Audience erupts as Sofya Gulyak ends finals

So the finals are over now, too, and the jury are conferring. Just a few brief comments on the last-day players.

Irina Zahharenkova’s Chopin concerto was a good choice. Her outstanding ability to make the piano sing was the carrying force behind her interpretation. I might perhaps have liked to hear a little more classical backbone to the overall form, but for me, the blatant lyricism really struck home. Opinions were a somewhat divided over whether she lingered too much in the melodies. I have to admit that her performance did in places come close to being too static. In the first movement she still showed some signs of nervousness, and her shaping of the quicker figures in particular was a little angular. The second movement was to my mind magnificent and offset by the humorous lightness of the last movement.

Marko Mustonen gave a superb performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto. He was clearly rather nervous, as indicated by his shaking hands. He nevertheless succeeded in holding everything together. The balance between orchestra and soloist was really good and Marko did not make many mistakes. The performance was well-balanced in other respects, too, and Marko’s communication with the orchestra was excellent. His gestures were very intensive throughout. At times, however, I would have preferred that intensity to have been more audible in his playing. Even so, the best Finnish performance in the finals.

Sofya Gulyak did what some had been saying all along. Her performance of Rakhmaninov’s third piano concerto was on a completely different plane from the concerto performances of the other contestants. I have to admit that Gulyak’s besetting sin, hurrying, was still in evidence. For this reason the tempo of the first movement remained a little shapeless. But the solo cadenza in that movement was absolutely fantastic! If my memory serves me right, only Sokolov and Volodos have been capable of a similar synthesis of the titan and note-perfect playing. In the second movement the tempo righted itself and the third movement was a triumph from beginning to end. Gulyak proved herself a sovereign master of the keyboard such as one seldom encounters. I could hear every note all the time, even though the orchestra usually drowns the soloist in this work. All in all a fantastic performance!

What a job for the jury! I wouldn’t place Gulyak first after any of the other rounds, but she was in a class all of her own in the concerto.

Risto-Matti Marin

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