by Daniel Hathaway

CIPC-ButterflyThe final four contestants rolled around for a second hearing on Monday evening, beginning with a clever program devised and played by Cahill Smith, who followed a beautifully shaped reading of Scarlatti’s K. 466 sonata — in which he pointed up important harmonic details — with Sebastian Currier’s 1996 Scarlatti Cadences, a series of dreamy riffs on snippets of the composer’s works. The competition’s ‘first sighting of Chopin’s Winter Wind etude (op. 25/11) was well organized in Smith’s hands but perhaps not as wild as the composer had in mind. The left-hand themes rang out handsomely. In Brahms’s Vier Klavierstücke, op. 11, Smith created stylistically true performances on a Brahmsian scale that would in some cases have benefited from longer melodic lines. One tiny glitch and one more noticeable memory flub were minor blemishes on the surface of a satisfying set.

Kwan Yi also led with Scarlatti — one sonata in D Major, one in d minor (K. 482 & 32), imitating guitars in the first — a highly fluent performance — and creating a lovely slow aria in the second. Amazingly even right-hand runs characterized his reading of Chopin’s a minor Etude (op. 10/2). The poltergeists of live performance crept in near the end of the first movement of Beethoven’s Op. 111 sonata when he suddenly lost focus, left out a few bars of the left hand part and had to bring the movement to an end before its time. He recovered for the Arietta but seemed distracted; its nattering trills came into the foreground instead of the thematic line.

François Dumont proposed Tanguy’s jazzy Intermezzo for an opener, stylishly playing its all-over-the-keyboard chords. The second Winter Wind etude of the evening found Dumont fully in control of balances; he revealed left-hand details that usually get buried and his bass line at the end was magnificent. A clear-textured performance of Chopin’s third sonata was full of beautiful tone in the first movement and fluent and rhythmic in the Scherzo. The recitative in the Largo was strong and declamatory and Dumont crowned the sonata with a bright, bold finale.

After an even and nuanced Bach prelude and fugue (g-sharp minor, WTC I), Miao Huang put forth her own take on the Chopin b minor sonata, a performance which made complete sense in its own way. Dramatic on a small scale and full of expressive surges in the first movement, initially frothy then eventful in the second, the third-movement aria was beautifully-paced and the finale clear and decisive.

Published on August 6, 2013

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