Evgeni Bozhanov of Bulgaria made a strong showing at the afternoon session of the preliminaries of the Van Cliburn Competition on Monday. His program of Mozart, Chopin and Chopin didn’t contain much composer variety, but who’s to complain when the level of skill and interpretation is exceptionally high?
Bozhanov opened with Mozart’s Sonata in D, K. 311. This sparkled with personality. His interpretation of Chopin’s Rondo a la Masur, Opus 5, offered both lyrical charm and an opportunity to hear something by a very famous composer that’s not often performed. There was one cellphone interpolation from the audience, but it was caught instantly and wasn’t much of a spoiler.
A fine performance of Chopin’s Sonata No. 3 in B minor reinforced the sense that the judges are going to have a hard time narrowing the semifinal field to 12 pianists.
Ilya Rashkovskiy of Russia was another impressive candidate. His sensitive performance of Beethoven’s Sonata in A-flat, Opus 110, was moving, and Chopin’s Ballade in G minor, lyrically (and dramatically) done, took this famous work out of the realm of cliché. Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No. 2 was vividly performed, though Rashkovskiy didn’t quite lift it into the category of inspired.
Victor Stanislavsky of Israel, who opened the afternoon session, was a disappointment. His program of Scarlatti, Mozart, Schumann and Ligeti had promise, but much of it was bland music-making. The one bright spot was the performance of the two Ligeti capriccios of 1947, which was adventurous and playful.