FORT WORTH - Unexpected
delights characterized the second afternoon of the Cliburn Foundation's
International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs (aka the
Amateur Cliburn) Tuesday at Ed Landreth Auditorium on the TCU campus.
Who would have anticipated that a Realtor -- Carolyn Luskin of
Devon, Pa., to be precise -- would so magnificently combine exemplary
control of touch and pedal with a vibrant musical imagination in
Beethoven's Variations in C Minor? Or that a retired British patent agent -- John Blasdale of New Jersey -- could imbue a Mozart Sonata movement with the blend of poetry, drama and sheer joy of living that often eludes even professional musicians?
Greg Kostraba, a radio host from Toledo, Ohio, did his part to
freshen up the repertoire with a beautifully energetic rendition of
excerpts from American composer Robert Muczynski's Sonata No. 2, including a jazzy, light-filled perpetual motion. Kostraba opened with Liszt's transcription of J.S. Bach's Fanatasy in G minor, delivered with appealing assertiveness.
California lawyer Brad Arington began his performance with two
seldom-heard Mazurkas of Polish romantic Karol Szymanowski -- one
fragrant and atmospheric, the other energetically folklike -- before
launching into Chopin's very well-known Polonaise in A Flat, achieving a compelling sense of celebration in this old standard.
Victor Alexeeff, a Canadian-born film composer now based in
California, crammed four short works into his 12-alloted-minute
performance, including a wonderfully stormy Suggestion diabolique of Prokofiev, quite as devilish as the title implies.
On the angelic end, Houston information systems adviser Stephen
Fierros revived a lavishly romanticized piano transcription of Bach's
aria My Heart Ever Faithful by early 20th-century virtuoso
Ignaz Friedman; he also exhibited a breathtaking command of tempo and
touch in a pair of rococo sonatas of Antonio Soler.
Chicagoan Stephen A. Zivin brought the first major excitement of the
evening by pairing a joyous performance of the presto from Beethoven's Sonata in D, Opus 10, No. 3, with a broad, movingly evocative performance of the Alcott movement from Ives' Concord Sonata.
And Venezuelan Abigail Alberto Romero Ramirez brought on the first
standing ovation of the competition with a thunderous rendition of the
Toccata of contemporary Brazilian composer Amaral Vieira --
unintentionally anticipating the thunder that accompanied the severe
weather outside, causing a 15-minute delay later in the evening.
Thunder and high winds were still audible in Landreth Auditorium as
Coloradoan Dale Backus, unperturbed, presented a serene performance of
Bach's Partita in B Flat. Returning competitor Greg Fisher,
meanwhile, had the perfect offering for a stormy evening -- and one
likely to pull him forward to the next round -- in Liszt's stormy Funerailles.
Closing out the night, Washingtonian John Gardecki added another
outstanding performance to what is shaping up to be the most impressive
Amateur Cliburn yet. In contrast to the blustery weather outside, he
gave the audience a smoothly delivered Scriabin Nocturne by finding the
perfect lilt and aura of improvisation in Chopin's Mazurka in B Flat.
The Amateur Cliburn: May 31-June 5, Texas Christian University
Bach, Chopin and a few other standard composers have dominated the
repertoire at this year's version of the Amateur Cliburn. But music
lovers wanting to experience something a little different get some
During the afternoon session, Canadian-born network administrator
Thomas Maurice will perform the Toccata by the late American composer
Harold Zabrack, who was a friend and teacher of Maurice, and a prolific
composer of piano music.
Though the name of 20th-century German-American composer Paul
Hindemith is well known to orchestra concertgoers via a handful of
symphonic works, his solo piano music seldom turns up in piano
concerts. However, New York legal assistant Mark Gordon will indulge
his passion for Hindemith with a movement from that composer's Piano
Sonata No. 3 and sections of the monumental study in counterpoint, Ludus Tonalis.
This listener is particularly looking forward to a performance by
Minnesota-based music store manager Darin Tysdale of the first movement
of the Sonata No. 2 by Nikolai Kapustin. A Russian jazz pianist living
in Moscow, Kapustin is continuing to produce one of the most
significant bodies of piano music of our time; his Sonata No. 2 imbues
structures and piano technique inspired by Chopin with the energy and
aura of jazz.
The day's schedule will also feature the return of notable past
performers, including former finalist Charles Chien, who will perform
works by Scriabin and Schubert at the close of the afternoon session,
and former finalist Henri Delbeau, whose performance of works by Bach,
Wagner and Liszt will close the evening session. Paul Anthony Romero,
who was second-place winner in 2002, will perform works by Rachmaninoff
during the evening session.
The afternoon session will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and the
evening session will be 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Semi-finalists will be
announced after the end of the evening session. Admission is $10 for
each session. Call (817) 335-9000 or log onto www.centralticketoffice.com for more information.
-- Wayne Lee Gay