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On the evidence of the performances in the competition, I would say the evidence is mixed. At least one performer, David Secchi, was engaged at the highest intellectual and emotional level in his Waldstein Sonata, a performance of admirable strength and integrity that signalled a true Beethoven player. Yet his Bagatelle had been oddly unfocussed, as if he were not yet able to encompass the gentler and more whimsical Beethoven (the one who is closer to Mozart) as well as the epic dramatist. Other players were on surer ground in the Bagatelle, finding grace and musicality in it, than in their sonatas which lacked structural strength. Yet others, at least on the evidence of what we heard on the day, are not yet ready for the technical demands of a large sonata. Timing is everything, as we have all found out to our cost at one moment or another!

The day began with Sophie Dee (Junior Guildhall), whose opening Bagatelle was fluent and musical. She already has the feeling for the drama and the revolutionary fervour of the Pathétique Sonata, though the performance has some way to go yet in clarity of detail and rhythmic strength.

Hannah Gill, from the Junior Welsh College, pleased with her Bagatelle, which was intelligently paced and phrased (though, in common with almost all the performers, she could have characterised the important left hand part more). Her Sonata, the lovely, lyrical Op 14 No 1 in E, also had many qualities: good articulation, a well-paced first movement development, and well-integrated touches, if also a lack of true legato and some moments of pianistic awkwardness.

Fumi Sakuma, from the Croydon Music Centre, was the youngest player but by no means the least mature. Her Bagatelle, of touching simplicity, gave no hint of the strength and very real passion she was able to find in the Appassionata. Here is a young player who already understands the paramount importance of rhythm in Beethoven playing, and when she can command a bigger tonal range her playing will be very impressive indeed.

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Copyright © 14 April 2007 Julian Jacobson, London UK


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