Reading Between the Notes
small, Reading Between the Notes, Nikolay Khozyainov, photo: press materials, en_fo_kohzyainov_nikolay_chopin_express__w210_4291437.jpg
Chopin - or at least this competition held in his name - can be a narcotic, in the best sense. Every morning one arrives needing to hear more, eager to listen to what the latest contestants can do
Russia's Nikolay Khozyainov started with an advantage, since from the start of his imposing Polonaise in F sharp minor, it became clear that he was in a different league to the Russian-bear school of his compatriot, Yury Shadrin, heard the previous evening. He also chose one of the less frequently heard pieces, the Bolero, but in any case all of his playing was by turns stormy and poetic. His Op 50 Mazurkas tended towards a full Russian melancholy rather than the more enigmatic Polish mood, and some of what he did may have been controversial, but he is an interesting musician with a natural physical connection to the piano.
Such huge quantities of Chopin are also a reminder that there is no single style of playing the composer, and a pianist's first priority should be to serve the music. In that respect, Japan's Yuri Watanabe did very well; I liked her fluency, and the way that in her Waltz in A flat, Op 42, the cascading notes were not merely decorative but actually very expressive. Jacek Kortus, the second Pole to appear in the second stage, was more problematic: everything felt right both technically and stylistically, but he failed to transmit a musical message. His talent is tantalising, but needs unlocking. By contrast, America's Mei-Ting Sun went in for gratuitous display and superficial sentiment. It's what happens between the notes that really matters, and for the first time in this competition I found myself counting the number of lights in the Philharmonic Hall's magnificent chandeliers.
Author: John Allison
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.
Other articles of interest in Chopin Express No. 13:
"Chopin: Strictly Polish?" - Part 2 of Stanisław Dybowski's essay