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Chopin ♥s Yulianna

October 24, 2010

  If Frédéric Chopin were alive today, he might have a good chance of being smitten.  The final rounds of the 16th International Chopin Piano Competition were held in Warsaw, Poland this past week.  And the unanimous winner of the prestigious prize?  25-year old Yulianna Avdeeva from Russia.  (Notable: she’s the first woman to win the competition in 45 years – since Martha Argerich in 1965, herself now a regular member of the Chopin Competition jury.)

She wasn’t the safe bet to win in light of some incredible competition, and there is some controversy around her win, but I can still hear why she did.  Even though her interpretation of the score took liberties and didn’t stick to the conventional Chopin we’re used to hearing (like “the very patrician, aristocratic kind of sound” coming from 2nd place Ingolf Wunder, as mentioned on Jessica Duchen’s blog), Avdeeva’s playing was clear, intentional, exact without becoming cerebral, and sensitive.  Playing Chopin means walking a fine line between technical perfection and expressive depth.  Any leaning one way or the other and you’ve missed the mark.  So, did she hit a bulls-eye?  The debate will go on about that for a while, I think. 

Along with the 30,000 € (about $42,000) and gold medal that Avdeeva won, she also earns the title “Laureate of the Sixteenth Fryderyk Chopin Internation Piano Competition” and a massive boost to her career.

The Chopin competition is held every five years and has gained notoriety for its tough level of judging – so tough that in 1990 and 1995 they didn’t even declare a winner.  Past winners have become household names in the classical world and have garnered international acclaim.

This year, the competition fittingly fell on the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth to a Polish mother and French father in a village near Warsaw.

You can read a bit more on Yulianna Avdeeva’s win here in “The Voice of Russia”.

PS. If you want to get really geekish, here‘s the same passage of music as in the video above but played by Ingolf Wunder for comparison – he’s one of the two runner-ups this year, winner of the competition’s best Concerto performance as well as Polonaise-Fantasy performance, and the pianist most people expected would walk away with the prize.

And lastly, here are the two playing the 3rd movement of the Concerto:  Avdeeva, and Wunder.
So, is the controversy merited??

One Comment leave one →
  1. Michel permalink
    September 29, 2012 5:52 am

    Although I think the previous winner – Rafal Blechacz – is unsuperable, she wins here with an intense and in the same time delicate touch. I’m going to see her tonight playing Bach, Chopin and Prokoviev. Very glad about this.

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