Beethoven 250 during Chopin 2020 - The Gala Concert Inaugurating the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw

The 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw - for this event pianists and music lovers from all over the world waited longer than usual. From the edition in 1955, the 5-year time interval between the Competitions was uninterrupted. Thus, the 18th edition was originally supposed to take place in October 2020. Hence, in the shortened version, the Competition is called #Chopin2020. A positive aspect of the postponement of the Competition is certainly the coincidence with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute - the organizer of the Competition, which on February 3 this year celebrated its 20th anniversary.


On October 2, 2021 both the Concert program - the highlight of which was Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth and the works of German composers who had a strong influence on Chopin's oeuvre - as well as the selection of performers were extraordinary. During Saturday evening five winners of the Competition (although not all winners of the gold medal) performed on the stage of the National Philharmonic Concert Hall in Warsaw:
Dang Thai Son - 1st prize and gold medal - 10th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, Warsaw, 1980
Kevin Kenner - 2nd prize and silver medal (1st prize not awarded) – 12th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, Warsaw, 1990
Philippe Giusiano - 2nd prize and silver medal (ex aequo with Alexei Sultanov, 1st prize not awarded) - 13th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, Warsaw, 1995
Yulianna Avdeeva - 1st prize and gold medal – 16th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, Warsaw, 2010
Seong-Jin Cho - 1st prize and gold medal - 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, Warsaw, 2015
The concert began with the Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44 performed by Yulianna Avdeeva and the Belcea Quartet. In the original intention of the organizers, the work of Schumann, dedicated to his wife Clara, was supposed to be performed by the legendary Martha Argerich, who this year celebrates her jubilee and was supposed to be a Member of the Competition Jury, as in previous editions. The artist's absence due to the illness of Argerich's longtime friend Nelson Freire forced the necessity to change the soloist in the Schumann Quintet. Yulianna Avdeeva has shown that she also feels great in chamber music. The second point of the program - Johann Sebastian Bach's Concerto for 4 pianos in A minor BWV 1065, in which the four Competition winners performed: Yulianna Avdeeva, Dang Thai Son, Philippe Giusiano and Kevin Kenner, together with the Belcea and Simply quartets, was a reference to the chamber performances of virtuosos during the Romantic era. Chopin himself often performed in such ensembles. On April 3, 1833 he took part in a benefit concert for Henri Herz and together with Franz Liszt and the Herz brothers performed a piece from Meyerbeer’s Il Crociato in Egitto, in an arrangement for eight hands and two pianos.
A highly anticipated was the performance of the 1st prize winner of the previous 17th edition of the Competition, the Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho, who, as he admitted in an interview (Chopin Courier No. 1), owed his career to winning the Chopin Competition. Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 was planned in the program of the Inaugurating Gala Concert, that was originally supposed to take place in the 250th anniversary of the German composer's birth. Seong-Jin Cho performed Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 after the Chopin Competition during his tournee in the United States, which is why he had chosen this, out of five Piano Concertos composed by Beethoven, to perform during the Inaugurating Gala Concert of the 18th Chopin Competition with the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Andrey Bereyko. The pianist proved to be an excellent interpreter not only of Chopin's repertoire. He operated with a saturated, but extremely noble sound with his impeccable articulation precision and extremely logical leading of the phrase. As an encore, he performed a miniature of Robert Schumann, Einsame Blumen op. 82 No. 3, which not only formed the Schumann's frame of the Concert's program, but also recalled the famous words of the German composer, who wrote about Chopin's works that they were "cannons hidden in flowers". Although the scheduled program of the Concert did not include works by Chopin, Seong-Jin Cho, warmly applauded by the audience representing many countries around the world, performed the Waltz in E flat major, Op. 18, by Chopin, which in his interpretation was a brilliant introduction to the first stage of the Competition auditions. It was also an excellent reminder of the artist's performances during the 2015 Competition, which opened him the door to his world career. In a dozen or so days we will know the winner of the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. May he take advantage of the great opportunity offered by the Competition and develop his career as brilliantly as Seong-Jin Cho.

Marta Polanska

Greenwich Mean Time

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