2009 Beethoven Chamber Music Competition
Thursday 28 May 2009, Steinway Hall
Jury: Martin Lovett, Julian Jacobson and Gwyneth George
Prizewinners: Lana Trotovsek (violin) and Gayane Gasparyan (piano)
The winner of the 2009 BPSE Chamber Music Competition for the Gwyneth George Award, was the duo of Lana Trotovsek, violin, and Gayane Gasparyan, piano, while the duo of Andrei Simion, cello, and Veneta Neynska, piano, was highly commended by the jury. This exciting event, held on Thursday 28 May 2009 at Steinway Hall, central London, UK, attracted five young and talented duos, all of whom participated in two days of masterclasses (26-27 May 2009) with Martin Lovett OBE, cellist of the renowned Amadeus String Quartet.
Introducing the competition, held before a select and enthusiastic audience, Alberto Portugheis, UK vice-chairman of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe, warmly welcomed the distinguished jury, chairman Martin Lovett, pianist Julian Jacobson and cellist Gwyneth George. Expressing the BPSE’s gratitude to Steinway Pianos for hosting the event, he also praised Martin Lovett for his wisdom and insights into Beethoven interpretation which had inspired the duos to enrich their performances in the competition and beyond.
The competition programme afforded a fascinating opportunity to compare different readings of the same work, for, while there are ten Beethoven violin sonatas, all three competing violin and piano duos chose the Sonata in F Op 24 ‘Spring’; by contrast, the two cello piano duos chose works from different phases in Beethoven’s career, the early Op 5 No 2 and Op 102 No 1 from the more ‘experimental’ period in 1815.
The programme opened with Lana Trotovsek and Gayane Gasparyan who brought vigour, personality and panache to the ‘Spring’; their textures were translucent, rhythms electric, and the pace maintained with drama and tension throughout. The delicate Scherzo was delivered with plenty of wit while the finale flowed richly; above all the ensemble had a unanimity and cohesion that was compelling.
The second violin duo, Galya Bisengalieva, violin and Aizhana Nurkenova, piano, also displayed great musicality, the violin’s inward tonal expressivity complemented by characterful and intrepid pianism. If a measure of suppleness may have bordered on hesitancy of coordination at times, their reading abounded in fine nuances and inflections, supporting the work’s dramatic impetus.
The final rendering of the ‘Spring’ sonata was again different, this time performed by Agata Policinska, violin, with Nadia Mokhtari, piano. Their performance took flight in the moving slow movement, through a fizzing Scherzo and forthright finale, throughout which Ms Policinska’s resilient tone was especially well coordinated with her pianist.
The cello duos offered refreshing contrasts in between each violin sonata. Ashok Klouda, cello, and Natalia Gonzalez, piano gave a steady account of the Sonata in G minor Op 5 No 2; tempos were slightly problematic in my opinion, for while the introduction seemed too fast, lacking intensity and a measure of gravitas, the Allegro could have benefited from more zest and impetus.
More intriguing was the responsive and finely coordinated rendition of the Cello Sonata in C Op 102 No 1 by Andrei Simion, cello, and Veneta Neynska, piano, who were alert to the music’s quasi-improvisatory searching in the alternating slow and fast sections of each main movement. The rhetorical gestures and changes of mood and metre were all effectively handled, with much exploitation of the element of surprise and rhythmic freedom; the first Allegro projected with thrusting momentum. Even despite a certain unevenness of tone and phrasing, their interpretation was always interesting and full of character.
The jury’s decision was announced by Julian Jacobson, followed by a short word from Martin Lovett who reminded us that competitions can often be misleading: while some famous artists had never won competitions, winners did not necessarily guarantee a career.
BPSE UK chairman Malcolm Troup added his thanks to the entire jury and to Gwyneth George for her generous donation of the main prize, a cash award, which was presented to the winners Lana Trotovsek and Gayane Gasparyan; both the winners and the duo of Andrei Simion, cello and Veneta Neynska, will also receive recitals in the BPSE concert series, details of which will be available on the society’s website http://www.bpse.org; all participants received certificates as well as a copy of the BPSE journal Arietta.
Copyright © 4 June 2009 Malcolm Miller
For Photos see http://www.mvdaily.com/articles/2009/06/competition.htm