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The competition was introduced by Alberto Portugheis, BPSE UK Vice-Chairman, who expressed the BPSE's gratitude to Roger Willson, Managing Director of Blüthner Pianos, for hosting and sponsoring the competition. During the course of an inspiring afternoon, we heard an intriguing programme of repeat performances spanning the whole of Beethoven's 'three periods': From Beethoven's early maturity were two accounts of Op 2 No 3, while of the late sonatas we heard two Op 109s and no less than three Op 110s. There was also a 'Waldstein' sonata, representative of Beethoven's 'middle' period, yet after tasting so many of the first two of the last three sonatas, we were left almost thirsting for Op 111 to round off the cycle! Overall the standard of this year's competition was higher than usual: all the pianists displayed admirable technical and musical qualities and an ability to judge the tonal projection of the instrument, and all clearly have the seeds of future pianistic promise.
Presentation of the Beethoven medal to BPSE Prize winner Jayson Gillham by Leslie East, master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. Photo © 2007 F Clarey
The first competitor was Robert Thompson (Royal Northern College of Music), who gave a delicate, almost Mozartian reading of the Sonata in C Op 2 No 3, with clarity and lightness very much to the fore, and some very commendable crystalline textures that perhaps needed just a bit more firmness and depth of tone. Such was the quality in the impressive Op 109 played by Di Xiao (Birmingham Conservatoire), whose tonal shading created an ever engaging narrative in Op 109, full of contrasts and nuances. Her exciting second movement was followed with a beautiful variation finale, characterful and full of energy; with her charmingly witty Bagatelle, it was an altogether satisfying performance, and it was surprising perhaps that this promising young artist was not awarded one of the three main prizes. Ivan Kiwuwa (Guildhall School of Music and Drama), who has performed for BPSE concerts in the past, gave a relaxed and even toned account of Op 110. If it was perhaps rather studied, and lacking in a necessary incisive inspiration, his Bagatelle, by contrast, had both charm and delicacy.
Copyright © 5 December 2007
Malcolm Miller, London UK