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Category: Liszt

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Daniel Kharitonov, ll‏

Daniel Kharitonov

Daniel Kharitonov


there ‘ve been extraordinary
performances since Maria Mazo‘s
defining reinvention of Mozart’s
21st Piano Concerto
, the “Elvira
Madigan”, at the XVth International
Tchaikovsky Competition
, worthy
of, believe me, fruitful commentary,
but for the sake of brevity and, of
course, indiscretion, I’ve refrained
from going on and on, and on,
about however many of them, all,
nevertheless, quite outstanding

but before even the end of Daniel
‘s final and deciding
performance, of Tchaikovsky’s
indomitable 1st Piano Concerto,
followed by whatever by Liszt,
he has, like Maria Mazo, here
given us a new standard for
hearing these indelible musical
epics, she takes over from
Mitsuko Uchida, goddess of
Mozart, he takes over from very
Van Cliburn, you’ve got to go
back to 1958 to have heard
this commanding thunder

Kharitonov is sixteen, a bud
becoming a flower

wow, no matter who wins


psst: his Liszt, incidentally, will
restore your faith in Liszt

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Daniel Kharitonov‏

Daniel Kharitonov

Daniel Kharitonov


Daniel Kharitonov will be 17 in
December, I think he could win

after the usual misconceived, to
my mind, Bach, which he ends,
however, with lengthened notes
that evoke the organ instead of
the more skittish, less ceremonial
harpsichord, giving credence to
some, at least, rubato in Bach,
for Bach wrote exceedingly for
the organ, he then not only
recaptures your confidence with
an unexpectedly sparkling
“Appassionata”, not easy after
so many, then polishes off his
laurels with virtuosic Liszt,
Chopin and Rachmaninov after
having played a lovely, aptly
contemplative, “Méditation” of

Daniel Kharitonov is going places,
indeed has gone, Carnegie Hall, for
instance, in 2013, he would’ve been



at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – the program‏‏

"Beethoven, 1987" -  Andy Warhol

Beethoven, 1987 (1987)

Andy Warhol


you’ll probably have noted, if you’ve
been following the Tchaikovsky
, that, unlike the
Rubinstein, the selection of works
is much more constrained, though
the mighties nevertheless

after the third day and into the
fourth, only one contestant has
started with anything other than
Bach, a Tchaikovsky

but unfortunately none of them but
one had given us a Bach worthy of
his name, then followed through
with, not surprisingly, a quite
competent Mozart, the cultural
conditions being not yet all that
different, aristocrats were looking
for their own music instead of the
church’s, secular instead of
ecclesiastical, therefore a tune
rather than an oratorio, Beethoven
and the Revolution would change
all that

afterwards a sonata of Mozart,
Haydn or Beethoven, the Classical
triumvirate, after which Tchaikovsky,
appropriately at this competition,
then études, either “-tableaux”,
“transcendentales”, or plain and
simple, by Rachmaninov, Liszt, or
Chopin, that’s it, you get to hear
the “Appassionata” or the “Grandes
études de Paganini”
several times
that way, sharpening discernibly
your musical ear

one was riveting, Andrey Dubov‘s

another, Lukas Geniušas transfixed
me with his opus 2, no 3, of
Beethoven, a work I usually only
ever tolerate, sending it soaring
into the bard’s later mature, and
revelatory, period

others have been competent, even
admirable, several, however, not
ready for this trial, they’ve come
without adequate preparation for
the ball

though I’ve been watching it in
my pajamas, I should talk


at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition‏ – Jeung Beum Sohn‏

 Jeung Beum Sohn

Jeung Beum Sohn


in the second slot, on the second day,
Jeung Beum Sohn knocks the
competition to date right out of the
ballpark, his every interpretation is
not only flawless, but a revelation

his ostinatos, his agitatos, his
diminuendos, accelerandos, his
every stirring tremolando, are
precise, nuanced, utterly convincing,
his essential spirit more oracular than
merely ever only entertaining

can anyone win after such a

I am impetuous, in my enthusiasm
I’ve promoted it seems already
undeserving contestants, all of
which have nevertheless excited
my undiluted appreciation, though,
apparently, ultimately unwarranted

it appears this competition is
holding out for utter stars,
wondrous elucidators of our
still profoundly influential cultural
heritage, in a manner I deem, and I
use the words advisedly,
determinedly transcendental

check it out


at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition‏ – Yuri Favorin

Yuri Favorin

Yuri Favorin


if it doesn’t make you shiver, quiver,
throb even, after the first two numbers,
as far as I’m concerned, forget it, and
that’s being generous

Yuri Favorin flubs his introductory
Bach, losing too often the strict
Baroque tempo markings, notably
in the overlapping fugal* play of
both hands, required of Bach, for
consistency, world view, the clock
being the image of a fundamental
and prophetic order

but once the Romantic Era takes off,
he is transcendent, he made me
hear the Beethoven opus 22 all over
again, Beethoven’s 11th Sonata, and
that’s something, Beethoven can be
pleasant early on, decidedly
entertaining, even inspiring, but not
as profound as he later became, I
like profundity

his Tchaikovsky, his Chopin, are
melting, revelatory, who knew about
Tchaikovsky and “Nocturne’s, or ‘d
even thunk about it, or ‘d heard so
wrenchingly recently the dramatic
change of dynamics from
tempestuous to nearly stopped,
vulnerable and innocent, then
back again, in Chopin, as a device
in his music, in stark and
representative contrast, incidentally,
to Bach’s rigid Baroque framework

Liszt dots the “i” of transcendentalism,
something I refer to often, but which is
formally even expressed in his title,
“Études transcendentales”, an age in
which music aspired to be formally
much more than just music, attempted
to touch beyond the stars, define, even,

so when I say things are transcendent,
I’m not kidding, some things let you in
on the voice of deities, divinities, the
ineffable, the wonder, the miraculous

this guy, Yuri Favorin, is transcendent,
and he hasn’t even won yet


* fugal is the superimposition of
the same musical line alongside
the original one, but at a different
place along that line, we used to
call it singing in canon when it
applied to song

the 14th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition

Thomas Gainsborough - "The Blue Boy (Portrait of Jonathan Buttall" (1770)

The Blue Boy (Portrait of Jonathan Buttall) (1770)

Thomas Gainsborough


if you’ve missed me lately, it’s because I’ve been
in Tel Aviv for the past week, virtually of course,
taking in the 14th Arthur Rubinstein International
Piano Master Competition
, and they’re not kidding,
every challenger to date has been at the very least
astonishingly dextrous, sparkling even, though
some have been hampered by their own dire
program, with the unfortunate added condition
that, for all, they must integrate one of two
commissioned works that, to my mind, are
completely uninspired

other performers have been astounding, lots
of Beethoven of course, Chopin, Liszt, the
technically utterly daunting

among the moderns Ravel takes centre stage
as an option, with too many, to my mind, of his
tedious pieces,“Gaspard de la nuit”, yawn,
“La [, yawn again] valse”

but Bartok pops up, and Prokofiev, a great set
of variations by Szymanowski, unexpectedly,
and, at one point, a completely irresistible
Ligeti, more of which later

Nikolay Khozyainov starts with the only Ravel
I’ve been able to sit through without getting
impatient, “Gaspard de la nuit” to my mind
should stay there, “La valse” should
immediately stop, but Khozyainov‘s “Pavane
pour une infante défunte”
, or “Procession for
a Deceased Princess” was everything you
would want in a dirge, solemn, transcendental,

he follows up with a Liszt to knock your socks
off, “Feux follets”, “Fireflies”, fleet as the night
air, as mesmerizing

the final Rachmaninov sonata reminds us of
how wonderful Rachmaninov really was

watch, listen


Liszt – piano concerto no 2 in A major‏

since discovering Tamás Érdi, feral hands,
uncommonly hirsute, but uncovering the
soul of a poet, an angel in wolf’s clothing,
a satyr, without a flute but, at the piano,
I’ve been hooked, combined with Liszt he
is again irresistible, not to mention totally

you’ll find Liszt quite a bit like Beethoven,
but more bombastic than philosophical,
style trumps substance, Liszt was a
show-off, a pianistic Paganini

stylistic flourishes abound in the hands
of a deft, however uninformed might he
or she be, technical wizard, it doesn’t
take an Einstein, in other words, to be
a Puccini

and Liszt is a Puccini, who delivers
likewise, and for the very ages

note the same intensity as Beethoven
in Liszt, much of the same musical
idiosyncrasies, but with more dramatic,
late Romantic, alterations of tempo, he’ll
milk a phrase before returning to a more
Classical, which is to say, less elastic

his extemporisations are also less
ruminative, more serendipitously
motivated, like jazz, Liszt wants
primarily to dazzle, kick around,
not instruct

and he does, masterfully, just that

here’s Alfred Brendel doing an alternate,
wholly incandescent version
I couldn’t
at all leave out

here’s Julie Andrews giving her take on
the history of jazz