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ClassicsOnline Home » Piano Recital: Sun, Yutong - BEETHOVEN, L. van / LIEBERMANN, L. / GARCIA AGUILERA, J. de D. / MUSSORGSKY, M.P.
The young Chinese pianist Yutong Sun has been a winner at several prestigious international competitions, culminating in the first prize and Gold Medal at the 54th Jaén competition in 2012. For his Laureate Recital he has constructed a programme that displays his expressive maturity and technical accomplishments across the repertoire. Beethoven’s Sonata No 26, ‘Les adieux’ reveals its fabled cantabile sound world, whilst Lowell Liebermann’s 1989 Gargoyles, Op 29 is an approachable, sensuous and vital piece of contemporary writing. Mussorgsky’s vast Pictures at an Exhibition is one of the virtuosic peaks of nineteenth-century pianism.
By Robert Cummings
Yutong Sun: Piano Recital
Beethoven • Liebermann • Garcia Aguilera • Mussorgsky
The Sonata No 26 in E flat major, Op 81a, “Les adieux” (1809–10) is one of the most beautiful of all the sonatas written by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827). It is a work of heartfelt expression, almost as if it were the translation into music of thoughts confided to the composer’s diary. Like its thirty-one sister pieces, it reveals what Czerny called “a new legato…a rich, cantabile sound”. The opening movement was written on the occasion of the departure from Vienna of Beethoven’s friend, patron and pupil the Archduke Rudolph, hence the title (Das Lebewohl – Farewell), also applied—in French—to the work as a whole. The word “Lebewohl” itself inspires a three-note motif (echoing its three syllables) which plays a key role throughout. In the second movement (Abwesenheit – Absence), Beethoven again conveys the melancholy felt at being apart from a loved one. The piano writing in both this movement and the finale (Das Wiedersehn – Return) reflects the wonderfully expansive idiom of, in particular, the ‘Pastoral’ Symphony.
Commissioned by the Tcherepnin Society and premiered by dedicatee Eric Himy at New York’s Alice Tully Hall on 14 October 1989, Gargoyles, Op 29 by Lowell Liebermann (b 1961, New York) is a miniature tetralogy inspired by the often grotesque little stone figures used in architecture. Musically, it draws on a broad range of technical and expressive resources, from the rhythmic impulse reminiscent of Prokofiev heard in the outer movements, to the melodic and sensual beauty of the inner two (the harmonies of the Allegro moderato are irresistible). This work is sure to prove a welcome surprise to anyone who enjoys discovering new music and repertoire.
Flores para Julia (Flowers for Julia), by Juan de Dios García Aguilera (b 1959, Madrid) is the latest addition to the long list of works that make up the musical legacy of the Jaén Piano Competition, having been commissioned as the mandatory work for its 54th edition by the Provincial Council of Jaén. Speaking in 2011, the composer himself said, “Sometimes my music is inspired by minor things or domestic events. Flores para Julia is a case in point. It is made up of ten distinct sections to be played without a break. Like plants in the natural world, the individual elements germinate and sprout, mature and blossom, and finally wither away, leaving a legacy for the generations to come. It’s a natural part of life, it’s what happens as time inevitably passes and leaves its mark on the various different elements, distributed throughout the work, as they gradually fade and decay.”
It was a visit to an exhibition of paintings by Viktor Hartmann that inspired Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881) to write his piano suite Pictures from an Exhibition (1874). The work, orchestrated in the early twentieth century by Ravel (now perhaps the better-known version), is a homage to Hartmann, the exhibition having been mounted as a memorial to the artist after his untimely death, and captures the visual details of his work to perfection. The “Promenade” movements depict the composer as he walks from one painting to the next, while the pictures themselves are brought fully to life, acquiring their own unique musical qualities, characteristic of the inspired and sometimes undervalued piano writing of the composer of Boris Godunov.
Gonzalo Perez Chamorro
English translation by Susannah Howe
The Jaen Prize International Piano Competition
The Jaén Prize was established in 1953. It has its roots in the old and now defunct Club Alpino, a short-lived cultural and sporting society. The prize was set up with relatively modest aims by the pianist Joaquín Reyes Cabrera and the architect Pablo Castillo García-Negrete. The Club actually gave nothing but its name to the prize, because the two prizes given in 1953 and 1954 were donated by a music-lover from Jaén, Pablo Castillo García-Negrete. It was in this year that the promoters of the prize looked for stronger sponsorship, and the result was the active and collaborative presence of the Instituto de Estudios Giennenses. The architect Pablo Castillo, member of the studies Corporation, was named adviser and the name was replaced by that of Premio Jaen de Piano (Jaén Piano Prize). At the beginning the prize was a national one, but in the 1970s it assumed international status, a position it now holds, as Gustav A. Alink, the author of a number of books on international piano competitions, confirms.
The first award of this new prize was given to Jacinto Matute in 1956 and consisted of 5,000 pesetas (30 euros). Gradually this amount has been increased, reaching the sum of 20,000 euros in 2012 for the first prize, 12,000 for the second, 8,000 for the third, 6,000 for the “Rosa Sabater” award, and another 6,000 euros for the Contemporary Music award. Since 1993 the competition has included a mandatory work written by a Spanish composer for this purpose, a composition that is subsidised by the Centro de Difusión de la Música Contemporánea of the Ministry of Culture and which, since 1997, has been published and distributed by the Provincial Assembly. The list of composers who have composed for the Prize, from 1993 to 2012, includes Manuel Castillo, Carlos Cruz de Castro, Antón García Abril, Valentín Ruiz, Ángel Oliver, Zulema de la Cruz, Tomás Marco, José García Román, Xavier Montsalvatge, José Luis Turina, Luis de Pablo, Eneko Vadillo, Leonardo Balada, Josep Soler, Joan Guinjoan, Claudio Prieto, Daniel Mateos, Juan A. Medina, José Zárate and Juan de Dios García Aguilera.
Over the years various leading figures have served on the competition jury, including Javier Alfonso, who often served as president. After his death various leading musicians have taken this position, including Guillermo Gonzalez. The present president of the jury is Ana Guijarro. Among those who have served on the competition jury are Marcelle Heuclín, Nicole Henriot, Salomon Mikowsky, Leslie Wright, Teresa Rutkowska, Valentina Kamenikova, Antonio de Raco, Hans Graf, Jean-Paul Sevilla, Ronald Farren-Price, María Fernanda Wansneider, Yuko Fujimura, Carmen Graf-Adnet, Marta Marchena, Karl-Hermann Mrongovius, Elza Kolodin, Alfred Mouledous, Ralf Nattkemper, Dag Achatz, Yukie Nagai, Rosalyn Tureck, Jean-François Heisser, and Paul Badura-Skoda, among others. Among Spanish jurymembers we may mention Rosa Sabater, Joaquín Soriano, Ramón Coll, Josep Colom, Mario Monreal, Rafael Quero, Joaquín Reyes, Perfecto García Chornet, Pilar Bilbao, Esteban Sánchez, Antonio Baciero, Fernando Puchol, Julián López Gimeno, Begoña Uriarte and Pedro Jiménez Cavallé, for many years secretary of the jury.
Outstanding pianists have won prizes in the competition, including the Spanish pianists Begoña Uriarte, Joaquín Parra, Mario Monreal, Rafael Orozco, Joaquín Soriano, José María Pinzolas, Josep Colom and Javier Perianes. Other winners have been Boaz Sharon, Ewa Osinska, Elza Kolodin, Jean-François Heisser, Boris Bloch, Michiko Tsuda, John Salmon, Hüseyin Sermet, Benedetto Lupo, Martin Zehn, Brenno Ambrosini, Olivier Cazal, Sergei Tarasov, Anna Vinnitskaya, Ilya Rachkovsky, Yun-yi Qin, Antonii Baryshevskyi, Mladen Čolić, Marianna Prjevalskaya and many other important pianists.
Nowadays the competition attracts significant international participation. It includes three eliminating rounds and a final test with orchestra, in 2012 the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada. The Jaén Prize competition is held at the Jaén Conservatory and the Infanta Leonor Theatre.
Angel Garcia Rus & Gonzalo Perez Chamorro
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