London International Piano Competition – The Final

Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat
Piano Concerto No.2 in A
Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat, Op.73 (Emperor)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Sian Edwards


Jayson Lloyd Gillham
Jean-Frédéric Neuberger
Herbert Schuch


Sulamita Aronovsky (Chairman)
Carlos Cebro
Sándor Falvai
Michael Finnissy
Bernd Goetzke
Jun Kanno
Andrea Lucchesini
Erik T. Tawaststjerna
David Titterington
Begoña Uriarte
Timothy Walker

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 12 April, 2005
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

The Final was somewhat lacking in atmosphere, which maybe had something to do with the less than full house. At least Timothy West was brief in his introductions, humorous too, although the need for a microphone – for him and for the closing announcement of the winner – meant audible hiss through the ceiling-hanging loudspeakers throughout the music; not intrusive but noticeable. I asked one of the stage managers about this during the interval. It is to do with the backstage amplifier needed for when a microphone is present, which cannot be switched off. All a bit antiquated it seems, and hopefully to be addressed come the imminent refurbishment. I am though grateful for the information.

The performance of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.1 was further blighted by a photographer (presumably official?) whose two cameras were in use during the first concerto: a visual and audible intrusion, including flash photography; the latter seemed remarkably insensitive to the performers (primarily) and the audience. Fortunately the lady concerned moved – although the cameras’ action and flashing remained a dubious presence. Indeed, the lights suggested that the “Concert Companion” (a device for feeding programme notes to hand-held TVs while the music is being played) could be a ‘last-straw’ irritant. Hopefully the South Bank won’t rush into this latest import. Do click on this site’s “Talking Points” for more on this potentially contentious issue.

As to the LIPC Final itself, Jayson Lloyd Graham seemed uninvolved in Liszt No.1. Although he was well prepared, he went no further than to polish the notes, and in the last section his technique was less than pristine. In Liszt No.2, Jean-Frédéric Neuberger displayed a more heightened response to this composer, although he didn’t quite manage the inspiration of his Semi-final appearance.

What turned out to be a neat programme – the two 20-minute Liszt concertos balanced by the 40-minute Beethoven – concluded with Herbert Schuch giving a controlled, maybe competition-winning account of the Emperor. Here was poise and flow; everything was beautifully organised. If Schuch rarely seemed emotionally involved, diffident even, there was some individuality in the way he balanced his hands and in some rhythmic pointing in the finale.

Throughout, the LPO and Sian Edwards offered decent support.

There was a case for a joint-second prize – Neuberger and Schuch – and I didn’t stay for the result. So the winner is…

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