CMS President Anne Thorpe and judges Max Bragado-Darman, Hans Boepple & Diane Hidy
An enthusiastic audience turned out Saturday evening at Sunset Center to enjoy the 8:00 pm Awards Concert featuring the three winners of the Carmel Music Society’s 37th Annual Competition. The 2013 Piano Competition was open to pianists between the ages of 18 and 30, who live, study or were born in California, Oregon and Washington.
The Society’s President, Anne Thorp, welcomed the audience and introduced the competition judges, pianist Hans Boepple, Professor of Music at Santa Clara University, San Francisco artist teacher Diane Hidy (a former Grand Prize Winner of the Music Society’s Piano Competition), and Max Bragado-Darman, Music Director and Conductor of the Monterey Symphony.
The judges presented the awards on stage. The Grand Prize, consisting of $5000, which in part includes an opportunity to perform in 2014 as part of the Carmel Music Society’s subscription series, was awarded to Michael Noble, 24, a native of California and a graduate of The Eastman School of Music and Yale University’s School of Music (where he is currently pursuing his doctoral studies). The second prize of $2000 was awarded to Chetan Tierra, 29, a graduate of Oberlin College’s Conservatory of Music. The third prize was awarded to Jeong-ah Ryu, 27, who has a diploma from the Royal Academy of Music in London, a Master of Music Degree from Yale University’s School of Music and is currently a candidate for a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Northwestern University. During the awards concert, the young prizewinners were scheduled to play in reverse order with the Grand Prize Winner ending the evening’s program.
Jeong-ah Ryu, looking lovely and poised, walked out on stage and opened her program with a sensitive performance of the Bagatelle No. 1 by Carl Vine, an intriguing and mysterious piece that began as softly as it ended, while generating significant tension and dissonance along the way. After a large-scaled and agitated performance of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 27 in E Minor, Op. 90, Ms. Ryu stormed her way through Liszt’s great masterpiece, the Dante Sonata. Sandwiched in between the more violent sections, Ms. Ryu charmed us in the more lyrical sections.
During the past several decades concert stage attire for men has been evolving from the traditional full concert tails to various formats, usually involving some shade of black from head to toe. On stage we have observed people in black Nehru jackets, black Vietcong peasant garb and chic Armani black. When Chetan Tierra strode out on stage, he was yielding to the current convention by being decked totally out in black, although his unshaven facial stubble and wild hair suggested a combination of Santa Cruz “cool” and possibly a deep commitment to various genres of Pop music today. Despite his wild look, his opening work, the first movement of Mozart’s Sonata in F Major, K.332, was elegant and stylish (although at times the style was more Beethoven than Mozart in its choice of dynamics and pedaling). His performance of Book 1 of the Brahms Paganini Variations was dazzling, not only in the virtuosity displayed, but also in playing of the quieter, more tender sections.
Expecting to hear him end his selections with the first movement of the Ginastera Sonata, as stated on the printed program, members of the audience were surprised to observe him rise off the concert bench and address the audience to the effect that he had been told by the presenters not to play an encore after his selections (only the Grand Prize Winner is permitted to play an encore), but that he had injured his thumb during the afternoon in his performance of the Ginastera, so therefore he was going to play his “encore” instead of the Ginastera. After this breech of protocol, he proceeded to play his own composition “Prelude and Waterfall,” a new-age minimalistic improvisation.
After intermission we heard the Grand Prize Winner, Michael Noble. Anyone who has been observing via webcast the 30 selected competitors in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, currently underway in Ft. Worth, will have noticed that most of the competitors are obsessed with playing as loud and fast as they possibly can. We are observing even the most standard and accepted great works in the piano repertoire being exploited to demonstrate the virtuoso technique of the performer. The ugly clangorous sounds coming from beautiful New York and Hamburg Steinways are often appalling. However, amidst these barbarian assaults on the piano, there emerge a few Cliburn contestants who are letting the music speak for itself as they guide us through the chosen repertoire with charm and refined musicianship. Such a pianist is Michael Noble. During his exciting, but refined performances this evening, our attention was always being directed to the music he was playing and not his technical prowess. His Scriabin was elegant, his Beethoven Op. 90 was stylish and powerful, and his selections from Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze captured so well Schumann’s mercurial and fantastic moods.
Those who were not able to attend the competition earlier in the day missed some excellent performances. During the morning we heard Thomas Lee, 27, a native of Seattle, who impressed us with nice performances of a Scarlatti Sonata and François Morel’s Étude de Sonorité No. 2. Maria Wietrzynska, 27, Polish born, but now a Californian, surprised us with an exciting performance of a Piano Sonata by Grazyna Bacewicz, as did Dan Cao, 24, and a student at Northwestern University, with fiery performances of two Bartók etudes. Jeremiah Trujillo, 21, a junior at UC Berkeley, made a strong impression with his fine performances of Ravel’s Ondine from Gaspard de la Nuit, and Jeongmi Yoon, 27, currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Piano Performance at Portland State University, gave us some very powerful performances of Beeethoven’s Op. 109 first movement, the Bach-Busoni Chaconne and Shchedrin’s Basso Ostinato.
The eight finalists were selected from 39 applicants by a screening committee consisting of Carmel Music Society board members, Lisa Prochazka, Barbara Ruzicka and Rudolf Schroeter. The CDs they listened to were identified only by a code number that didn’t reveal the age, ethnic origin or professional background of each applicant.