Brahms, Chopin, Stravinsky

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms,Chopin,Stravinsky
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Winners
WORKS: Brahms: Piano Sonata in C, Op. 1
PERFORMER: Jon Nakamatsu (piano, gold medallist)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907218
I found these discs deeply depressing, but unsurprising. On present evidence, I would rank these players in exactly the opposite order to that chosen by the jury, but none of them strikes me as really distinguished.

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The first two are exemplary competition pianists: accurate, powerful, ‘big’ players of apparently impenetrable self-confidence (unless, perhaps, the almost total lack of imaginative ideas and colouristic variety was a function of well-concealed nerves – and thisis possible).

Is it merely coincidence, I wonder, that the most interesting and questing player (Reichert, the bronze medallist) is also the least technically secure (how many hours must he have devoted to the terrifying octaves at the end of the Schubert, only to struggle through them by the skin of his teeth when the big moment came?).

Alone among these players, Reichert has obviously given the music his careful and probing consideration (the operative word being ‘obviously’), and he’s the only one who succeeds in shedding fresh light on familiar music.

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Alas, his initially interesting attention to inner voices in the Schubert soon becomes formulaic and is often achieved at the expense of the (deservedly) more familiar upper voice, which carries the ‘song’. Jeremy Siepmann