Van Cliburn winners

June 10, 2009

The Van Cliburn piano competition is one of the most prestigious and competitive musical contests in the world.  This year’s competition wrapped up a few days ago, and the winners have been announced.  There was a tie for first place between Haochen Zhang, 19, of China and Nobuyuki Tsujii, 20, of Japan.  Here is Zhang in his final round recital, playing the final movement (“Scarbo”) from Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit.

And here is Tsujii in his semifinal round recital, playing a section from one of the towering monuments of the piano literature: Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata.  Oh, did I mention that Tsujii has been blind since birth?  This is an amazing achievement:

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2 Responses to “Van Cliburn winners”

  1. Adam Hincks Says:

    Craig, I must confess that I’ve never been a fan of the Hammerklavier, or a great number of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. Is something the matter with me?

  2. cburrell Says:

    When I called my wife over to watch the blind pianist, she said, “Amazing! Pity about the music.”

    It is safe to say that the Hammerklavier is more respected than loved. Its fiendish difficulties are a lure for virtuosic pianists who want to test their mettle, and there is certainly something grand and monumental about it to overawe listeners. I suspect it is one of those pieces with which, if one were so inclined, a lifetime could be spent getting to know it. My own opinion of it is fairly cool: I admire the gigantic fugue at the end, but overall there is just too much banging. (I have a similar complaint about much of Beethoven’s music.)

    Have you heard his final piano sonata, No.32? It is probably my favourite piece for piano in the whole repertory.


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