Tchaikovsky Competition Winners, LSO/Gergiev, Barbican
Thursday 22 September 2011
Some exports from Moscow carry a health warning, but the one we can be sure of is classical music, particularly when this comes in the form of winners from the International Tchaikovsky Competition.
Over its 50-year span this quadrennial contest has established itself as classical music’s Olympics: Dmitri Shostakovich, Maria Callas, Aram Khachaturian, and Mstislav Rostropovich were on early juries, with winners including the pianists Van Cliburn and Vladimir Ashkenazy, and violinists Gidon Kremer and Viktoria Mullova. The Barbican was packed (and royalty was in attendance) to hear this year’s winners, with support from the London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev on the podium.
The fact that the Moscow jury had not awarded two of the top four prizes in the singing section indicated that standards were being kept high. Just how high was apparent when the gold medallist, 27-year-old Sunyoung Seo from South Korea, sang the Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’. Running the whole gamut of human emotion, this aria makes a great showcase for a great voice, and this comely soprano brought a big and sumptuous sound to the task. Gloriously even from top to bottom, her voice had an unforced bel canto expressiveness, and she shaped her long-breathed phrases – and marked the music’s mood-changes - with impeccable grace. Now she should do the role for real at Covent Garden.
No surprise that the cello gold-medallist should come from Yerevan: Armenia’s capital is still a hotbed of string talent, despite that country’s now-grinding poverty. And 23-year-old Narek Hakhnazaryan launched into Tchaikovsky’s ‘Variations on a Rococo Theme’ with a tone whose beauty shone all the more brightly for its restraint. Every nuance of this subtle work was lovingly observed, and when he did let rip it was with blazing virtuosity. I would now like to hear what this boy can do with Bach’s solo suites: he could certainly give Yo-Yo Ma a run for his money.
Finally we got Tchaikovsky’s ‘Piano Concerto No 1’ courtesy of a pianist from Nizhniy Novgorod, but the way Daniil Trifonov played, you’d say he was a mature master, rather than a mere 20-year-old. Power in spades, crystalline passage-work, and a pearlised singing tone: he’s already got it all, and his encore – Liszt’s ‘La Campanella’ – had both flawless delicacy, and an engaging modesty.
In short, this year’s jury knew what it was doing.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
Putin accuses US of causing global instability