Friday, June 03, 2005

Cliburn Chatter: Is There a Morning After?

Probably not for Roberto Plano.

A real question for Cliburn watchers has been whether or not Plano could pick himself up after the tumble he took in his final recital. The answer: No.

Indeed, it's very hard to imagine that he'll make the gold. Despite promise in the earlier rounds, the recital came across as a wandering mess --clunkers, framed by a faltering command of structure, and pinched tone. The magnificent Brahms f minor piano sonata at the heart of his programme was a huge pox on the evening. The work just seemed utterly beyond his grasp. Between wrong notes and a seeming inability to keep a steady pulse, I thought he came off sounding overwhelmed and underprepared. At best, the whole thing could be characterized as a very fine graduate student recital. For the "I heart Plano" crowd it must be a very bitter disappointment.

If one hoped for improvement in his concerto performance (Beethoven 3), they surely must have came away disappointed. While he seemed in better form (the work at least seemed better suited to his abilities), he churned out what was a polite, if mainly enemic, performance. By contrast Cabassi's performance of the same concerto earlier, was nothing just of magnificent. Beautiful singing tone, dramatic, and the third movement was delightfully carried off. In short, a perfect Beethoven 3rd.

I was disappointed by both Sa Chen's concerto and recital. I had hoped for better. But her Beethoven (no. 5) concerto was ruined by tendency to play too loud, producing an ugly banging tone. There was no magic to this seemingly hurried performance for me. Her recital served up more of the same with only fleeting moments of poetry, but utlimately crashed and burned on Barber's Piano Sonata.

The remaining high point is Kobrin. His performance of the Mozart Piano Concerto in d minor was in a word: Brilliant. This was everything you'd expect of a world class artist. Sparkle. Elegant phrasing, wonderful tone, and superb interplay with the orchestra.

I am almost certain that the gold medal is coming down to a choice between Kobrin and Cabassi.

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