So now the 20 are 10. Meaning the jury at this year's Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition has narrowed the field to the following, each of whom will perform in semifinal rounds Wednesday and Thursday at Symphony Hall:
- Joachim Arnold, 22, West Germany, a student of Bachauer judge Karl-Heinz Kaemmerling's.- Eckart Heiligers, 24, West Germany, another Kaemmerling student.
- James E.K. Parker, 25, Canada, an Adele Marcus student.
- Alan Chow, 31, Arkansas, a student of Menahem Pressler's.
- Krzysztof Jablonski, 22, Poland, formerly a student of Andrzey Jasinski's.
- Kevin Kenner, 25, Maryland, a Leon Fleisher student.
- Alfredo Perl, 23, Chile, currently studying in England with Maria Curcio.
- Kong Xiang-dong, 19, China, since February a student of Bachauer director Paul Pollei's.
- Jason Li, 20, Canada, a student of Boris Lysenko's.
- Arnon Erez, 23, Israel, a student of Bachauer juror Arie Vardi's and Michael Bogoslavsky's.
Each of the 10 will be heard twice, first in the order listed in a 40-minute solo recital, then alternately and in reverse order, a piano quartet with members of the Deseret String Quartet.
That presents a problem of sorts for Kenner, who thus becomes the final chamber performer Wednesday, weighing in around 9:35 p.m., as well as the leadoff man Thursday, with his solo recital set for 9 a.m. (Sweet dreams!) Maybe they should have begun the chamber sequence with, say, No. 6, and worked their way forward to No. 5.
Otherwise I am tempted to say the unluckiest competitor this time around was Japan's Shinnosuke Tashiro, who, together with Heiligers, was one of the few who appeared to raise his stock in Monday and Tuesday's quarterfinals, yet for some reason did not survive the cut.
For the rest, Kong, Kenner and Jablonski maintained their generally high standards, even if the last's Haydn didn't sound all that different from his Mozart. Nor did Chow let down appreciably, although I find myself increasingly put off by his clipped phrasing and articulation. Also, am I alone in sensing a degree of interpretive constraint?
Whatever the reason, I have to say that what I heard of the quarterfinals - around three-fourths - seemed to me a notch below the preliminaries in terms of overall excitement, if not technical accomplishment. Was that because by then virtually all the risk-takers had been eliminated, or because even a critic has a certain saturation point?
Certainly the risk-takers were largely eliminated. Which is perhaps why Olivier Cazal (who, as it turns out, came in second only to Kong on the audience ballot) found himself among the missing. I suppose to some extent that is built into the system. No matter how impressive, a really controversial pianist is likely to alienate as many members of the jury as he charms. Giving him maybe seven or eight votes, whereas a less interesting artist who offends a smaller proportion of jurors may get as many as 13 or 14. Which is why Glenn Gould, for example, could never have won a competition, even if he had deigned to enter one. (To my knowledge he never did.)
In the Now It Can Be Told Department, I don't think that's why Andrew Iverson was eliminated. But even those who voted against him may be interested in knowing that he played both his preliminary and quarterfinal rounds with an advanced case of mononucleosis. The result was that, for probably the first and last time in Bachauer history, the quarterfinals brought us not only two former "Salute to Youth" soloists but two who had performed the same year, Iverson and Kenner, both from 1983.
Also interesting, I think, is that of the 10 semifinalists seven come out of the "pre-Bachauers" held last year in various corners of the globe, the West German competition producing no fewer than three - Heiligers, Perl and Arnold.
Of the 10, six are to be selected Thursday to perform in the concluding concerto round, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. with the Utah Symphony. In addition, both the finals and semifinals will be broadcast live over KBYU-FM (89.1), with commentary by 1984 Bachauer gold medalist David Buechner as well as selected interviews with the competitors.
For ticket information, call the Symphony Hall box office at 533-6407.