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by Robert Rollin

DONG-Fei-FeiThe Youngstown Symphony presented its second Powers Auditorium classical concert on Saturday evening, October 19th with a fine and varied program. The evening’s highlight, an excellent performance of the popular Edvard Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, featured the young and remarkably talented Fei-Fei Dong as soloist.

Dong, a first-prize winner of the Schumann International Piano competition for Young Musicians, the Asia-Pacific International Chopin Piano Competition, and the Steinway and Sons International Youth Piano Competition, has debuted with orchestras in New York, Paris, Hong Kong, and Aspen, Colorado. She was also a finalist in the 2013 Van Cliburn Competition.

The first movement, Allegro molto moderato, after its short timpani roll opening, immediately presented a brilliant piano cadenza performed by Dong with steely precision and poised expression. She showed great rhythmic control and played her solo passages masterfully, but without being overbearing or excessively forceful. Conductor Randall Fleischer maintained careful control of the musical flow—always shaping the evolving interplay of horn solos, cellos, other members of the orchestra, and the piano solo. After the cello section theme restatement, Dong returned with a flashier cadenza replete with terrific muscular playing and lots of decorative trills. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hathaway

Cleveland, OH — August 8, 2011


L-R: Kyu Yeon Kim, Eric Zuber, Alexey Chernov, Alexander Schimpf. Photo by Roger Mastroianni

The Cleveland International Piano Competition awarded $116,000 in prizes and another $26,000 in consolation prizes during the final event of the 2011 Competition in Severance Hall on Sunday afternoon, August 7.

After remarks from host Robert Conrad of WCLV, Dr. James Gibbs, President of the Piano International Association of Northeast Ohio, Karen Knowlton, Executive Director of CIPC, and a nod from jury chair Peter Frankl, who declined to speak (Conrad passed along Frankl’s opinion that he’d talked enough in the last ten days!), the following special prizes were awarded: Read the rest of this entry »

By Mike Telin

Cleveland, OH — August 1, 2011

Steinway Piano model d

Five pianists played in the penultimate session of the second round on Monday afternoon.

Marina Baranova (30, Ukraine/Germany) gave sensitive and stylish readings of Scarlatti’s Sonatas in C Major (K.159) and f minor (k.466). Her discrete use of pedal and clear articulations, combined with some nice ornamentation, made for pleasurable listening. Continuing with two works of Schumann, the ABEGG Variations, Op. 1 and Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26 Ms. Baranova once again showed her technical command of the instrument, and made easy  and clean work of the numerous rapid scale passages in both pieces. In general she approached the ABEGG Variations from an introspective point of view,  creating some beautiful phrasing and lovely articulations. These fine qualities also featured in her performance of  Faschingsschwank aus Wien, along with grand fortissimos. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Cleveland, OH — July 29, 2011

Steinway Piano model d

Friday afternoon brought new faces and some fresh repertory to the penultimate session of the first round.

Ms. Marina Baranova (30, Ukraine/Germany) began the session with the first Beethoven “Waldstein” Sonata to appear in the playlist thus far, closely followed (with hardly any pauses) by Ligeti and Chopin. She took a businesslike approach to the first movement of the Beethoven. There were some tangles in scalar passages and an infelicitous plunge into the recapitulation. She paid more attention to voicing in the slow, second movement, with fine results. She did an intereresting thing at the beginning of the finale — starting it very slowly and softly as though the main theme were emerging from a haze, then making a huge crescendo into the restatement of the tune. Throughout, dynamics seemed to hover at both extremes with not much middle ground, but her soft playing was lovely. In her Ligeti, Fanfares (Etudes: Book 1, No. 4), she stylishly played sassy chords against a nonstop running line that alternated between hands. In her Chopin, the “Winter Wind” Etude, she demonstrated some sensitive phrasing, especially in the transitions. Read the rest of this entry »

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