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Cliburn Performances Edge Down a Little


by Olin Chism 30 May 2009

The level of Saturday afternoon’s playing at the Cliburn semifinals seemed to me to slip a little from Friday’s high standard. Mariangela Vacatello’s Schumann quintet, played with the Takács Quartet, of course, went very well. She and the quartet formed a fine team, with her prior chamber-music experience a factor. In the finale they were […]

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The level of Saturday afternoon’s playing at the Cliburn semifinals seemed to me to slip a little from Friday’s high standard.

Mariangela Vacatello’s Schumann quintet, played with the Takács Quartet, of course, went very well. She and the quartet formed a fine team, with her prior chamber-music experience a factor. In the finale they were really clicking. It was an impressive showing, though the memory of Michail Lifits’ beautifully flowing and lyrical Schumann of Friday night was not dimmed.

Eduard Kunz is a controversial figure, at least in the press room, where he is viewed as eccentric at best and worse at worst. The audiences love him, though, and his eccentricities, if such they be, have not eliminated the fact that there‘s something in his music that touches me. I enjoyed his Waldstein Sonata of Beethoven, which was not rigid in tempo, dynamics or timing (it also wasn’t note-perfect) and he found drama and high spirits in this old favorite.

Kunz’ performance of Rachmaninoff’s Moments musicaux held my interest (it’s something I usually feel pretty neutral about), but Bates’ White Lies for Lomax was sort of middle-of-the-field among the performances of the work heard so far.

Ran Dank’s Partita No. 4 by Bach flowed well, though it never really became engrossing. Dank gave the impression that he enjoyed playing White Lies for Lomax, the competition’s commissioned favorite, and I liked his stormy but playful account of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 6.

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