S&H Competition Review

Fifth British Contemporary Piano Competition Vestry Hall & The Warehouse, London. 10-12 November 2000


Waka Hasegawa 3rd Prize

Gabriel Keen 2rd Prize

Sarah Nichols 1st Prize

This triennial competition for pianists of 18 to 40 carries a first prize of £1,500 with a round of concert engagements. Promoted by the London College of Music and Media, in association with the Society for the Promotion of New Music, the preliminaries were held in Ealing. To qualify for the finals, competitors had to play music from a list of works by earlier 20C composers, one by a more recent major composer, plus pieces of their own choice, published or not. In the finals, held at The Warehouse, all four who got through that far had two compulsory pieces, Denis Smalley's Piano Nets with electro-acoustics, and Katherine Norman's Transparent sounds.

For listeners without scores, those sounded to be rather too alike in their pianistic demands, requiring good tonal control more than virtuosity. A third piece had to be chosen from a list selected by the SPNM, and in the event all contenders chose the same one, Frozen Heat by Dai Fujikura, a six-minute piece which, in my book, revealed as much of the pianists' potential as the two longer works together. (Fujikara has a penchant for achieving multiple performances of his compositions - in 1998 he had two pieces featured in workshops at the Huddersfield Festival).

Whilst the jury (Rolf Hind, Ian Pace & Thalia Myers) was deliberating, some tapes by Katherine Norman were played. Her set piece for this competition is included in a recent CD of her piano music played by Philip Mead (Founder & Artistic Director of the British Contemporary Piano Competition) Metier MSV CD92054.(review to follow)

The jury's decisions were based upon performances in all three rounds and, looking at their individual choices of repertoire in the earlier rounds, not all the competitors may have stretched themselves equally; so it would be out of order to try to express an informed opinion without having attended all three days. Perhaps a muted expression of surprise is allowable - the outcome of performance competitions is often controversial.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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