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Each 'Bachauer' Competition embodies a new 'break-through' idea of Paul Pollei, who thrives in this rarefied alcohol-free mountain-girt metropolis of the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir -- the latest being to scrap the usual eliminations after the first and second rounds -- a measure which is fast being copied elsewhere. Instead, all competitors have a chance to regale public and jury alike with the equivalent of a full-scale recital in chunks of 20, 30 and 45 minutes. For the Jury, that can mean a bad case of sore ears after 600 hours and two weeks of unbroken piano music often from steely-fingered virtuosi who are far from knowing their own strength and with crack New York or Hamburg Steinway concert grands to choose from. Another idea was asking them to submit an essay to be printed in the official programme. Under these circumstances, the artistry of their programme-planning became yet another parameter -- everything from Bach's Musical Offering to Szymanowski's Métopes or Masques.

Now to the winners: as so often happens, two were of First Prize stature: the German Hinrich Alpers (First Prize, 'Grieg' in Oslo) came Fourth while Stephen Beus (who had also been First Prize in the 'Bachauer' Junior Competition) fully justified his First with an exemplary Hammerklavier and Prokofiev's Third. Second was Takashi Yamamoto, looking the proverbial 'boy wonder' but actually 23, in his Tchaikowsky Concerto (Fourth Prize in 2005 'Chopin', Warsaw). Third Place went to Vadym Kholodenko of the Ukraine (Third Prize, 2001 'Liszt', Budapest) with his stunning Ravel's La Valse and Rach-Pag. Colleen Lee (Hong Kong) came Fifth with her rather lightweight Chopin E minor but hardly a 'token' woman in view of her First in the 1993 Bachauer 'Junior', Second in the 1999 Bachauer 'Young Artists' and Sixth in 2005 'Chopin', Warsaw. Sixth Prize fell to Jue Wang (People's Republic of China) in Prokofiev's firecracker of a Second Concerto. But some of the most original talents on display, despite going home empty-handed, were the Israeli-American Michael Buhkman, Romanian Mattei Varga, Canadian Ryo Yanigitani, Guildhall School of Music and Drama-trained Sergei Salov and French François Dumont. In short, the dazzling talent on display far overshot the number of prizes available. Sympathetic young Surrey-bred Alastair Williams was the ever-resourceful conductor of the Utah Symphony holding it all together.

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Copyright © 17 July 2006 Malcolm Troup, London UK


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