Van Cliburn

Updated review: Preliminary Cliburn round ends with admirable performances

Pianist Honggi Kim of South Korea performs during the preliminary round of competition on day four of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Sunday at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth.
Pianist Honggi Kim of South Korea performs during the preliminary round of competition on day four of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Sunday at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Special to the S-T

The 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition headed down the home stretch of its preliminary phase Sunday morning with performances by Canadian, South Korean and Taiwanese competitors.

All three performed decently, but my favorite was South Korean Yekwon Sunwoo, a product of both the Curtis and Juilliard institutions in the United States who is now studying in Germany.

He got off to a good start with another of the competition’s Haydn sonatas, this time No. 48. It opened with a slow movement that allowed the interpreter an opportunity for musical meditation — not something one ordinarily associates with Haydn — before switching into a chipper finale that exuded the composer’s typical sense of happiness. Sunwoo excelled at generating both moods.

He gave one of the more impressive interpretations of Hamelin’s toccata, which became very familiar to Bass Hall regulars. In Sunwoo’s hands it was a real tour de force.

A worthy performance of Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No. 2 brought Sunwoo’s recital to a close.

Tony Yike Yang of Canada produced a nicely done Sonata No. 30 by Beethoven — the late sonatas of the composer are much in vogue in this Cliburn — and demonstrated his virtuoso chops with the Hamelin toccata and Prokofiev’s stormy Sonata No. 7, which is virtually inevitable at any Cliburn.

Han Chen of Taiwan showed that he’s not lacking in courage. He opened his recital with “Caténaires” by modernist master Elliott Carter. It seemed to go well. Two Rachmaninoff “Études-tableau,” another Haydn sonata (No. 42), and Hamelin’s toccata preceded Liszt’s “Reminiscences of Don Juan,” which has to rate near the bottom of Liszt’s list of “masterpieces.”

Afternoon performances

The preliminaries were brought to a close Sunday afternoon with performances by Honggi Kim of South Korea, Rachel Kudo of the United States and Alyosha Jurinic of Croatia.

Each had something to admire. I particularly liked Kim’s performance of Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit,” which flowed beautifully and was downright haunting at times. Kudo played strongly in Barber’s sonata and gave a large-scaled performance of Hamelin’s toccata. Jurinic was impressively lyrical; his performance of Debussy’s “Reverie” showed that great beauty can come in small packages.

The session brought an end to the unusual 30-performance run of Hamelin’s Toccata on “L’homme armé.” This had the potential to be intimidating; every contestant knew that the composer, one of the world’s premier virtuosos, was in the hall listening. But they kept their cool and gave the piece a great run.

Monday’s competitors

Quarterfinal round

10 a.m.

Su Yeon Kim, 23, South Korea

Schumann – Kreisleriana, Op. 16

Liszt – Vallée d’Obermann 

10:50 a.m.

Leonardo Pierdomenico, 24, Italy

Liszt – Ballade No. 2 in B Minor

Rachmaninoff – Variations on a Theme by Chopin, Op. 22 

11:55 a.m.

Ilya Shmukler, 22, Russia

Bach-Busoni – Chaconne in D Minor, BMV 1004

Ravel – Pavane pour une infante défunte

Stravinsky – Trois mouvements de Petrouchka 

2:30 p.m.

Dasol Kim, 28, South Korea

Scriabin – Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp Major, Op. 30

Chopin – 24 Preludes, Op. 28 

3:20 p.m.

Tristan Teo, 20, Canada

Bach – Toccata in D Minor, BWV 913

Ravel – Gaspard de la nuit

Kapustin – Variations, Op. 41

4:25 p.m.

Martin James Bartlett, 20, United Kingdom

Scarlatti – Sonata in E Major, K. 380

Scarlatti – Sonata in B Minor, K. 27

Granados – “El amor y la muerta” from Goyescas, Op. 11

Schmann-Liszt – Widmung

Prokofiev – Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, op. 83 

5:15 p.m.

Daniel Hsu, 19, United States

Bach-Busoni – Chaconne in D Minor, BMV 1004

Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition 

7:30 p.m.

Yuri Favorin, 30, Russia

Bach-Busoni – Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639

Rachmaninoff – Variations on a theme by Corelli, Op. 42

Scriabin – Sonata No. 10, Op. 70

Liszt – Scherzo and March  

8:20 p.m.

Yutong Sun, 21, China

Chopin – Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat Major, Op. 29

Chopin – Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23

Bach – Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Minor, BMV 853

Ligeti – Etude No. 13 “L’escalier du diable”

Bartók – Sonata (1926)

9:25 p.m. 

Luigi Carroccia, 25, Italy

Chopin – Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60

Chopin – Two Nocturnes, Op. 62

Czerny – Variations from a Theme by Rode in E-flat Major, Op. 33

Kabalevsky – Rondo in A Minor, Op. 59