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<<  -- 2 --  Julian Jacobson    AN ABSORBING DAY

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Eight young pianists from the major UK conservatoires took part, only the Royal Scottish Academy not being represented on this occasion. Alberto Portugheis, BPSE Vice Chairman, introduced the eight candidates to the capacity audience of BPSE members and patrons including distinguished guests Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne MEP, William Brown CBE and Mrs Nachiko Brown, and Dr Peter Andry OBE, former President of EMI Classical Music Division. Prizes were awarded by the Master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, Dr Andreas Prindl CBE.

From left to right: Gemma Beeson, Malcolm Troup, Eugenie Maxwell, Alberto Portugheis, Samantha Ward, Peter Frankl, Sholpan Sharbakova, Andreas Prindl and Carola Grindea. Photo © 2006 Fiona Clarey
From left to right: Gemma Beeson, Malcolm Troup, Eugenie Maxwell, Alberto Portugheis, Samantha Ward, Peter Frankl, Sholpan Sharbakova, Andreas Prindl and Carola Grindea. Photo © 2006 Fiona Clarey

The extraordinary, experimental Bagatelle in G Op 119 No 6 was the compulsory work, receiving a range of interpretations from the somewhat offhand to the highly imaginative, witty and cogent. The competition got off to a flying start with Samantha Ward from the Guildhall School, with the wonderful and still somehow under-performed E flat sonata Op 7 (with what is surely Beethoven's first transcendentally great slow movement). Maybe Samantha will find more drama and mystery in this work later on, but her playing was crystal-clear and highly assured, with brisk speeds and an unfussy directness, and indeed it won her the first prize.

Gretchen Sterling, from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, followed with the D major Op 28 Sonata (the 'Pastoral'); this had well chosen tempi and interpretative strength, only tailing off somewhat in the Finale. I was not alone in feeling that the third candidate, the Italian Elenlucia Pappalardo, was a little unlucky not to be placed; I found her Op 110 -- the first of three performances of this sonata -- fluent, musical and natural, with an excellent sound and some interesting colours.

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Copyright © 27 December 2006 Julian Jacobson, London UK

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