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S&H Competition Report

ANDALORO'S PROGRESS London International Piano Competition, 6-16 April 2002. Recitals and Concerto Finale at South Bank Centre 8, 9, 12 & 16 April (PGW)


It requires dedication to follow a competition through all its stages, and only jury members have a complete overview. Having at two Quarter Finals sessions and one of the Semi-Finals sampled the field for this important event (previously triennial and hopefully marketed as the World Piano Competition - brought forward this year because of imminent building work due at South Bank Centre) I felt at that point privileged to have encountered three well equipped pianists, Alexei Zouev, Lorène de Ratuld and Guiseppe Andaloro, each of whom might have proved worthy finalists.

Others had the limitations one might expect at the beginning of a competition, even though the pre-publicity was of 'twenty-four outstanding young pianists representing fourteen countries'. It surprised me that the format did allow for first stage elimination - a generous second chance for those who had not acquitted themselves well, but onerous for the jury and for paying audiences. No music scores were provided, which might have raised difficulties for border-line decisions, it being unlikely that all Jury members could have been fully familiar with the long list of set works (including Carter's Night Fantasies and Dutilleux's Sonata) - and they certainly could not have known some of the free choices offered (I heard Boulez Notations and rare works by Hindemith and Lendvai).

Several aspirants failed to match limited talent with suitable repertoire. One young Russian who battered us with Prokofiev's huge Sonata No 8 seemed to have spent so long memorising the notes that he had forgotten all the dynamic markings and given no thought to a Prokofiev sound; another made Scriabin's grandiloquent third sonata seem more turgid than usual; a third butchered Liszt's Dante Sonata so comprehensively that I could not face hearing it played again immediately afterwards, and with Rachmaninoff's second to follow!

In the quarter-finals stage, Lorène de Ratuld (French, 22) integrated Mozart's wayward Fantasie in C minor in a well considered interpretation and delighted me with her comprehensive grasp of the sensuousness and wit of Dutilleux's multi-faceted Sonata, a work of such variety and complexity that it can really only be grasped fully if one has worked at playing it oneself, however inadequately. Alexei Zouev (Russian, 19) challenged memories of the greats in two peaks of the repertoire, bringing transcendental technique and finely attuned ears, with mature thought and the fullest palette of pianistic colour, to Beethoven's Waldstein sonata and Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit.

Guiseppe Andaloro (Italy, 20) showcased three short sonatas - stylish Haydn encompassing sentiment and wit; perfectly judged sonority and weight in Janacek's (a grim memorial to 1 October 1905); scrupulous attention to detail and proper hyper-intensity for Berg's Op 1, and Messiaen's early Prelude no 8 a virtuosic flourish to finish. Of those three musicianly pianists I had enjoyed, only Andaloro progressed to the semi-finals in QEH, where he confirmed my good impressions with another Haydn sonata, Chopin's Scherzo No.4 given with sensitivity and pianistic subtlety, Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No.12 scintillating and fresh, holding attention for its every contrasting section, and to finish dazzling Ligeti; characteristically this pianist chose to end quietly with No.5. Neither of the two other semi-finalists I heard matched, in my opinion, de Ratould or Zouev, nor did the two runner-ups in the Finals who, admittedly, I only heard in the totally different (and frankly less interesting) situation of concertos with orchestra.

Andaloro stood out head and shoulders above the other finalists, playing Liszt No.2 with the LPO/Tomasz Bugaj, with authority and scale commensurate with the Royal Festival Hall, thundering with the best when called for, attentive to orchestral soloists, especially in his accompaniment of the first cello, his timing well judged, ample variety of touch and dynamics when allowed to relax, holding the audience in complete, attentive silence with pianissimo which yet carried.

In competition with those selected from the 'hundreds' who had applied to contend (Lady Solti), he was a deserving winner, but listening later that night to the 1st Prizewinner's account of Tchaikowsky No.1 in the 1975 Finals of the Queen Elizabeth International Music Competition of Belgium (Mikhail Faerman) brought a sense of perspective to this young London competition, inaugurated in 1991. The Belgian competition celebrated its half-century last year with the release of a revelatory CD box of performances back to Kogan in 1951, taking in such luminaries as Fleisher (1952), Ashkenazy (1956) and the 20 year old Mitsuko Uchida (only 10th in 1968, but a wonderful Beethoven No.3). I urge competition fanciers to acquire this set, despite technical imperfections in some of the older recordings - CYPRES CYP9612.

A last word for Alexei Zouev, who did not reach Stage Three to play Bartok, Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev; only 19, his remarkable gifts and promise were recognised with one of the Educational Awards for young pianists 'who show outstanding potential', carrying assistance towards furthering their studies and possible inclusion in the programme of concert engagements. Try to hear him!

Peter Grahame Woolf



(World Piano Competition)

Prizewinners for the 2002 Competition

1st prize

Mr Giuseppe ANDALORO


2nd prize

Mr Alberto NOSÈ


3rd prize

Mr Andrey SHIBKO



Miss Hea-Jung CHO


Miss Natasha PAREMSKI


Mr Wen-Yu SHEN


Mr Alexei ZOUEV



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