It's Getting Better and Better: An Interview with Dang Thai Son
small, It's getting better and better. An Interview with Dang Thai Son., Dan Thai Son. Photo: press materials, dang-thai-son-fot-nifc.jpg
Dang Thai Son, member of this year's Fryderyk Chopin Competition jury, talks to Małgorzata Wende.
Małgorzata Wende: You used to be a member of juries of many prestigious competitions. What is special about the Chopin Competition?
Dang Thai Son: It is the most prestigious Competition with the longest history. Its uniqueness lies most of all in its monographic nature. Secondly, unlike any other competition, it is held only every five years - and each time it is better organised. One thing does not change, however: people come here because of their love for Chopin, and this makes the Competition an extraordinary event. Participants come here not only to win, they come because they have a special passion for Chopin.
Is there anything particularly difficult about the second and third stages?
Absolutely. The second stage is very challenging because there are three types of dance-form included in the programme: mazurka, polonaise and waltz. They used to be played in different stages of the Competition, but now they must be presented in the same stage. The third round brings two additional difficulties: the necessity of tackling a large-scale form, such as a sonata, and an obligatory performance of the Polonaise-Fantasie, which is one of the most extraordinary pieces in Chopin's output.
You once said that Chopin's music is almost impossible to teach. What do you emphasise when you are teaching your students?
I would not really say Chopin is impossible to teach. But it is certainly not just about the question of technical competence and a theoretical base. The background of the compositions and Chopin's personality are no less important. How can you feel his music if you know nothing about his life in Warsaw and Paris, if you do not read his letters? One needs to have further thoughts, to contemplate biographical details, because they hint at something very important. Obviously I am, like every teacher, very strict about elements such as sonority, a singing line and timing, but in the end it all depends on a student's sensibility and talent. Intuition, based on knowledge, is an fundamental aspect of the performance.
Can listening to auditions be a difficult experience?
Yes, sometimes. That problem usually occurs where there is no real system of pre-selection. Recently, procedures have changed, especially in the Chopin Competition, and competitors in the first stage are already carefully selected. Personally, I use different criteria in judging pianists during every stage. At the beginning I am searching for talents, even if they are not technically perfect. I prefer someone individual - even controversial - to just a good student who will not bring much to the competition. Obviously, from the second stage things get more serious. Then the criteria become tougher.
Interviewed by Małgorzata Wende.
This article comes from the Chopin Express gazette published for the 16th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and Gramophone magazine.