At 17, Kevin Chen won the 76th Piano Competition in Geneva: Report

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Geneva. Victoria Hall. 3- Eleventh-2022. Franz Liszt (1811-1886): Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E Flat Major, S. 124; Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953): Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3 in C major, op. 26; Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849): Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E Minor, op. 11. With Zijian Wei, Kaoriko Igarashi, Kevin Chen, Sergey Belyavsky, piano. The French-speaking Swiss Orchestra. Management, Marzina Diacon

The results of the Geneva 2022 competition are now available. Young Kevin Chen, 17, won the jury award after five minutes of deliberation.

Victoria Hall crowded to salute the final piano with the Geneva 76 Competition Orchestra. This final test culminates in a series of musical meetings that the contestants had to face prior to this final race. The total points achieved in each of these stages determine the awarding of prizes. But the fact remains that when the winners are announced, your servant, like part of the audience, is surprised that Sergei Belavsky’s formidable interpretation Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 by Prokofiev, who unleashed a general delirium unheard of in this temple-musical Victoria Hall, did not bring him the consecration of the jury. He won the second prize. It is said that he took some liberties with the result. The fact remains that he was by far the most convincing soloist of the evening. Perfect in explanatory clarity, perfectly in spirit, he brings a vision to the action, pushing his natural authority to the point of transforming the particularly bad Orchester de la Suisse Romande for the better under the baton of Marzena Diakun who evidently had no procedure for the acoustics of the crowded Victoria Hall. Unable to soften the sound of a thunderous brass, the Polish conductor would at least offer every pianist the same dubious accompaniment of an orchestra beyond recognition. And so, as we witnessed during these few days of competition, from the strict piano point of view, the superiority of Sergei Belyavsky over all other competitors seemed obvious to us. This pianist’s artistic personality, his ability to hook up music, his energy, and his ability to be persuasive are all elements that made this young man our favorite to win first prize. What could I happen? try to explain.

Kevin Chen, the grand winner of this edition of the Geneva competition, was certainly not worthless. Our lines below praise his performance as a musician and as a chamber music accompanist. In the first movement of Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 11 Chopin, his deep music works wonders. Inspiration, he imposed himself on the orchestra. All this is promising. He flies away and takes us to his dream. Then, suddenly, everything collapses. Everything collapses. The music remains beautiful, but the inspiration is gone. Well, here we go back to the second movement scale where Chopin’s lyric poems make the perfect mat for the young pianist. In the perennial rondo Finally surrounded by the instrumental, Kevin Chen is completely devoted to his interpretation, and unfortunately is not well presented by the orchestra. However, part of the audience is fascinated by the youth of Kevin Chen, and the beauty of Chopin’s work and interpretation does not wait until the last chord of the orchestra dies to give the young man a standing ovation.


These two characters are so impressive that the other two protagonists in this final, although praised, can’t claim to be equal to their teammates. Chinese pianist Zijian Wei, capable of exquisite touch, gives a beautiful touch Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E flat major, S. 124 by Liszt. In an effort to play with the orchestra, we witness some interesting dialogues between piano, clarinet and violin. if it wasAdagio It goes well with the orchestra, andMuammar Allegrito and theAllegrito Marziale The ending seems less inspiring. As for the Japanese pianist Kaoroko Igarashi, her lack of strength, which was already noted during the recital tests, is confirmed here and raises questions about the choice of this. Concerto No. 3 For Prokofiev he asks for something other than a “beautiful piano”. Her transcription turns out to be rather smooth, however, attentive listening to her piano reveals an artist who is able to express herself better by searching perhaps for a repertoire more in tune with her qualities. Both get the third prize ex aequo.

But back to the composition that brought these contestants to the final stage. Nearly two hundred pianists from all over the world have registered in this international competition which has become, year after year, one of the standards in this environment, just like those of Queen Elizabeth of Belgium in Brussels, Chopin in Warsaw or Tchaikovsky in Moscow. Having to submit a video featuring the works of Bach, Chopin, Mozart or Haydn, as well as a piece of their choice, the jury, before selecting, selected forty candidates to participate in the competition itself. These 40 contenders for the Geneva Grand Prix had to give a presentation Online A forty-five minute concert performed under concert conditions (without an audience). The competition’s “grand” jury will then select the eight (who were nonetheless nine) participants in the semi-finals in Geneva. We have attended almost all the performances of these happy select people. Hearing nine piano concerts of more than an hour in two days allows anyone, either to get an idea of ​​the piano powers that exist, or to be sated with this instrument for weeks, or even months! However, the technical level of these young men is so high that one remains fascinated by many talents.

Already at the opening of these parties, China’s Zijian Wei put on a great show. Huge sound processing Sonata No. 46 in E major, Hob.XVI: 31 By Joseph Hayden, his ability to narrate music is captivating. We will remember the madness that imprinted on the first movement of Sonata No. 2 in Flat B, Op. 36 by Serge Rachmaninoff, as well as the second movement At the slow pace of the blues From excursions op op. 20 by Samuel Barber who swings impressively before ending his apotheosis with a piano show in Fantasy, S. 697 on the themes of Mozart’s Figaro’s Marriage by Franz Liszt.
This first contender succeeded, we say that the level is already high, both from a technical point of view and from a purely musical point of view. The second contender, Japanese Kaoroko Igarashi, shows a completely different side of piano art in a very special way in approaching her playing. After the destructive power of her predecessor, she prefers touch. From sensitivity to a particular emotion in his interpretation Twelve Songs by Schubert S. 558 From Liszt before delivering a huge (endless and unsurprising) trail Sonata No. 29 in Big Flat B, Op. 106 “Hammerclaver” by Beethoven. Then came the turn of Sergei Belavsky, a 28-year-old Russian, who regularly takes part in piano competitions. From the very beginning, it distinguished itself from other competitors by its originality. In playing the piano, his site reminds us of the caricatured theme adopted by Glenn Gould. It sits at the bottom, its forearms clearly below the keyboard, yet it delivers an incredibly powerful piano. In a few notes, we breathe the obvious. In coexistence with the authenticity of the file Sonata n <) 6 in A major, op. 82 By Prokoviev, it presents exceptional and lively Carnival, op. 9 Schumann before he ends up in a demonstration with Memories of Don Juan, S 418 by Liszt.

Of the five pianists present on day one, three will be among the four finalists for this competition. The next day, the last two contestants of the day captured the attention of the spectator at a very young age. Russian Vsevolod Zavidov is only 17 years old but already has an impressive mastery of the keyboard. Fear of the stage, albeit not very pronounced, disturbs the first moments of his novel. He quickly recovers by making a wonderful Gaspard night Maurice Ravel with all the tragedy and obsession it contains gallows.
Then Kevin Chen, who is also 17-years-old Canadian. Swinging his torso and head to the sounds of music, what is thought to be a theatrical representation of his performance soon emerges as an expression of great musical sensibility, as evidenced in the band’s second movement. Sonata No. 28 in Specialization, Op. 101 Beethoven but more than that in his interpretation of paraphrase Memories of Don Juan, S 418 From Liszt who approaches him with music that is perhaps more accomplished than that presented by Sergei Belavsky the day before.

The day after these events, the semi-finalists met in the loud acoustics of Franz Liszt Hall at the Geneva Conservatoire to confront chamber music. For the assignment, accompanies a cellist in the Beethoven sonata and accompanies a singer in a three-quarter-hour program. It is interesting to compare Kaoruko Igarashi and Sergey Belyavsky in an absolutely identical program. with Sonata No. 3 in Specialization, Op. 69 For cello and piano by Beethoven, we prefer the performance of the most attentive Russian pianist to the other. Regarding Tre sonnetti from Petrarca, S.270 De Liszt, let us thank the accompanying abilities of pianists who are able to make a work audible The singing of the soprano Anne Sophie Petty did not allow us to pick up the slightest intelligible word.
Finally, for the “younger” pianists in competition, even Sonata No. 3 by Beethoven and even soloist (Tatiana Vasyljeva) on the cello. If Kevin Chen paid all his attention to the cellist, creating a beautiful complicity, making her play this work much better than other pianists, then the Russian Vsevolod Zavidov is somewhat caught up in the strictness of the piano not conducive to understanding. And this is likely where all hope of reaching the golden square was lost. In passing, we can cite the remarkable performance of soprano Benedict Turan who, with both the liar Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg, showed, thanks to impeccable spelling, her complete knowledge of the ceremony and her clever sensitivity to interpretation.

Finally, note that among the tests that count for awarding prizes was an item we didn’t have access to. In fact, the artist’s profession today is not limited to the only interpretation of his art. The artistic world has become noticeably more complex with the advent of social networks, which see people (influencers, journalists, dealers, etc.) gaining ground in the commercial market for artists. Of course, clients remain, but the artists themselves have to worry about their future and take their fate into their own hands. To this end, and based on its experience observing award-winning artists, the Geneva competition has set up a new event in the form of an art project that each contestant will come to defend before the jury. In this game, young Canadian Kevin Chen is perhaps more convincing than our favorite Russian star. He also received the award for this event (calculating a certain percentage in the final decision of the jury). Did on this occasion the scales turned against young Kevin Chen? Have we surrendered to the great youth in exchange for experience? Or maybe we’re just dealing with a genius. The jury and immediate commentators seem to confirm this.

Image source: CdG © Anne-Laure Lechat

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Geneva. Victoria Hall. 3- Eleventh-2022. Franz Liszt (1811-1886): Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E Flat Major, S. 124; Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953): Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3 in C major, op. 26; Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849): Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E Minor, op. 11. With Zijian Wei, Kaoriko Igarashi, Kevin Chen, Sergey Belyavsky, piano. The French-speaking Swiss Orchestra. Management, Marzina Diacon

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