XIII международный конкурс им.Шопена 1995 г





          Rivalry Last Evening...


        ....This evening the competition was lively and severe.Because as third and last appeared Alexei Sultanov.a great favorite of the crowd of diligent listeners.who already in the previous stages more than once conquered the audience with his glittering virtuosity .Likewise now,he started Fantasy on Polish Themes in the climate of reflective meditation.but which later through more stormy episodes reached vivacious and showy finale,maintaining exemplary rhythmic discipline.However.in the Piano Concerto in F minor he presented the performance of really great dimension.imposing with technical ease.leading continuos flow of musical narration.and beautifully interlacing it's dramatic and poetic streams,and in the finale also with it's dancing elementOne could see.that performing with an orchestra not only does not quail him,or strain him.but gives him sincere joy .If only his youthful temper would not carry him to far...Though,this indeed,seems to cause spontaneous ovations from the audience.









         First Sensations


         13-th Chopin Piano Competition/Third Day. This sensation has already been expected: 26 year old Alexei Sultanov born in Tashkent graduate of the Moscow Consevatory, who won in 1989 the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Texas.He also performed recently in Warsaw playing Rachmaninoff s second Piano Concerto. We were ready for nothing of on average.And it happened.The Ballade in F minor Sultanov interpreted in the tone of unpassionate tale,which in this piece was not particulary to my liking.but it was fascinating. It was followed by spotlessetudes,and in conclusion-Revolutionary Etude so wild and stormy ,as I have not yetheard. The audience raved....


         Dorota Szwarcman

         Gazeta Wyborocza,October 5,1995






         There is a Favoritel


The audience has already chosen its favourite. He is Alexei Sultanov who represents Russia. His performance was preceded by the fame of a mature virtuoso and the Laureate of several important piano competitions. Indeed, he made a big impression on the audience with his performance. He presented himself splendidly in Ballade in F minor Op. 52, and in etudes. Those who heard him before, maintain that one can expect from him even more...


          from Express Wieczorny, October 4, 1995







         Virtuoso pianist captivates audience



         Challenging, sensitive performance features works of Frederic Chopin.  From the beginning to the end the audience was spellbound by the piano performance of Alexei Sultanov at Friday evening's concert in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Theater. Sultanov, winner of the Van Cliburn International Competition in 1989, has performed throughout the world. Since winning, he has performed in more than 100 concerto and recital performances in the major music centers of the world, including Berlin, London, and Tokyo, as well as Washington, D.C, and New York City's Carnegie Hall. The artist, who began studying piano in Russia at the age of 4, now resides in Texas. The concert was a straight-ahead recital format and featured the piano works of the Polish romantic composer Frederic Chopin. Chopin, a contemporary of the great piano virtuoso Franz Liszt, created the majority of his music  for  the most  intimate     of  musical      instruments, the piano. The romantic nature of the compositions stress the appeal to the emotions through the use of contrasts, changes in harmonic structure, and emphasis on melody.

The all-Chopin concert included, among others, the "Ballade in F minor," the "Nocturne in С minor," the familiar "Waltz in E b major," the "Sonata in В minor," and one of his best-known works the "Polanaise in F minor."  Technically, Sultanov knows no limits, His, control is awesome and the speed with which he executes the most difficult challenges is inspiring. However, he is also capable of the) most refined and sensitive performance of the slow and sustained sections of the music. For example, in the slow section of the " Sonata" he brings all the  depth of the emotional content of the music to the audience bу his controlled performance.  Sultanov is without a doubt one of the shining stars in the new generation of virtuosi pianists. He has a formidable technique, great power, is a master of the rubato as applied to Chopin, and understands and makes use of the value and the power of contrast needed in the performance of the romantic music of Chopin. The program was well attended by many young people who, I suspect, are studying piano. The performance must be an inspiration, not only to the adults, but to these youngsters.

The Rapid City Concert Association is to be commended for ' making it possible for the citizens of the community to have the opportunity to see and hear this example of high-quality musicianship. 



          By Victor Weidensee Journal Reviewer.


          Rapid City Journal 1995








          How Chopin Was Played In Warsaw By Alexei Sultanov


          WARSAW - They rejected the de­monic Canadian, the mature Chi­nese from Canada, the fascinating Frenchman, the captivating nobility of the Czech, but they pushed through the most boring Japanese. They disqualified interesting Ital­ians, ... very capable ... American, an excellent Argentinean, but al­lowed the weakest Pole to get to the finals. But, even though on almost every Chopin Piano Competition the same happened, and the con­summate frequenter of Competi­tions with foresight, at the beginning of auditions one pru­dently assumes that the most inter­esting pianists will be eliminated, and awards will go to mediocrity. This Competition has still enormous international prestige, and creates the most vehement emotions.


Because Chopin is Unperformable


Chopin is almost unperform­able. He is so difficult, that to bring all essence, all important features and all details signalized in the notes is beyond the capabilities even of a great pianist. Chopin is almost unperformable, because his music is diabolically dense, condensed and charged with musical substance. In it, there is neither empty nor me­chanical virtuoso's moments. In Liszt's etudes or even Beethoven's sonatas, the pianist can allow him­self a moment of intellectual and emotional rest, when only his fin­gers are playing, and the mind is resting. In Chopin's compositions, the pianist cannot allow himself even a second of rest. His mind has to follow each sound even in the fastest passage, and even in the most conventional ornament.   If he would not do it, we perceive imme­diately his performance as violating this music, out of style, a la Liszt. Chopin is almost unperformable, because he is at the same time ex­tremely romantic and self-restrained, distinctively classic. Therefore, this music cannot stand dryness, but also does not tolerate lamentation. It is characterized by sensitivity, but sentimental perform­ance kills it. Chopin is almost un­performable because he is diabolically difficult, and cannot bear affectation, and mannerliness. The pianist may reconcile all of Chopin's contradictory elements, he may play Chopin in an exemplary manner, and still his performance would be unbearable, if it would be mannerly, affectatious, and tamed. Chopin does not tolerate a perform­ance, with signs of murderous exer­cise, does not tolerate sweat, but does demand some dose of feigned carelessness, ease, and distance. And this is why we agree to listen to all those known by heart master­pieces of Chopin, again and again, comparing their performances, and waiting for the genius who would perform at last the unperformable Chopin, and not in the old way, copying old standards, but in a new, never heard way.


And Here Comes the Jury


But for the jurors, it does not matter whether the pianist plays in a new way, but whether he plays Chopin in the Chopin way. And "the pure Chopin style" is - in jurors mind - performance more or less corresponding to the aesthetic prin­ciples of the so called Polish Piano School. Perhaps, does it relate to Paderewski, Friedman, Szpinalski, Michalowski, Rubinstein? No, quite the opposite. The aesthetic canon of the "Polish School" was declared a few years after the last war at a certain conference. There it   was   said,   to   overcome   the aesthetics of the prewar Polish pi­ano playing, to erase Paderewski's tradition, and to develop a new "Polish Style". The new aesthetic ideal, embodied in its fullness by the 1949 winner, Halina Czerny-Stefanska, deadly serious, on the knees, without virtuosity, heavy, pe­dantic and loud. The ideals of the "Polish School", even though from the beginning slightly discredited by elevating very average piano play­ing, have dominated the Chopin Pi­ano Competition for a few decades. In the postwar Chopin Piano Com­petitions, individualism has been systematically and consistently cut out. So, versatile and flawless pian­ists as Maurizio Pollini and Marta Argerich managed miraculously to survive, but already Wladyslaw Kedra, the pianist much more inter­esting than the Polish first Prize Winner in 1949, received one of the last awards. In 1955 magnificent Andrzej Czajkowski was not no­ticed. In 1970 Emanuel Ax left only with distinction, and Jeffrey Swann empty handed. In 1980 Ivo Pogorelich was not allowed to play in the finals. But it belongs to the tradition of those competitions, the placement in the final six of some particularly boring Pole or Russian. When the jury announces the ver­dict, the word "scandal" appears es­pecially often in conversations among Chopin lovers.

Then the years pass by. The re­cordings of our wronged-by-the-jury favorites reach us and, with some surprise, we are discovering that we almost do not understand why we were so taken over. Chopin is diffi­cult, almost unperformable.

One who follows the public fa­vorites of the competitions, knows that none of them has become the great Chopin pianist, and even making the stunning career Ivo Pogorelich now plays Chopin in manneristic way. which is simply difficult to bear.


But   With  Sultanov  It Could  Be Otherwise 


But Sultanov has not fascinated the audience because he is an indi­vidualist.   Each competition is full of individualists and that in the long nin brings little to the Chopin mu­sic.  Sultanov has not fascinated the audience because he is a titan of the piano cither. The Warsaw frequent­ers of concerts heard Rubinstein, Michelangeli, Richter and it is not easy to dazzle them with quick pas­sages  of  fingers  over   the   keys. Sultanov has fascinated the audi­ence because he showed it some­thing which this audience has not heard in the last half century - piano music in the style of the great mas­ters of the beginning of the 20th Century.       Sultanov   is   the   first among participants of the postwar Chopin  Piano  Competitions,  who has managed to give a sample of music, which was once played by the greatest  of all  pianists Jozef Hofmann, titan of the piano Ignacy Friedman, another titan of the piano Maurycy    Rozenlhal,    magnificent Chopin        pianist        Aleksander Michalowski,      famous       Ighacy Paderewski.    The "Polish School" decided    to   bury   this   tradition. Sultanov dug it out.



What Has The Audience Been Re­minded Of By Sultanov?



He reminded firstly, that Chopin can be played lightly - that in Chopin music there arc indeed thunders, but the best way of their performance is to prepare a back­ground for them by light, effortless playing. A thunder which thunders in a jet is not a thunder. For a thun­der to sound like a thunder, it needs to be proceeded and followed by si­lence For the pianists of the older periods that was a primer. A Chopin pianist, who played light, even a little (as for requirements of a large concert hall) too light, was able - as noted by contemporaries -to draw out sounds of extraordinary power. But he did it only for few seconds. Jozef Hofmann usually proceeded the same way. He played the Polonaise in E-flal major (that with Andante spianato) from the be­ginning to the end with the light­ness of waltz, from which only even' so often arose a part of melo­dious cantillena or a powerful thun­der of the storm. Sultanov did not allow himself to be dumbfounded by the teachers' standards of making a noise in Chopin music, and re­turned (in Scherzo B-flat minor, in etudes, in waltz) to the tradition of the great masters of the past, to the tradition of Chopin virtuoso himself and that was revealing.

He reminded secondly, that Chopin docs not need to be continu­ously blurred with the pedal - be­cause playing it light, dry without the pedal brings into prominence, in the best way, the precision and ele­gance of Chopin's music. The old masters knew it perfectly. But -exactly - they were lo be sure mas­ters. Blurring with the pedal allows usually to hide technical imperfec­tions of a performer. Sultanov docs not have anything to hide.

He reminded thirdly, that the music is a kind of pleasure, and not a form of torture. That playing mu­sic has a sense only when it brings joy, that Chopin at the piano was rather a jester not a sullen man and that in his music, besides sorrows and ecstasies, there arc plenty of various forms of joy. humor and wit. When he (Sultanov) played the Waltz in E-flal major, the hall turned silent in surprise, and then it burst with applause. Something like that, to crack jokes of Chopin, that the Chopin competitions have not yet seen. Competitions have not seen it, because the "Polish School" demands Chopin to be played dead seriously. But concert halls of the past had seen and heard it. Jozef Hofmann cracked jokes of Chopin's  waltzes, cracked jokes of Chopin music. Chopin himself, who among friends, used to play the fool at the piano.


How Sultanov Revived The Music



In the period of J. S. Bach, in the period of Haydn and Mozart, in the period of Chopin, there was only live music, only one live music.   A composer was then simultaneously a performer. A performer was then at the same time an improvisator.   In the 20th Century the live flow of music divided into two further and further    separating    and    drying streams - the stream of creation, and the stream of performance.  The in­stitution of a pianist, or of an officer for fingering, appeared who was not a  musician.     Even in the  recent years, the extreme case emerged - of a pianist who does not perform in front of an audience, but who re­cords, records, records.    Listening nowadays to drafty composers and equally drafty performers, one can have an impression that today the only   live   sphere   of  music,   the sphere in which playing becomes an act of creation, is jazz.    Sultanov raving at the piano in the style of old masters and cracking jokes of Chopin, reminded us, that the piano performances were once a live art. Perhaps Sultanov playing really im­provises, or perhaps he only pre­tends to improvise. But he who can pretend so well, is a master.



        No first prize was given at this year's 13th Chopin competition.The pianists weren't the only ones who felt cheated.

        A Contest Without A Winner


The news was not taken well.

For the second time in a row, the jury has not granted a first prize to any participants in the Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition. Awards for the best performance of a Chopin Polonaise, Mazurka or Concerto were also deemed too good for the finalists. At last Friday's awards ceremony and gala winners' concert in the National Philharmonic, jury chairman Jan Ekier defended the decision by saying, "The Chopin tra­dition has certain standards which must be upheld."

The question on everyone's mind is, however, which" tradition is Ekier talking about?

Celebrated senior music critic of the The New York Times and jury member Harold Schoenberg was perplexed by Ekier's statement. "If Ekier wishes to uphold the Chopin tradition, then he must clarify as to which one he is referring to. Is it Paderewski's version, or is it Hofman's, Friedman's or Rosenthal's? All were Poles and all had differing opinions as to the correct interpreta­tion of Chopin's music. This esthetic question, above all else, needs to be addressed."

This is not the first time a jury has decided not to grant a first prize. In the last competition, which was held in 1990, the jury was of the opinion that the competitors were not good enough for the title. They believed the level was not indicative of the Chopin crown—which boasts such luminary former prize-winners as Maurizio Pollini, Marta Argerich and Krystian Zimerman.

Apparently, the jury of this year's competition ' had the same opinion. And, as a result, they (per­haps unwittingly) have established an unwritten law which will continue to affect the competition: If the competitors cannot conform to the jury's biased notions of what constitutes a "proper" interpretation of Chopin, then they should not be vexed by the absence of a first prize.

The results (or lack thereof) were announced the evening before the gala closing concert. Upon hearing the results, one performer felt no need to play again before the jury if they didn't credit him with enough talent to win. So on Friday night, much to the disappointment of those present, audience favorite and amazing Russian virtuoso Aleksei Sultanov (who shared second prize with Frenchman Phillipe Giusiano), did not appear out of protest. In a letter written to the press, Sultanov expressed his regrets, "I am sorry that I am not there tonight. I will be back very soon to play for my beloved people of Warsaw! Please understand me and thank you very much for your support."


        from Gazeta   Polska. Warsaw, Poland. October 26. 1995

        by Piotr Wierzbicki

        English  translation  by  Bogdan Krasnowski





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