it was more dramatic. This might seem odd because there is a lot which is dramatic in the Shostakovich.  The “x” factor was that Dank got a much higher level of interaction going on with the string players than Tsvektkov managed.  

When you learn chamber music you are always told to look at your fellow players.  You might wonder how necessary that is, especially for the pianist, who can listen and watch the score, but in my experience it really does make a difference – probably because when you just listen you may think you have a rapport, but (all other things being equal) you will actually get a better rapport if you are also looking.   Ran was always making eye contact with the others and they with him and the result was certainly a team effort from them all.  Tsvetkov only rarely did so, and all the dramatic impetus of the performance seemed to come from Smiles and Hall, with Tsvetkov more of a co-operative bystander than a co-participant.

So for me Dank et al’s Brahms was the stand-out of the evening.  Lx said it was much better than Shamray’s effort earlier that day and in his opinion the best chamber music of the day, despite moments where he thought Dank too loud.