Astounding young pianist shows he’s worlds apart
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.