It's early Saturday morning for me. Just woke up and am ready to write a review of the 8th International M.K. Ciurlionis piano and organ competition, the 2nd group of organists Round 1. Yesterday I didn't get to listen to it live at the Evangelical Lutheran church of Vilnius so now I'm ready to listen to the recording from the competition's website:
It seems the video is only available from contestant No. 7. Sunghyun Park, South Korea. I didn't get to hear to contestants No. 5 Wenying Wu, PR China and contestant No. 6 Magdalena Moser, Austria. Not sure if the organizers will make their recordings also available at a later date. By the way, I had a hard time recognizing the contestants and spent a lot of time comparing faces, repertoire and performance order because the announcer spoke really softly. I noticed this even yesterday while sitting in the church so it was much more evident in the recording.
Sunghyun Park's recording starts from his 2nd piece - Trio super ''Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'', BWV 664 by Johann Sebastian Bach (there is no recording of his performance "MKČ" by Algirdas Martinaitis). So anyway, "Allein Gott" it seems to be registered by flutes 8' and 4' on two manuals. I thought it was a nice, stable playing.
His last piece on the program is Praeludium in E Minor (Large) by Nicolaus Bruhns. After the loud entrance he plays the 1st fugue with the principal 8' without 16' in the pedals. The fanfare episode is played without the reeds in the hands but with the trumpet 8' in the pedals. The arpeggio episode is played with 2 flutes of 8' and 4' (I think). Overall, this piece was well performed to my taste.
Next comes contestant No. 8 Ivan Tsarev, Russian Federation. He starts with the Praeludium in E Minor by Bruhns so I get to hear two performances of the same piece back to back. This organist has a good sense of early performance practice. This is evident in his treatment of ornamentation. The 1st fugue's registration was chosen with 8' principal while the fanfare episode sounded with the Trumpet. The arpeggio episode had a nice contrast with the 4' flute. I liked his improvised flourishes in the next chordal episode which leads to the 2nd fugue. The piece ends strong with a full principal chorus and reeds.
The next piece on the program is Trio super ''Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'', BWV 664 by J.S. Bach. The registration is similar to the previous version with a couple of flutes on separate manuals. The performance had a calming effect on me.
The organist finishes with "Moonlight" by Vidmantas Bartulis. The beginning hypnotizes the listener with constant repetition and variation of the same motive. The energy level and dynamics rise throughout the next few minutes until it reaches a climax which gets abruptly cut off and moves to the soft section. The piece finishes like it started with the recapitulation of the beginning idea. His performance make me want to study this piece even deeper.
Next is contestant No. 9 Andrzej Turek from Poland. He starts with Praeludium in E Minor by Bruhns. He made one slip at the beginning episode. The fugue was registered with the 8' principal. The next episode was performed rather sloppy. Mistakes didn't stop after that either. Not sure what happened. Maybe the assistants didn't do a good job. I liked his improvisatory flourishes before the 2nd fugue. This fugue he also performed with clear mistakes. For a contest of this level it might be a problem. The pedal trumpet was too loud comparing with the manual registration in the hands for my taste.
The next piece on his program is Chorale Prelude "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr", BWV 676 by J.S. Bach. The registration for the right hand part was chosen with the sesquialtera sound (2 2/3' and 1 3/5'). The left hand was played without mutations, perhaps with flutes 8' and 4'. I thought the pedal stuck out a little too much with 16' and 8' principals while the left hand sounded more like an accompaniment. At one point the organist made a mistake towards the end and almost stopped the flow of the piece.
He finishes his program with the Toccata by Faustas Latėnas. The free improvisatory character was a nice contrast with the previous two pieces. I thought it was the strongest performance from his program.
The final contestant before the break is No. 10 Vladimir Skomorokhov from Russian Federation. He starts with Bruhn's Praeludium in E Minor. In the opening episode the hands were a bit too weak in comparison to the pedals. The 1st fugue was performed the slowest from the people I've heard so far. The flow of the music stopped. But afterwards the flow reappeared. The arpeggio episode was played with a 4' flute accompanied by the 8' flute in the pedals. The organist was more creative than some of the people I've heard before with his flourishes before the 2nd fugue. This fugue was performed without a plenum sound. The contestant displayed his creativity even in the echo passages and finished the piece strongly without mixtures.
Next the organist plays "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr", BWV 676 by J.S. Bach. The registration was chosen with 8' and 4' flutes in the manuals and 16' flute and 8' principal in the pedal. Why not 16' principal and 8' flute? With this soft registration in the hand parts the principal 8' sticks out in the high range a little too much. Of course, I can't be sure that the balance was like this out in the church since I'm listening through the headphones which is far from ideal experience compared to what I heard yesterday live. Nevertheless, I'm writing from experience here and comparing other contestants in my mind so I might be right. But other than that the performance was solid and calm.
And the last piece before I take a break is Toccata by Faustas Latėnas. I like his imaginative approach to registration here. In soft episodes tremulant helped a lot. One thing that I have my doubts about is the rests between the phrases in the soft section. They might have stopped the flow too much. But later the flow recovered.
Now I think I earned my breakfast and will come back to listening to the rest of yesterday's organists later in the day. I will have to run some errands and bring program notes of tonight's recital by organist Jurate Landsbergyte and flutist Vytautas Oskinis to VU St John's church but I hope to come to the Evangelical Lutheran church and listen to the rest of Round 1 contestants live.
If you want to watch a recording of the live-stream, check it out here:
Specification of the organ:
Specification of the organ:
Round 1, Group 1 review
[Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion which may or may not coincide with the reader's opinion. If you don't like it, write your own.]
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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