Birmingham International Piano Competition review


Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (no stars for a competition)
After nomadding through many of Birmingham's important music centres for well over four decades, the Robert William and Florence Amy Brant International Piano Competition has now settled at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, bringing its less unwieldy name, the Birmingham International Piano Competition, with it.
Two rounds of recitals whittled down the selected finalists to four, who again were required to present a recital. I feel that for such an important competition, in such a city as Birmingham, the Final should have the glamour of concertos (like the Leeds). What an opportunity for the students of the RBC Symphony Orchestra to work under pressure, conducted by one of the RBC's experienced professional conductors.
Miss Gladys Brant, founder of the competition, stipulated certain categories for each competing recital, but there was nothing like that here, nor even any time constraints. One offering was way longer than the other three, and the programme-content from each finalist was difficult to set one against the other.
The Russian Maxim KInasov, now based in Manchester, began with a modest Bach Prelude in Siloti's arrangement, the first book of Brahms' Paganini Variations, and a rhythmically bouncy Seventh Sonata of Prokofiev.
Clara Isabella Siegle (Ireland/Germany) smaller programme began with Mozart's C minor Sonata, followed by Clara Schumann's Chopinesque Soirees Musicales.
There was the most amazing, wonderfully-coloured Ravel La Valse from Lithuanian Gabriele Sutkute, preceded by a richly-drawn Prokofiev Fourth Sonata and a beautifully simple Schubert/Liszt Litanei.
Chinese pianist Yuxuan Zhao disconcerted us all with a complete change from the advertised programme. Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata was technically brilliant, warmly pedalled in the finale's introduction, and his Liszt Mephisto Waltz was scintillating and fleet.
Judges Philip Edward Fisher, Carole Presland and Martino Tirimo placed Kinasov first, Sutkute second, Zhao third and Siegle Fourth.
Audience prize went spectacularly to Sutkute, and at least I agreed with that.
Christopher Morley

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