Thursday night’s Round 2 of the Cliburn Competition semifinals placed two performances of the same major work in close juxtaposition. The work was Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A, one of the greatest of its kind and for years a favorite in the Cliburn chamber-music phase.
China’s Di Wu (photo at left) should probably be declared the winner of the Dvorak matchup, though Russia’s Eduard Kunz had much to offer. Each was a pleasure to hear.
Both artists have a significant lyric gift and distinctive personalities. I felt that Wu melded a little better with the Takács Quartet, but Kunz was not far off and both gave performances that flowed with lyric beauty and congenial drama.
I’m wondering if the stage setup in Bass Hall for the chamber-music performances doesn’t have acoustical ramifications. In both Ran Dank’s earlier Brahms quintet performance and Kunz’s Dvorak, there were times when the piano seemed to fade, acoustically, behind the quartet. This wasn’t as noticeable a problem in Wu’s performance.
Thursday night’s solo recital (chamber music and solos alternate) brought Andrea Lam of Australia back to the stage. She opened and closed impressively, with a charming Haydn sonata (Hob. XVI:50) and a joyous Ginastera Suite de danzas Criollas, respectively, and I felt her performance of the new work, Bates’ White Lies for Lomax, was a winner. But pieces by Brahms and Stravinsky failed to generate as much interest.
Perhaps filling up your recital programs mostly with collections of relatively short pieces is not wise. Aside from the Haydn (and maybe including that), Lam will have to go all the way to the finals to play a work of substantial gravitas, Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 6.