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MALCOLM MILLER was at the 2009
Beethoven Junior Intercollegiate Piano Competition


The winner of the 2009 Beethoven Junior Intercollegiate Piano Competition was Sophia Dee of the Junior Guildhall School of Music, with second prize awarded to Han-Seul Lee of the Junior Royal Academy of Music and third prize awarded to Dae-Young Kim of Chetham's School of Music.

The Competition, held on Sunday 22 March 2009 at the Blüthner Piano Centre in central London, attracted six gifted competitors from UK Junior Colleges and specialist music schools to perform before the distinguished jury of Angela Brownridge and Colin Stone, amidst an enthusiastic audience. All the players performed the compulsory work, Beethoven's Bagatelle in A minor WoO 59 'Für Elise', and a sonata of their choice. It was fascinating to hear six expressive performances of the famous 'Für Elise', each one different, and suffused with the poetic mood of the miniature. Sophia Dee's account alone seemed to colour the final chromatic passage with glistening radiance in the upper registers.

Hyo-Jung Roh, of Wells Cathedral School, launched the programme with the Sonata Op 10, No 1 in C minor. Her very detailed and precise account may have lacked a bit in colour and dramatic contrast. Then came Han-Seul Lee, of the Junior Royal Academy of Music, who gave a finely judged account of the Sonata Op 31 No 3 in E flat major. Everything seemed to flow in place, and there was a very fine sense of colour and balance, particularly in the gradation of dynamics, and even if the element of wit could have been more emphasised, this was a mature and impressive interpretation.

Exciting drama and passion emerged in the Sonata Op 31 No 2 'The Tempest' in D minor, played by Dae-Young Kim of Chetham's School of Music. Especially effective was the way he built up to a climax after the eerie pedalled recitative in the development, and the very beautiful balance of the ostinato motif in the second movement with the chordal theme. Above all one sensed an inner intention throughout his performance, the intensity of pregnant silences in the slow movement matched by the impetus of the flowing finale.

After a short pause the fourth competitor was Anthony Satterthwaite of the Junior Royal Northern College of Music, who also played the Sonata Op 31 No 3 in E flat major, displaying panache in the last two movements particularly. Yet it was left to Sophia Dee of the Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama to demonstrate a compelling technical assurance and musical imagination. Her sumptuously atmospheric pedalling of the development recitative and her subtle use of dynamics throughout were enhanced by a sense of line and large scale structure evident that sustained tension throughout the work, so that the finale acted as a powerful climactic resolution to the whole. The final participant, Sarah Ballard of the Junior Department at the Royal College of Music, tackled the challenging Sonata Op 78 in F sharp, a work of Beethoven's later, more Romantic style, and there was much to admire in her delicately poised approach to this elusive and subtle work.

In his opening remarks Alberto Portugheis offered gratitude to Roger Willson of Blüthners for hosting the event, sentiments echoed later by BPSE Administrator Henry Atterbury who also paid tribute to the jury for their wisdom and thoughtful erudition. In the final jury decision, Colin Stone praised all the competitors for their efforts, and stressed that competitions can be of benefit with the awareness that they are only temporary indicators: it would be interesting, he speculated, to see how each of the players would develop in the next ten years. While all the players received a copy of the BPSE Journal Arietta, the first two winners were awarded cash prizes, presented graciously by BPSE Patrons W C L Brown CBE and Nachiko Brown. Copies of the two volume Schnabel Edition of the 32 Sonatas from Alfred's Publishing were offered by the publishers to the first three winners, who will also appear in prizewinner concerts in the BPSE series.

Copyright © 24 March 2009 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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