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Emily Liz

Indianapolis Competition 2010 Finals - Night 2/4

September 24, 2010 at 6:43 PM

Onto night two of the finals of the Indianapolis Competition! Once again, as I did in my last entry, I offer to readers a reminder that, despite any gentle criticism I may have for any of the six finalists, I am in awe of all of them. They all have way more musical talent than I could ever hope to have.

The evening began with a performance by Benjamin Beilman. A couple of months ago, I listened to his performance of the Sibelius that won him the Montreal Competition. I was astonished by it. He’s the only violinist I’ve been following since the beginning of the Indy, simply because he was the only one I was really familiar with. So it’s tough for me to say whether I’ve been loving his performances so much in Indiana because I know his playing, or whether he just really is that good. Obviously I’m hoping the latter.
So, disclaimer aside, I enjoyed his Haydn a great deal. I’ve been trying to write my reviews while watching the video, but Beilman’s playing compelled me to stop multi-tasking and just absorb his performance in its entirety - so I was forced to watch it twice, once to listen and once to critique (poor me). It turns out, upon re-listening, that there wasn’t very much to critique. I loved everything about his performance: the dynamic contrasts - the quality of his sound (so mature and unique!) - his judicious use of vibrato - the way he was so aware of the orchestra around him - his smiles at the conductor and the other players. He looked as if he was having the time of his life up there, and I sincerely hope he was! The second movement in particular was just divine. He knows how to use artful pauses and silences to intensify the effect. I could hear, even through the Internet connection, that people in the hall were holding their breath, especially in the trill coming out of the cadenza (around 15:20 in his archived performance). It was magical. Even in moments where there were perhaps some minor errors - there were some intonation issues in the third movement, for instance - the general beauty of his playing and the intelligence with which he approaches playing makes up for them. Needless to say, this is a performance I will return to again and again.
Next came Haoming Xie in a performance of Mozart’s fifth concerto. It was all very pretty and heartfelt and elegant, but I didn’t feel much fire. I like a bit of mischief in Mozart - a quick dynamic change here, a subtle slide there - and, aside from the cadenzas, I didn’t feel as if he brought many of those little details to his performance. However, I did find the second movement to be very beautiful. His sweet gentle style suited Mozart’s delicate writing there very well.
The last performer of the evening was Sooyoung Yoon. Her playing was fresh and sprightly, full of verve and life. Her bow control was one of the highlights of the competition for me. Throughout the concerto she played a variety of staccatos at the frog, and every single one was crisp and clean and energetic. Her bow division in the second movement of the Mozart was a joy to behold (the pianissimo dynamic she was able to achieve around the 14:00 mark in her archived performance was particularly stunning). There were some issues with the tempo in the third movement when the orchestra lagged behind. But the character she brought to the music, combined with her strong clear tone, helped to make up for the little tug-of-war over tempo. I'm looking forward to her Sibelius as much as Beilman’s, and given how much I loved Beilman’s in Montreal, that’s saying something.
[I just checked out the Indy Star’s review of the concert and it turns out we wrote nearly the exact same thing - only I took more words to say it (of course). But I deliberately did not read any reviews of the concert until I wrote my own. Just so you know.]
So. Here are Emily Liz’s amateur predictions of who is currently ranking where on the jury’s list, based on their classical concerto performances.
First or second place - Benjamin Beilman, Sooyoung Yoon
Third or fourth place - Andrey Baranov, Clara-Jumi Kang
Fifth or sixth place - Antal Szalai, Haoming Xie
But, as we all know, any one of these players is capable of bringing out an extraordinary romantic concerto. For instance, I’ve already mentioned in my last entry how I’m thinking that Antal Szalai’s Bartok will be an important performance. It is still anybody’s race - but, for my money leastways, Benjamin Beilman has a head start.

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