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If there is any reason Mr Wang made the final round it is this: a jury will often evaluate the contributions of a competitor contextually, that is, based on his performance throughout the contest. In Mr Wang's case, his performances improved exponentially from his woefully misinformed Bach playing to a most appealing and convincing reading of Schubert's massive C minor sonata in the semi-finals. This ability to grow and to successfully demonstrate an ease in different styles, in relation to his age, has its effect on a jury; what's more, his stage presence was natural and elegant, something that never escapes the attention of adjudicators. Any juror who says that stage presence does not play a role in making a decision is lying; it most certainly does, albeit that role is tiny.

Mr Ioudenitch, on the other hand, has played the sympathy vote well. After burning his hand with scalding hot water during the last Cliburn contest, he has gained an enormous following. While his playing is not to my taste, he dispatched the Tchaikovsky concerto with a certain shrill excitement, even navigating with assurance a memory slip or two in the first movement which in less competent hands might have spelled catastrophe. But he seemed ill at ease in Liszt's flamboyant Spanish Rhapsody, which in his hands wanted for inflection, contrast and affective intensity. The propulsive contours Liszt assigns to the left hand all but vanished, thus attenuating texture and the work itself of its internecine dramas. While Mr Ioudenitch commands a most impressive technical appartus, he seems uncertain just yet what to do with it. He would be well advised to take some time off and listen to great singers and musicians, such as Schwarzkopf, Klien, Arrau, Panzera, Neveu, Ludwig, Dieskau, Karajan, Kleiber, Popp, Demus, Panzera, Schnabel and Wunderlich -- just as our erstwhile taxi driver, who I referred to earlier, suggested. Mr Ioudenitch obviously harbors certain peculiar ideas about the Teutonic repertoire that need to be completely evacuated before he can move into the rarefied Alpine regions of Viennese culture, where affective inflection prevails. Nevertheless, and in spite of my reservations, which are substantial, Mr Ioudenitch is a crowd pleaser, and in fact a rather exciting player. Time will tell, and he has one major advantage: he is in the hands of one of the best teachers on the continent: the aforementioned William Nabore.

In spite of all this, I have reason to believe Mr Ioudentich will win at least the 4th, and quite possibly the third prize for what can only be political reasons. He has a great deal of public support, and the sympathy of several very valuable people. Again, this is not to suggest at all that anyone, least of all the jury, has been coerced into voting for him; that is absolutely not the case. But the will of the powers that be and the people is hard to simply ignore altogether, especially when those very people are paying your fees and expenses. That the imaginatively impoverished Maxim Phillipov or the more interesting, but ill-prepared Xiohan Wang, for example, should have been included in the finals at the expense of more musically informed artists, such as the wonderful Davide Franceschetti, Roger Wright, Maurizio Baglini, Paavali Jumppanen or Andrew Russo is simply outrageous.

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Copyright © 10 June 2001 John Bell Young, Fort Worth, USA







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