Meanwhile, the organisers did not have the wit to start earlier than 7.45 with three 50-minute recitals, the late finish (nearly 11) could have been avoided by starting at 7 oclock. Similarly as one prepares for Sunday, not only is there a similarly-late finish to anticipate, there is also the afternoon leg (starting at 2 oclock), which effectively leaves nearly three hours before the final recital.
Anyway, to the first three semi-finalists playing for a 14-member jury including Martino Tirimo, Ivan Klansky, Dennis Lee, Brian McMaster, Serge Dorny and Jacques Taddei.
Giuseppe Andaloro (Italian, born 1982) was on first. He impressed with Haydns E flat sonata (No.52) with playing both delicate and fulsome; his fleet fingers spun an intriguing web. He really appreciated the slow movements simplicity and deeper expression. In Chopins Fourth Scherzo, the most elusive of the set, Andaloro tilted the balance too much to flight-of-fancy. This disjointed account lacked structural fluency although there was no doubting the sparkling fingerwork or the poise and lyrical infusion of the middle section. Andaloro makes a lovely sound, one warm and rounded in fortissimos; he has an abundance of interpretative ideas and commands a range of colours and dynamics. He does his teacher, the late (and great) Sergio Fiorentino, proud. Despite his choosing either of Liszts concertos should he make the final, it was Liszts Hungarian Rhapsody No.12 that proved the least impressive item, which he begun with Imperialistic disdain and proved to have little soul for the roots of the music despite a rapier-like brilliance and dazzling fioritura. Fortunately there was no false rhetoric and Andaloro was a master of three of Gyorgy Ligetis etudes the unremitting rhythmic propulsion of No.1, the harmonic haze of No.5 and the altitude-climbing No.2 that seems to express so much regret. Andaloro must be a strong tip to reach the Final.
Not so Ozgur Aydin (American, born 1972) whose monochrome sound failed to illuminate Bartoks Out of Doors some finesse and very accurate playing not being enough, although Aydins exactitude paid dividends in the night-flurries of the penultimate movement. Chopins F sharp minor Polonaise was over-pedalled and relentless; Aydins professionalism allowed him to not be deterred by a recalcitrant insect. Aydin braved the original versions thickets of notes of Rachmaninovs Second Sonata but the pulverisation that bruised Chopin continued. Despite some attractively unaffected playing in the slow movement, Aydin seemed content to unleash his virtuosity and power; there was little revealing of Rachmaninovs psyche.
Danny Driver (British, born 1977) began Schumanns Kreisleriana rather sluggishly. While this clarified the roulade of notes to advantage, it also made the music curiously unemotive classical in the way Brahms can be, but not Schumann. One did become more aware of Drivers care with the music and the thought that lay behind his sensitive shaping of the slower music. Respect and affection is one thing, but Schumann is also aflame and in flight; these qualities were rarely heard. Yet Driver cut loose in Chopins G minor Ballade with a pinpoint balance between direction, flow and ardour, even a bit of melodrama, welcome in context. Driver also chose Ligeti the first two Etudes and was found wanting after Andaloro. The rhythmic panache of No.1 here sounded monotonous, and there was little emotion in No.2 where Andaloro took the close to infinity, Driver simply stopped. I suspect the competition has also stopped for Driver.
- Peter Grahame Woolf writes on earlier rounds here
- Recitals 2 & 3 of the semi-finals are in the QEH on Sunday, 14 April, at 2 and 7.45 respectively - a report appears here
- The Final is in the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday, 16 April, at 7 oclock - a report appears here
- Box Office: 020 7960 4201 www.rfh.org.uk