The Fourth Rosalyn Tureck International Bach Competition for Young Pianists Presents Gala Winners Concert in Review
Gala Winners Concert, The Fourth Rosalyn Tureck International Bach Competition for Young Pianists
Bruno Walter Auditorium, Lincoln Center, N.Y.
October 18, 2015
It is hard to believe, hearing the winners of the Fourth Rosalyn Tureck International Bach Competition for Young Pianists, that it was just 2003 when it was all conceived to honor the celebrated Bach interpreter Rosalyn Tureck just prior to her death. Founded by Golda Vainberg-Tatz in honor of her mentor (and with Ms. Tureck’s blessing), each competition is an enormous undertaking, drawing an international jury and attracting outstanding international participants, ages 7-20. The repertoire, wide-ranging and demanding, makes for great listening, and this year it all took place (with the exception of screening DVDs) in the high visibility venue of the Bruno Walter auditorium, with the co-sponsorship of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. I’ve had the pleasure to observe this competition’s Winners Concerts several times, and each time has been of a higher level than the last.
The Jury Members were Emanuel Krasovsky (Chairman), Sara Davis Buechner, Michael Charry, Mirian Conti, Sharon Isbin, Zhou Keng, Jose Ramos Santana, Matti Reakallio, André-Michel Schub, and Founder-Director, Golda Vainberg-Tatz.
The contestants ranged from the promising young Megan Xie, age 8, playing Bach’s Little Prelude and Fugue in G Major (BWV 902) with polish and surprising assuredness for one so young, to Kai Ono, age 19, playing Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903), in a style reflecting his varied experience with composition and jazz. The other offerings included more Bach categories (all kinds of Suites, Preludes, Fugues, Toccatas and more), contemporary music (another specialty of Ms. Tureck), and the first honorees ever in the challenging category VIII, none other than the Goldberg Variations! Adrian Fan, age 15, and Angela Xue, age 16, were both recognized in this category, though Ms. Xue performed Sofia Gubaidulina’s Chaconne for the winners’ concert, and quite powerfully.
After the opening of Megan Xie, we heard Anthony Reznikovsky, age 12, in Bach’s Duet No.2 (BWV 803). It was crisp and clear, with beautiful control of the tricky contrapuntal writing.
The gap between ages 12 and 14 is sometimes night and day, and Alexander Tsereteli showed us a glimpse of the developed artist he is headed to be. His Preludes Op.53, Nos.17 and 18 of Nikolai Kapustin were excellent, with a precocious grasp of their jazz-inspired idiom.
Back to Bach, one heard Connor Sung, age 10, in movements from the French Suite in E major (BWV 817). His marked articulations in the Allemande were staccato on each sixteenth, bringing out a perpetual motion quality that many Bach players choose for its connection to the harpsichord style. The intervening Sarabande was a pleasant change in texture, and creatively done. What this listener appreciated most, though, were the declamatory agogic accents in the Gigue, giving this dance movement a sense of gusto.
With a more sedate approach to the keyboard, Benjamin Wolfson, age 9, found beauty in two movements from Bach’s French Suite in C minor (BWV 813), namely the Allemande and the Gigue. Not only was his lyrical approach to the phrases refreshing and unforced, but he gets kudos for performing a Gigue that is one of the thorniest, least child-friendly of the lot.
Next up, Angela Lee, age 11, fairly knocked everyone’s socks off with her Nocturne, No. 4, Op. 38, by Lowell Liebermann. She demonstrated the sensitivity, maturity, power, and pianism that one often misses in pianists twice her age. It is not a huge surprise that, in addition to winning in Category V (Various Works), she also received the Evgeny Kissin Grand Prize.
Enjoying the surfeit of riches, we heard still more Bach, the Toccata in E minor (BWV 914), played by promising young artist Keiju Takehara, age 17, plus the Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor (Book I, BWV 816), played with complete command by Vladislav Kern, age 16.
Non-Bach offerings included “China Dream” by Zhang Zhao, in the rendition of Xu Yue, age 16, plus (as mentioned before) Gubaidulina’s Chaconne, played by Angela Xue. The latter, showing much of Bach’s influence was an especially good twentieth century choice for this Bachian event.
To close the program, the audience heard a sampling from the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), as played by Adrian Fan. In addition to (of course) the theme, we heard a wonderfully lively Variation 1, a good Variation 6, and a very precise and well-articulated Variation 7. There was a particularly well-controlled performance of the often scrambled Variation 14, a thoughtful and sensitive Variation 21, plus the subsequent one, and to cap it off, the brilliant Variation 29. One may have reservations about the integrity of excerpting such a piece, but if more and more contestants start performing such a work in its entirety, the Tureck Competition will need to book a venue for months and raise a lot more funds!
All in all, it was an inspiring event. Congratulations to all the young participants whose playing was not only life-affirming, but a reminder never to underestimate human beings based on how long they have lived on the planet! They bring hope for the future. Congratulations go to the directors of the competition for bringing it all to fruition.