As­tound­ing young pi­anist shows he’s worlds apart

The Daily Telegraph - - Arts - By Ivan Hewett

Leeds In­ter­na­tional Piano Com­pe­ti­tion Fi­nal Leeds Town Hall ★★★★★

Leeds stands among the very top of pres­ti­gious piano com­pe­ti­tions, as is shown by the fact that the best young pi­anists world­wide all want to com­pete in it. Eastern Euro­pean, Rus­sian and Asian names were most prom­i­nent amongst the 24 pi­anists who made the trip to Leeds; even the two Bri­tish con­tes­tants were named Bere­zovsky and Yang.

Chi­nese pi­anist Xinyuan Wang was one of five who ap­peared at Leeds Town Hall for the two fi­nal rounds on Fri­day and Satur­day, where they were ac­com­pa­nied by the Hallé Or­ches­tra and Edward Gard­ner. His per­for­mance of Schu­mann’s Piano Con­certo caught that genuine Schu­mann tone of fer­vent yet in­ti­mate feel­ing, but some de­tails were smudged and he didn’t seem to be on his best form. The same could be said of the other fi­nal­ists. Rus­sian pi­anist Anna Ge­niushene’s per­for­mance of Prokofiev’s bit­ter­sweet Piano Con­certo No 3 was tech­ni­cally pol­ished but un­der-char­ac­terised, Ger­man pi­anist Mario Häring missed the hu­mour in Beethoven’s Piano Con­certo No 1. Croa­t­ian pi­anist Aljoša Jurinič’s per­for­mance of Mozart’s great C mi­nor con­certo was sen­si­tive and beau­ti­fully shaped, but missed the mu­sic’s ex­pan­sive­ness.

By pure chance the best of the fi­nal rounds was saved un­til last, with a per­for­mance of Beethoven’s 4th Piano Con­certo from Amer­i­can pi­anist Eric Lu. It was re­ally no sur­prise when the jury an­nounced him as the win­ner, be­cause although he was the youngest of the fi­nal­ists, in terms of self­pos­ses­sion and tech­ni­cal com­mand he seemed the old­est. Some fi­nal­ists seemed to ig­nore the or­ches­tra, some went along with it, but Lu seemed to com­mand it, set­ting a tempo in the tragic slow move­ment which puts the piano apart in its own lonely world.

Artistry of that kind is rare in pi­anists of any age; to find it in a 20-year-old is sim­ply as­tound­ing.

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