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Posted on Sat, Jun. 05, 2004
 I M A G E S 
Hiroko Ohtani of Dearborn, Mi., plays at the Cliburn Foundation's International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs on Tuesday at TCU's Ed Landreth Auditorium.
Carolyn Luskin of Devon, Pa., shows a vibrant musical imagination in Beethoven's Variations in C Minor at the Cliburn Foundation's International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs on Tuesday at TCU's Ed Landreth Auditorium.

Fumbles and fine moments mark Cliburn semifinal round

Star-Telegram Classical Music Critic

An epidemic of fumbled notes and memory slips struck the International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs on Friday afternoon at TCU's Ed Landreth Auditorium as the Amateur Cliburn moved into the semifinal round. The original field of 72 competitors, each of whom had played a program of 10 minutes earlier in the week, had been trimmed to 16 for this round, with each semifinalist given about 20 minutes to make a case for advancement to the finals.

With pressure building and nerves fraying, only two of the eight performers during the afternoon session managed to get through their entire performance without noticeable memory failure.

One of these was Minnesota homemaker Rebecca Davis, who trained for a professional career in music at the Juilliard School before moving in other directions. Davis opened the day's proceedings with a strikingly delicate, attention-grabbing reading of the opening bars of Beethoven's Appasionata Sonata.

She then delivered J.S. Bach's Prelude and Fugue in B-flat minor at a sotto voce level, and closed with the rippling arpeggios of Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G-sharp minor.

New York internist Henri Delbeau likewise came close to perfection in a subtle program featuring Mozart's baroque/romantic Rondo in A minor and Scriabin's almost-jazzy Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp minor, with the Scriabin providing him with the chance to rouse the audience with an ecstatic close.

Though none of the other performers of the afternoon managed to get through their programs without mishap, there were numerous fine moments nonetheless, such as radio host Greg Kostraba's mesmerizing performance of 20th-century American composer William Grant Still's Three Visions.

In the evening session, three competitors presented particularly striking performances.

Brazilian-born financial trader Marisa Haines brought an unusual repertoire as well as a dramatic flair, opening with Prokofiev's stormy Sonata No. 1. She moved on to a very personal and intense view of Bach's French Suite No. 5, then closed with 20th-century Brazilian composer Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez's Second Brazilian Suite, rife with Latin American rhythms and flowing melodies.

Film composer Paul Anthony Romero followed with concisely controlled but imaginative performances of the Prelude from Bach's English Suite No. 6 and Chopin's Fourth Ballade. Another film composer, Victor Alexeeff, made his entrance with two short works of Rachmaninoff, the melodic Prelude in G-sharp minor and the raging Etude in E-flat minor; a sweeping interlude from Schumann's Faschingsschwank aus Wien carried him into the madcap energy of Prokofiev's Sonata No. 3.

Despite the day's flubs and memory lapses, the many bright spots foretell an exciting and satisfying final round.

Cliburn Notes

Judges handed out special jury honors Friday to select pianists who did not advance beyond the preliminary rounds.

Special recognition awards went to Dale Backus and Greg Fisher. The Fort Worth Piano Teachers Forum Award was given to Stephen Fierros.


The finals and awards

2-7 p.m. today

Ed Landreth Auditorium at TCU

(817) 335-9000

What the finalists will play

Film composer Victor Alexeeff, 46, will offer more Chopin and Rachmaninoff, including the Nocturne in B-flat minor of the former and the Sonata No. 2 of the latter in the 1931 version.

Canadian legal volunteer Averill Piers Baker, 60, has ranged from Bach to Bartok. Today she will land squarely in the middle with the brilliant Symphonic Etudes of Schumann.

Marketing director Ellen Weiss Dodson, 45, will take on two aspects of 19th-century romanticism with Schumann's Sonata in G minor and Liszt's Spanish Rhapsody.

Financial trader Marisa Naomi Haines livened up the first Amateur Cliburn in 1999 with American composer Emma Lou Diemer's Toccata of 1979, in which Haines reached into the piano to pluck, dampen and strum the strings. She'll repeat that work in today's final round.

South Carolinian Ann Herlong, 74, will open with solid middle-period Beethoven in the form of the Sonata in E-flat, Opus 31, No. 3 and close with 20th-century Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos' sweeping Bruxa, ("The Witch Doll").

California composer Paul Anthony Romero, 38, will open with Liszt's Soiree de Vienne and Vallee d'Obermann. He'll close with his own piano transcription of The Trolley Song from the Vincent Minelli film musical Meet Me in Saint Louis.

-- Wayne Lee Gay (817)390-7756

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