2010 Junior Intercollegiate Piano Competition

Sunday 21st March 2010
Bluthner Piano Centre

Jury: Angela Brownridge, Wanda Jeziorska and Melvyn Cooper

1st Prize: Asagi Nakata, Royal College of Music
2nd Prize: Lee Jae Phang, Wells Cathedral School
Audience Prize: Asagi Nakata, Royal College of Music

There was a high level of promising pianism on show at the BPSE Junior Intercollegiate Piano Competition 2010, held at the Bluthner Piano Centre on Sunday 21st March 2010. Five young talented pianists attending junior departments or specialist music schools participated. Each performed the compulsory Bagatelle Fur Elise as well as a sonata or set of variations of their choice before the distinguished Jury, Angela Brownridge, Wanda Jeziorska and Melvyn Cooper. Alberto Portugheis, BPSE Vice-Chairman UK, introduced the proceedings and thanked Roger Wilsson, Director of the Bluthner Piano Centre, for his hospitality and the salubrious surrounds of the showroom adorned with glistening grand pianos.

The select yet enthusiastic audience were regaled with some admirable performances. First was Eleanor Kornas (Chetham’s School of Music), who launched into an intensely well characterised account of the 32 Variations in C minor; I was struck by the convincing way she prepared the surprise contrasts of mood as well as the linking of those variations that shared their poetic reflective nature. She followed it with a delicately elegant Fur Elise that was similarly impelled by an inner expression. Next came Isata Kanneh-Mason (Junior Department of the Royal Academy of Music), who played the Sonata in C minor ‘Pathetique’ Op.13 with confidence and bravura; if at times disjointed in the exposition, the development and recapitulation were propelled with energy and unusual power from such a young performer. The slow movement unusually featured a rather questionable tempo change for the triplet section yet the whole was capped with a fluent rondo finale.

Lee Jae Phang, of the Wells Cathedral School, found a forthright projection for his performance of the Sonata in D minor sonata Op 31/2 ‘Tempest’. The evocative pedalled sonorities of the development section were especially well conveyed, as well as the explosive relaunch into the recapitulation’s striving rising theme. There was much to admire in the finale, its relentless momentum driving throughout, though the resonant gestures of the slow movement could have benefited from a slightly more relaxed tempo. Ambitious tempi were also problematic for the fourth competitor, William Green (Junior Department of the Royal Northern College of Music) who performed the Sonata No 30 Op. 109 in E major. Though the fast variations and fugue suffered lapses, his was an impressively expressive account of the first movement and energetic middle movement.

The final competitor was Asagi Nakata, representing the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music, who gave an excellent account of Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor ‘Pathetique’ Op.13. Her delicacy, elegance, fluency and expressive beauty emerged especially in the slow movement where the textures were finely balanced and flowed seamlessly; Asagi Nakata followed it with a Fur Elise which was equally successful in its poise and finesse, and in the event she received first place as well as the Audience Prize. In second place was Lee Jae Phang, of the Wells Cathedral School.

The Jury spokesman Angela Brownridge, announcing the Jury’s decision, underlined the high level of all the competitors, each of whom had won internal competitions in their respective institutions and highlighted how such competitions were important, especially as Beethoven is central to the pianist’s repertoire and it is useful to gain experience with Beethoven’s music early on. Valuable comments about each individual performer followed, as well as general comments on shortcomings which all could learn from, particularly the importance of a tempo that was manageable: speed for its own sake was to be avoided, in order to allow the more reflective and poetic aspects of the composer to emerge. The two main prizes were presented by the BPSE patrons William Brown CBE and Mrs Nachiko Brown. The two winners also receive recitals in the BPSE lunchtime series (dates will be announced on the BPSE Website and Newsletter). All participants received certificates and copies of the latest issue of Arietta, the BPSE Journal.

Written by Malcolm Miller (c)2010

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