Julian Norridge reports The snow, ice and freezing east wind flaying the outside of the White Rock Theatre last weekend found suitable echo inside the auditorium as this year’s Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition reached a scintillating climax.  Of the six finalists, playing over successive evenings of Friday and Saturday accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, five were from China, Taiwan or South Korea.  But it was the last to perform, a 25-year-old Russian, Roman Kosyakov, who scooped the winner’s prize with a dazzling rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no.1    victory, it seemed, in keeping with the Siberian weather.

Friday evening began with a sensitive performance of Rachmaninov’s evocative Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by 23-year old Su Yeon Kim from South Korea. The technically proficient Chinese pianist Gen Li, 27, performed Prokoviev’s Piano Concerto No 3 while another South Korean pianist, Kyoungsun Park, 25, played Beethoven’s grand Emperor Concerto (Piano Concerto No 5).

the six finalists together – winner Roman Kosyakov on far left
PICTURE: Bob Mazzer

On the Saturday evening the Prokoviev’s Piano Concerto No 3 got another airing from 28-year-old Taiwanese pianist Fanya Lin, followed by an accomplished performance of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No 1 by Chinese pianist Rixiang Huang (25). Then came Kosyakov’s Tchaikovsky finale.

On both evenings the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of the Dutch conductor Jac van Steen, played with well-honed elegance  which was greeted by the audience with whoops of joy and much foot stamping.

How to distinguish between six such brilliant young competitors? Every member of the audience, whether musically educated or not, seemed eager to express a view while awaiting the result. Ultimately the international jury awarded first prize to the Russian, who received a cheque for £15,000, a guaranteed appearance with the RPO, an invitation to play a concerto in the United States and the chance of a number of other concerts. Second prize went to Su Yeon Kim for the Rachmaninov, third to Gen Li for the Prokoviev.


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