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<<  -- 3 --  Kelly Ferjutz    DELICATE CONFIDENCE


Saturday evening offered nearly a total contrast; the two younger contestants, as well as the only female finalist. Chu-Fang Huang wore a deep purple satin floor-length gown, entirely appropriate to the surroundings. She has the most gorgeous posture of all the finalists, but does tend to grimace a bit, and mouths the notes she plays -- silently, one presumes. At times, she lowered her head so far toward the keyboard, it seemed certain to collide, but never did. As soon as she was firmly seated on the piano bench, she drew a slight chuckle from the audience as she carefully dusted the keyboard with her hankie. Once the music began, however, she was very serious. This concerto has a rather long orchestral introduction, but she sat, patiently, waiting for her turn.

She quickly demonstrated a total command of the concerto and the piano, playing with a delicate confidence, producing crisp, clear notes from the New York Steinway. The cadenza in the first movement was vigorous and sturdy, a complete contrast to that of the second, which was very light and delicate. The third movement rondo was played with a swinging, joyful authority.

Concluding the musical portion of the evening was the youngest of the finalists, Stanislav Khristenko, also performing on the New York Steinway. To be sure, he did have the notes in his fingers, but I felt his temperment and immaturity led him astray too many times. Mr Ling did his best to keep things together, but not always successfully. Of course, all those crashing octaves at the end brought the house down. Or I should say up, as the very large audience was on their feet almost before the last notes died away. It was an impressive bravura display, but it wasn't my favorite.

Approximately half an hour after the last notes had indeed died away, and with perhaps one-third of the audience remaing in the auditorium, Jury Chairman Ian Hobbson made the eagerly-awaited announcements. He began with the special prizes. Grace Fong (USA, aged 26) won the Baroque Prize ($2,000) and Hong Xu (China, aged 21) won the Mozart Prize ($1,500). Next came the final group.

Spencer Myer (USA, aged 26) won 4th prize of $10,000, as well as the American Prize ($1,500) and the Contemporary Prize ($1,500). Young Mr Khristenko (Russia, aged 21), took 3rd prize and $15,000. Second prize of $25,000 went to Sergey Kuznetsov from Russia, aged 27, and barely had his name been announced, when a gasp went up from the audience, at the realization that Chu-Fang Huang, had become the first Chinese citizen to win this competition. In addition to the $50,000 cash price, a recital in New York's Alice Tully Hall, a Naxos recording and two years of management services, Ms Huang also won the Chopin Prize and the Beethoven Prize -- each worth an additional $2,000.

Chu-Fang Huang performing with the Cleveland Orchestra in the final round of the Cleveland International Piano Competition at Severance Hall. Photo © 2005 Roger Mastroianni
Chu-Fang Huang performing with the Cleveland Orchestra in the final round of the Cleveland International Piano Competition at Severance Hall. Photo © 2005 Roger Mastroianni

On Sunday afternoon, all the prizes were actually awarded to those who won them, and then the piano came out again to center stage for the winner's recital, in which each of the four laureates gave encore performances of works they'd played earlier in the competition.

Two years from now, we get to do it all again. Amazing.

Copyright © 8 August 2005 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA



During Mr Myer's performance on Friday evening, a most unreal phenomenon asserted itself. I've never noticed it before, and it didn't present itself again during any of the other performances. When Severance Hall was renovated a few years ago, a set of organ pipes was installed at the rear of the stage. Some are real, some are for appearance, but in the center of the back wall there are three fairly large sections of silver-colored pipes.

Detail of the three sections of organ pipes in Severance Hall. Photo © Roger Mastroianni

The piano used by Mr Myer was one of the super-shiny Hamburg Steinways, and the lid was full up. Mr Ling, conducting, was of course, on the far side of the piano facing the orchestra. Somehow the lights on stage combined with the angle of the very shiny piano lid to reflect an image of Mr Ling as he conducted back onto those pipes, very like a large TV screen. He was clearly visible in the two side sections, although the center one seemed more concerned with the tympani which were more directly in front of it. The entire presentation there was very impressionistic and almost spooky.

This did not happen during any of the other concertos, as they all used the less-shiny New York Steinways, but it is something I'll always remember. I didn't get a chance to talk to anyone I knew to see if anyone else saw it or if it was only visible from just where I was sitting near the center of the lower balcony.

Kelly Ferjutz


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