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In Anton Rubinstein’s Shoes

The 4th International Anton Rubinstein Piano Competition has ended. On October 3 in the Dresden Semperoper, the three finalists thrilled the jury and audience alike with their brilliant playing.

Saturday, October 3, late morning: The last guests of the well-visited Semperoper in Dresden hurry to their seats so as not to miss the opening notes of the grand finale of the Anton Rubinstein Piano Competition. The Bösendorfer Imperial has been sitting onstage in full brilliance, optimally prepared. The symphony orchestra of the "Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden," conducted by Prof. Ekkehard Klemm, is already waiting for its entry. Backstage, three young pianists are excitedly anticipating their grand entrances.

This past spring, 100 young musicians had auditioned for the worldwide preselection for the 4th International Anton Rubinstein Piano Competition. The jury flew from Mexico City to Moscow, from Buenos Aires to Shanghai, in order to find the most promising talents. The best 15 from among them were invited to Germany in early autumn for the selection rounds at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden. According to the jury, the level of the applicants’ interpretations was the highest since the competition’s founding in 2003.

Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein - after whom the Dresden International Piano Competition, which has been presented by the Forum Tiberius since 2003, is named.

Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein - after whom the Dresden International Piano Competition, which has been presented by the Forum Tiberius since 2003, is named.

Highest level

The high level of playing technique and artistic interpretation was stepped up once again on the semifinal days of October 1 and 2, very much to the delight of artistic director, Prof. Arkadi Zenzipér, and the first-rate jury, which was spoilt for choice in selecting the three finalists.

The competition finale took place in one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses

The competition finale took place in one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses

On German Unity Day (October 3), the three finalists selected by the top-class jury were to compete for the crown. In one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses, the Semperoper. On one of the best pianos in the world, the Bösendorfer Imperial, with its sheer size and compass consisting of eight full octaves, the Viennese piano manufacturer’s flagship, unexcelled in sonority and tone color. Maria Derevyagina from St. Petersburg, Hyun-II Seo from Kwang-ju (Korea) and Alexej Gorlatch, born in Kiev and raised in Münster, excitedly awaited their grand entrances.

Maria Derevyagina thrilled the audience with Prokofiev

Maria Derevyagina was the first to sit at the Bösendorfer. Her task was to project Sergei Prokofiev and his Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10 into the last rows. The Russian pianist decided on a Russian composer. Prokofiev himself premiered this concerto in Moscow in 1912. Since then, his work has enjoyed great popularity in concert life. Derevyagina interpreted Prokofiev’s early work with technical aplomb. Prokofiev was later awarded the Anton Rubinstein Medal from the St. Petersburg Conservatory for this work. Maria Derevyagina, the youngest of the finalists, had exhibited quite something to her fellow competitors.

Maria Derevyagina opened the final round. The Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden symphony orchestra, conducted by Prof. Ekkehard Klemm, inspired all finalists to first-rate interpretations.

Maria Derevyagina opened the final round. The Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden symphony orchestra, conducted by Prof. Ekkehard Klemm, inspired all finalists to first-rate interpretations.

Hyun-II Seo continued with Rachmaninoff

The finale continued in Russian. Hyun-II Seo had selected Sergei Rachmaninoff as his companion for the musical Olympics. Rachmaninoff already composed his Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor virtually at the same time as Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto flowed through the composer’s pen. This concerto is now also among the standard repertoire of all great pianists; due to its great technical demands it is among the most difficult piano concertos. It was thus no easy task that Hyun-Il Seo had set for himself.

However, Hyun-II Seo knew what he was doing. He connected the drama and lyricism of the piece together masterfully, with the best technique and precision, and without forgetting musicality or emotionality. He sensitively entered into the work’s depth and tragedy, as though he had already experienced it all in his young life. He loved the instrument and the instrument loved him: with the colorful sounds of the Bösendorfer, he brilliantly opened up to the audience the entire spectrum of feelings that Rachmaninoff had worked into his concerto. Here, a great talent played a great concerto by a great composer.

Excursion: the Australian pianist David Helfgott experienced a nervous breakdown after playing Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. The 1996 film Shine tells the story of David Helfgott and his path from mental institutions back to life. On October 24, David Helfgott will perform a piano recital in the Vienna Konzerthaus with works by Chopin and Liszt. On a Bösendorfer Imperial.

Hyun-II Seo shone with the best technique and precision. The audience witnessed Rachmaninoff at his finest.

Hyun-II Seo shone with the best technique and precision. The audience witnessed Rachmaninoff at his finest.

Alexei Gorlatch seeks to crown himself with Beethoven’s "Emperor" Concerto

The German by choice of Ukrainian descent, Alexei Gorlatch, decided on an Austrian composer of German descent: he sought regency with Beethoven’s powerful fifth and last (solo) Piano Concerto in E-flat Major, Op. 73, also called the "Emperor" Concerto due to its bold themes and heroic tone.

In the beginning, the heroic mood and the loud, martial rhythms of the Allegro were most welcome. The audience was presented with pure heroic drama. Alexei also shone with a tremendous technique and great musicality. Above all in those concerto passages in which the world withdraws, harrowed by doubt, the 21-year-old displayed particularly great feeling in his playing. The consummate Hélène Grimaud once said of this work: "Beethoven demonstrated that work on the fissures and defectiveness of man can open out into musical beauty." Alexei Gorlatch brilliantly explored this contradiction on the Bösendorfer.

Alexei Gorlatch during his grandiose "Emperor" Concerto

Alexei Gorlatch during his grandiose "Emperor" Concerto

And the winner is...

We wish to test our dear readers’ patience no longer. The expert jury, consisting of pianists, conservatory representatives and directors of European theaters and festivals, came to the following decision:

The winner of the 2009 Anton G. Rubinstein Piano Competition is Alexei Gorlatch. The first prize was endowed with € 8000.

Second prize (€ 5000) went to Maria Derevyagina.

Hyun-II Seo was the honorable third-place winner; he received € 3000.

The audience prize of € 3000 likewise went to the first place winner, Alexei Gorlatch.

Bösendorfer and the Klavierhaus Weber (Dresden) give our heartfelt congratulations to the winners!
(rulö)

Who's the lucky winner? Prof. Dr. Stefan Gies, head of the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden (center right), and Prof. Arkadi Zenzipér, the artistic director of the competition (left center) agree.

Who's the lucky winner? Prof. Dr. Stefan Gies, head of the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden (center right), and Prof. Arkadi Zenzipér, the artistic director of the competition (left center) agree.

The winner of the 2009 Anton G. Rubinstein Piano Competition is Alexei Gorlatch.

The winner of the 2009 Anton G. Rubinstein Piano Competition is Alexei Gorlatch.

Maria Derevyagina is excited about her second place.

Maria Derevyagina is excited about her second place.

A sad third place winner: Keep your chin up, Hyun-II Seo! Your Rachmaninoff was tremendous!

A sad third place winner: Keep your chin up, Hyun-II Seo! Your Rachmaninoff was tremendous!

The prizes are awarded. Smile for the photographer!

The prizes are awarded. Smile for the photographer!

Stefan and Monika Weber (Klavierhaus Weber Dresden) are also pleased. Their Bösendorfer grands in the semifinal and final were optimally prepared and met with much praise and recognition among the musicians and audience.

Stefan and Monika Weber (Klavierhaus Weber Dresden) are also pleased. Their Bösendorfer grands in the semifinal and final were optimally prepared and met with much praise and recognition among the musicians and audience.

(Photo credits: David Brandt, Stefan Weber)