Reunion of “Beethoven Competition” winners Telekom hosts the “Piano Summit” in Bonn

Bonn · Deutsche Telekom hosted eight finalists of the "Beethoven Competition" in what proved to be a magnificent “Piano Summit” in Bonn.

 Tomoki Kitamura and the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn conducted by Dirk Kaftan.

Tomoki Kitamura and the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn conducted by Dirk Kaftan.

Foto: Deutsche Telekom AG / Norbert Ittermann/Norbert Ittermann

The “International Beethoven Competition” has been held eight times so far, and has produced eight first-class winners. Deutsche Telekom, the organizer of the piano competition, in cooperation with the Beethovenfest, invited all eight winners to the "Piano Summit" at the Telekom Forum. Was it to determine the best of the best? Of course not. It wasn’t really a showcase or another competition, but rather a kind of family reunion of exceptional talent.

The concept for the event was thoroughly successful; it was an enjoyable, thoughtful, and wonderful musical evening, free of any self-adulation. One heard movements from Beethoven's piano concertos as well as solo works by Beethoven, Chopin and Bach. And the evening would have been only half as nice without Daniel Finkernagel's whimsical moderation. Right at the beginning, he managed to transition from the Big Bang to the "Beethoven Competition" in just a few minutes - a masterpiece of entertaining chit-chat. He introduced the Beethoven Orchestra under the direction of Dirk Kaftan as an "emotional powerhouse," and described the role that falls to the pianist in the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 as a "lesson in modern leadership”. Jingge Yan, winner of the 2011 prize, then played this movement and opened the "Piano Summit" with it.

The humor in the music

He succeeded in the piece masterfully, with a perfect technique, even though a bit subdued. Next, Tomoki Kitamura, the 2017 prize winner, was heard in the final rondo of the Second Piano Concerto. His playing was fine, subtle and lucid, extracting the humor out of the music. Keiko Hattori, winner in 2007, remained a bit too reserved in the finale from the Fourth Piano Concerto, while Hinrich Alpers, winner in 2009, demonstrated an enrapturing touch in movements two and three from the Fifth Piano Concerto.

After the break, solo performances were on the program. The winner of the first competition, which was in 2005, was Henri Sigfridsson. He played two Chopin etudes in the arrangement for the left hand by Leopold Godowsky. The first he managed wonderfully, the second did not quite unfold with the ferocity it deserved. On the other hand, the performance of Soo-Jung Ann, the 2013 winner, was grandiose. The way she performed Beethoven's Variations on "Tändeln und Scherzen" was superior and mature in every respect, giving the music an extraordinary eloquence. Filippo Gorini, the 2015 winner, delivered another gem with Bach's "Contrapunctus XI" from the "Art of the Fugue," playing it not in a dry academic manner but with palpable fervor and veracity.

Many clever insights

Cunmo Yin, 2019 prizewinner, closed with a rousing rendition of Beethoven's "Rage Over the Lost Penny." Things got personal in short video interludes. The "summit participants" talked about themselves, about Beethoven, about the competition. There were many clever insights, but they all had one thing in common: without the competition, they would not be where they are today. An original end to the evening: the premiere of "The Concubines of Suleyman I".

It brought all eight pianists together at three pianos. In it, composer Alexander Maria Wagner takes apart Beethoven's Turkish March and reassembles it into an absurdly comic collage that would have given Satie and Kagel great pleasure. Henri Sigfridsson used a triangle, Jingge Yan a drum set, Soo-Jung Ann mimed the lady from the call center: "The number you are calling, is not available, please write a letter." If you missed it, you can relive it at Magenta Musik 360. (Orig. text: Mathias Nofze / Translation: ck)

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