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After a chance to refresh and assimilate the sounds and ideas during a break, the second session began with elegance and energy, as displayed by the Georgian born Alexander Kanchavely (Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama). His graceful finesse in the Bagatelle was somehow matched by the fluid and supple articulation he brought to Op 2 No 3, in which the first movement bristled and flowed with exuberance, each theme shaped with agile control. With subtle voicing in the central section of the slow movement, and lucid counterpoint in the Scherzo, the sonata concluded with brilliant finale, a forthright approach that communicated a maturity and appealing joie de vivre. Lily Webster (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama) played a less successful 'Waldstein' Sonata that, though correct technically, lacked the sense of architecture and expressive intensity so necessary for such a large scale conception. It was that large design that distinguished the accomplished rendition of Op 110 by Jovanni De Pedro (Trinity College of Music), where translucency of texture in the first movement was balanced by vigorous drama in the second and a carefully controlled intensification in the fugue and recitative movement. De Pedro, originally from Los Angeles and who studied for a time in Vienna, showed many qualities including posture and relaxation in performance. It was a high note on which to end the second session.

Prize winner Jayson Gillham with the jury: left to right, Murray McLachlan, Steven Savage and Dejan Sinadinovic. Photo © 2007 F Clarey
Prize winner Jayson Gillham with the jury: left to right, Murray McLachlan, Steven Savage and Dejan Sinadinovic. Photo © 2007 F Clarey

During the course of the afternoon the audience was gradually augmented: fortunate in having in our presence Carola Grindea, founder of EPTA, ISSTIP and the BPSE, for the final session we were joined by special guests William Brown CBE and his wife Nachiko Brown, BPSE patrons, as well as Leslie East, Director of the ABRSM Publishing and City Music Society, and newly appointed Master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, who each year give their special Beethoven Medal to the winner of the competition. Fortunately the final session brought the event to an exciting climax with two outstanding performances. The first was Jayson Gillham (Royal Academy of Music) who gave a confident and assured interpretation of the Sonata Op 109. His tone glowed from the very start, a pristine precision and transparency producing a strong sense of tension and linear continuity in this most compressed of sonata designs. Yet it was in the colours of the variation finale that Gillham excelled, each new texture bringing new shades of sonority leading to the glistening radiance of the trilling final variations, before the meditative retrieval of the original theme to conclude. Gillham, originally from Brisbane, Australia, has great potential and shone on this particular occasion, to the delight of Jury and audience alike. The final pianist Omri Epstein (Royal College of Music) completed the programme with a deeply felt and spiritually intense Op 110; despite some lax phrasing and sometimes blurred bass strands, his intention and direction were always clear and especially compelling was the contrast from true pathos in the Adagio recitative to the revitalisation of life force in the climactic inverted fugue that concludes the piece with an optimistic vision.

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Copyright © 5 December 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller