By Ryan (Yuru) Chen
Yesterday evening, at 2 am Warsaw time, the winners of the Eighteenth International Chopin Competition were announced.
Here were the prizes:
1st Prize – Mr Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu, Canada
2nd Prize ex aequo – Mr Alexander Gadjiev, Italy/Slovenia
2nd Prize ex aequo – Mr Kyohei Sorita, Japan
3rd Prize – Mr Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain
4th Prize ex aequo – Ms Aimi Kobayashi, Japan
4th Prize ex aequo – Mr Jakub Kuszlik, Poland
5th Prize – Ms Leonora Armellini, Italy
6th Prize – Mr J Jun Li Bui, Canada
Out of the eight winners this year, two were Canadian. Bruce Xiaoyu Liu exhibited flawless technique, showcased in his performance of Chopin’s Variations in B Flat Major, Op.2 in the third round. He also had incredibly memorable performances of the Scherzo No. 4 in round one. For the finale, he performed the E Minor Concerto with an intense focus on the inner voices, to the degree of attention similar to Horowitz and Cortot. Paired with a nimble golden touch and immaculate runs, he clearly deserved the first prize.
Also notable in the competition was Gadjiev for his individual playing and voice. Personally, I preferred Sorita’s mature but spontaneous use of tension and release when playing, resulting in the beautiful and intimate of the slower Chopin pieces. Martin Garcia Garcia was a man of innovation, creativity, and ideas. He risked a lot in the competition – and it paid off in the end. I also admired Kuszulik’s third sonata from the third round which he played with structure and vigor. Armellini captivated me with her gloriously beautiful piercing silvery tone, and unique ability to almost control the emotions of the audience. Aimi Kobayashi was also quite tense and reserved in her playing of the concerto, much like Uchida. However, she did lack a bit in technique compared to the other pianists, ultimately making it up in her emotional appeal. JJ Jun Li bui, the second Canadian to win in this year’s competition, showed much potential in his technique, but still has far to go in his career to become a world-class pianist like his fellow winners.