Monday, October 18, 2021

Dispatch from Warsaw, October 18, 2021

Four performances of Chopin's 1st piano concerto tonight, all very different.

Kamil Pacholec gave a straight forward performance of the concerto, with some moments of beauty. I find that he revels in the more overtly virtuoso passages of the concerto, rather than the lyrical ones.

I'm afraid Hao Rao's extroverted brand of showmanship (musically, not physically) was not my cup of tea. Brilliant as it sometimes was, it was, for me, short of poetry and subtlety. He seems to have two sounds- very loud and not very loud. Once in a while he used the una corda to get a softer sound, but it didn't work very well. There were some inexplicable things musically. At m. 573 of the 1st movement, when Chopin marked a tempo, Hao took a considerably slower tempo, I suppose to highlight the composer's dolce con expressione marking, but it hampered the musical flow considerably. At m. 103 of the Romance, I felt that he overdid the rallentando, once again halting the impetus of the music. Let me apologize here to his many fans, of which there seemed to have been many in the audience tonight.

The poet of the piano tonight was Kyohei Sorita, playing with an infinite variety of sounds within each phrase. In much of the passagework, he was playing chamber music with the orchestra, blending his sound within the orchestral texture. His turn of phrase at m. 601 of the 1st movement was absolutely moving. It was an absolutely ravishing, poetic, emotionally overwhelming performance of this great work. Whether or not he wins of the top prizes, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a great artist, a generous soul, and one of the most sensitive musicians in this competition.

Leonora Armellini's performance of the concerto also had much to offer. Her playing was not short on poetry, but I did find some of her phrasing a bit angular and brittle. For me, the highlight of her performance was the third movement, which was brilliantly done. 

A great deal of credit has to be given to the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra under Andrey Boreyko, who were sensitive and supportive collaborators in all four performances. Tonight's performance highlighted for me once again the absolute beauty and sensitivity of Chopin's orchestration. The writing for woodwinds is especially beautiful. 

This concerto marathon continues tomorrow and Wednesday, after which we would find out the long awaited results of what has proven to be a very interesting few weeks.

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