Every Note mattered for talented pianist
Eastbourne is fortunate to have had some generous donors in
the cultural and statistic spheres. One such was Norah Sande and the award
named after her involves an annual competition for pianists, aged 18 to 25, who
are put through their paces before well-qualified adjudicators.
Each year's winner receives a cash prize, and is offered a
recital before an Eastbounre audience. Those placed second and third also
receive cash prizes.
The Artisitc Director of the award is Spencer Freeman, MBE,
and the recital details handled by he friends of the Towner, under their
chairman Elizabeth Muir-Lwis. The 2013 winner was Syrian-born Riyad Nicolas,
who had studies at the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music in London and
is already establishing a considerable reputation.
His recital took place at the Birley Centre and it was clear
from his chosen programme we were in for some fireworks; but it soon became
evident he is a musician rather than simply a technical wizard.
The opening movement of Beethoven’s Opus 100 Sonata is
marked “cantabile molto espressivo”. The singing tone was there for sure, and
so was an expressive emotional involvement that ran right through his recital.
Even Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, widely regarded as
terrifyingly difficult to bring off, was infused with subtleties of balance and
tempo so delightful that I found myself purchasing his DVD at the interval:
something I do very seldom.
And this proved a revelation, for some items on it featured
in his recital. When I played it through on returning home I was impressed, but
there was no doubt in my mind his interpretative depths had developed further
in the months between the recordings and our live performance.
After the interval it was all Chopin: Four Mazurkas, a
Scherzo, A Ballade and three studies. Here too the performances were distinctly
personal ,as if Nicolas was revisiting Chopin before our very eyes. No matter I
found one Mazurka different from the sound I carry in my head: I relish
difference provided it has purpose; and
nothing Nicolas played was left to chance.
He had thought about every note,and become deeply involved
with their messages, which is why we all knew we were in at the start of a
One Study (advertised as Opus 10, No. 25) initially led me
to think he had discovered a hidden manuscript, but I suspect it was in fact
Opus 25, NO.11. What ever its label, the dazzling scales and arpeggios were so
impressive we demanded, and received, an encore: a sensitive Chopin waltz.
This year;'s competition is only July 5.6. The rounds on
July 5 begin 9:30 am , entry fee, and the three final recitals on July 6 can be
seen for Just £10. Don;t miss any of it.