Winning Ways--Carmel Music Society piano competition crowns trio of winners.
Thursday, April 2, 1998
A recent spate of winning local concerts concluded last Saturday, with cash prizes for the winners of the Carmel Music Society''s annual competition. For the eight piano finalists (all California residents), the nerve-testing event sported a brand-new Steinway imported from its German manufacturer. (While Hamburg Steinways are often lauded for their facile action, their tone, when compared with American Steinways, has been characterized--in the words of one erudite commentator--as "slick" instead of full-bodied, "like a vintage Cabernet released before its time.")
The instrument, which went out of tune at its inaugural recital by Andras Schiff, was now properly dressed for the occasion. Indeed, it underscored the capabilities of the three prize winners on display last Saturday evening. (It also disclosed a constricted nasality of tone in its tenor range.)
To these old ears, the second-prize winner, Timothy Durkovic (age 27), deserved first prize ($3,500 and an engagement during the CMS''s 1998-99 season). Given the professional level of competition screeners, it''s a virtual given that the winners all have exceptional technique. Therefore, one may legitimately concentrate on personality and interpretation.
In a program of Mozart, Liszt, Crumb and a gratuitous potboiler by Scriabin, Durkovic tweaked Mozart''s Sonata in B flat, K333 with sparkling clarity and restless impatience. In six Liszt arrangements of Polish songs by Chopin, he underscored the contrasts between them and added extra elan to the Lisztian flourishes. Requiring the pianist to stroke the low strings by hand while holding down the sustain pedal, George Crumb''s Carol of the Bells recalled Henry Cowell''s historic experiments, and also provoked unintended squeaks from the piano bench every time Durkovic hurriedly returned to a sitting position for its more conventional passages. In sound and style, the piece might well be called "Messiaen''s Visit to China." Lastly, Durkovic threw one to the gallery, Scriabin''s faux-arch Etude, Op8:12.
First-prize winner Heidi Hau (age 21) allowed the rhythm in the prestissimo of Beethoven''s Sonata in E, Op109 to tumble into moments of confusion which diverted attention from effect to technique. She delivered commendable efforts in Liszt''s Sonetto 104 "Petrarca" and a shimmering color palette in selections from Debussy''s Images. While she demonstrated a trained sense of various styles, she fulfilled her greatest expressive intensity in Rodion Shchedrin''s relentless Basso ostinato, a thrilling ride to some unnamed but terrifying deliverance.
Third prize went to Aglika Angelova (age 23) who performed two Scarlatti sonatas, two excerpts from Debussy''s Images, Liszt''s La leggierezza and a Chopin etude. Chief among her attractions was a fluid legato that infused all her playing with luminous melody; a restless spirit or tone of discontent could only enhance this desirable skill. Competition judges were James Bonn, Craig Rutenberg and Frederick Weldy.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the New York Woodwind Quintet. Its players are dedicating the current tour to the memory of founding flutist Samuel Baron, for many decades a highly respected and influential New York artist who still has a dozen recordings listed in the Schwann catalogs. Indeed, all current members of the NYWQ have numerous recordings listed in Schwann, giving some idea of their individual and collective stature. Any member of the Chamber Music Society (who sponsored the local appearance) with recordings of wind ensembles will find flutist Carol Wincenc, oboist Ronald Roseman, clarinetist Charles Neidich, bassoonist Donald MacCourt and hornist William Purvis in their collections.
For the Carmel concert, NYWQ played a varied program that contained items not previously heard here, including Elliott Carter''s Woodwind Quintet and Villa-Lobos'' Quinteto em forma de choros. Stylistically at odds with his later works, Carter''s quintet is both contrapuntal and humorful, recalling Stravinsky. Its last movement actually swings with that peculiar French take on American jazz. The Villa-Lobos is among the Brazilian composer''s more avant-garde exercises, spiky with dissonance and angular writing, full of attitude, intellectual clarity, exciting effects and driving force. Three contrapunti from J.S. Bach''s Art of Fugue in delicious arrangements by Samuel Baron made use of as few as three instruments and as many as six (oboist Roseman switching to cor anglais). Nielsen''s grand Quintet, Op43 concluded the short evening; Roseman once again switched between oboe and cor anglais, and bassoonist MacCourt substituted a longer last joint to reach for the contrabass tones the composer mischievously called for. The work itself is like a miniature version of his symphonic movements, bringing Sibelius'' expressionistic style out of the forests, and face to face with the destructive works of 20th century mankind. Nielsen''s restless soul decorates classical forms with rich instrumental raiment and disquieted harmonies. The last movement, a variations, revealed a finely-honed arsenal of colorism and invention, including one episode for horn alone. As an encore, the musicians served up a Baron arrangement of Scherzo from Mendelssohn''s A Midsummer Night''s Dream.
LastWeek''s Quiz: What is a pardessus? Answer: The highest pitched instrument in a family, eg. piccolo flute, piccolo trumpet, sopranino recorder, sopranino viol.
This Week''s Quiz: Fill in the instrument in Walt Whitman''s "I hear the : ''tis the young man''s heart''s complaint." cw
Santa Cruz County Symphony
Saturday, 8pm. John Larry Granger conducts Adams'' The Chairman Dances, Mozart''s Symphony 40 in G Minor, Brahms'' Double Concerto in A Minor (featuring Klein String winners, violinist Jennifer Frautschi, cellist Mark Kosower). Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. $16.50-$30. 429-3444.
Pianist Alfred Kanwischer
Sunday, 3pm. Former Monterey artist performs three late Beethoven sonatas. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, Concert Hall, CSU San Jose, 7th and El Paseo de San Carlos, San Jose. $15/general, $7/students. 924-4590.
Kitka Vocal Ensemble
Sunday, 8pm. Songs of Bulgaria, Russia, Macedonia and Ukraine. Cabrillo College Theater, 6500 Soquel Dr., Aptos. $12/general, $10/seniors & students. 479-6444.