Now that the first preliminary round is over in the Gina Bachauer piano competition, one thing is painfully clear: it's going to be a heck of a job being one of the judges. For if there is one thing that stands out vividly after these first two days of competition, it's that there is a vast abundance of pianistic talent gathered here in Salt Lake City.
Each of the 47 pianists (representing some two dozen countries) was allowed a brief 15-minute recital to give the judges and audience a glimpse into their keyboard talents. Most of the competitors did an outstanding job with their selected pieces. Some, unfortunately, were a little too ambitious in their choice of music to perform, and a few of them were quite simply remarkable and need to be acknowledged.Performances that fall into this category include Fedele Antonicelli's interpretation of Franz Liszt's imposing "Fantasy and Fugue on the Name BACH"; Erik Reichl's (no relation to the writer) performance of the powerful "Precipitato" movement from Sergei Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7; Ju-Ying Song's performance of Franz Liszt's demonic "Totentanz"; and Luiza Borac's interpretation of two vastly different movements from Franz Liszt's "Venezia e Napoli".
Also noteworthy was former Utah resident Ning An's interpretations of Mozart's Rondo in A minor and Liszt's "Paraphrase on Rigoletto". Ning's Mozart was crisp, precise and well-defined, and he performed the large gestures of the Liszt effortlessly.
This isn't to say that the other competitors couldn't match the interpretive and virtuosic skills of these performers. To the contrary. All of the pianists were great, but these few had something special about them that made them stand apart from the others. They took the music and made it their own, they assimilated the music and became one with it.
Part of how a musician performs depends also on what type of audience he or she is performing for. The audience in Abravanel Hall for these two days was receptive and appreciative. It was a rather small audience, but there were a lot of children and young people present in the audience, a positive sign.
The Bachauer competition, in fact, encourages young people to attend by giving out free tickets to youngsters for all performances except for the two final rounds.