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And the winner is....

Jack Singer Concert Hall
09/11/2015 -  
Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concertos No. 2 in G minor Op. 16 (*) & No. 3 in C major Op. 26
Artem Ysasynskyy, Henry Kramer*, Luca Buratto (piano)
The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Yan Pascal Tortelier (conductor)

L. Buratto (© Monique de St. Croix)

The final concert of the 2015 Honens International Piano Competition featured the three finalists all performing concertos of their own choice, all of which turned out to be by Sergei Prokofiev, with two of them performing his third concerto.

The eager audience had to wait a few extra minutes for the doors to open - it comes as no surprise that such a concert performed the evening after the first three-concerto concert would need rehearsing right up to the final moments.

Ukrainian pianist Artem Yasynskyy began with Piano Concerto No. 3 in which the yearning orchestral opening (very nicely done) gave way to the pianist who quickly built up excitement with amazingly deft handling of the rollicking passages. Lightening swift runs led to the end of the movement which was greeted by an eruption of applause. The second movement’s theme and variations began rather laconically but then pianist and orchestra built it up to a huge crescendo before its odd ending. The third movement featured broad sweep and an almost uncanny unison of all players leading to an electrifying end. The audience went wild.

There was a pause while the Steinway was re-tuned (the competition had four pianos, including two Steinways, at the competitors’ disposal; for this performance both Artem Yasynskyy and Henry Kramer had chosen the same one).

The opening of Piano Concerto No. 2 gives the pianist a lot of material and the big challenge is to make it add up to something, and this Mr Kramer accomplished. Eventually there is a daunting cadenza (riveting) followed by the orchestra’s positively oceanic re-entry before the quiet end. The rather brief scherzo movement featured some feverish scurrying and then a breathtaking sprint to its conclusion. The third movement featured more of the American pianist’s skill in sculpting the music before it headed into savage territory. After a split-second the finale (marked allegro tempestoso) was launched. The movement isn’t always tempestuous as when yet another cadenza of a ruminative sort appears, but the storm resumes before the dashing finale. The boyish pianist (he is 28 but looks barely 21) didn’t seem the least but frazzled by his achievement. Once again, the delighted audience jumped to its feet.

After the interval the 22-year-old Italian, Luca Buratto, took the stage for the third concerto, this time playing the Fazioli that he had used in his solo and collaborative rounds. Comparisons with Mr Yassynskyy’s performance are unavoidable; Mr Buratto had a lighter touch at the start of the first movement, but then power to spare. The movement’s conclusion was at least as breathtaking.

In the second movement one does not know whether to credit Mr. Buratto or the Fazioli or both for the edgy tonality the suits so many sections of the piece; at times there were carillon sounds. In the third movement he displayed his distinctive right hand technique, and overall the performance was somewhat more spikey than Mr. Yassynskyy’s. One might have thought the audience was becoming a bit sated after a solid evening of Prokofiev pyrotechnics, but once again acclaimed the performer.

There followed an interval of about an hour while the jury added up their scores. The jury also had a 15-minute meeting with Yan Pascal Tortelier, although this was a not to be a factor in their scoring. During this time the audience was treated to bubbly in the lobbies (very nice). Prior to the prize announcement the Honens Prize laureate of 2012, Pavel Kolesnikov, gave a fine performance of Chopin’s Mazurka in C-sharp minor Op. 50 No. 3.

Finally, the big announcement: the winner was Luca Buratto, at age 22 the competition’s youngest entrant. We will never know the final scores, but they must have been very close. We can look forward to a recording from Mr. Buratto on the Honens label and, I believe, on Hyperion as well. Other laureates beside the main prize winner in past years have also had recordings made and I certainly would look forward to recordings from Henry Kramer and Artem Yasynskyy. A major part of Mr. Buratto’s prize is a long list of engagements. There will be many chances to hear whether the competition has fulfilled its aim of finding "the complete pianist".

The next Honens Festival and Competition will be in September 2018.

Michael Johnson



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