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[Note: this has been corrected based on information obtained from tinyurl.com/cliburn2013rep; viz. the anonymous comment]
"Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”“I would while away the hours / Conversin’ with the flowers,” but instead I chose to devote the time spent in transit to the finals of the Cliburn International Piano Competition noting the musical canines that were silent, or very nearly so—that is, composers whose work was poorly represented or entirely absent during the three rounds of preliminary and semi-final recitals.
'To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes. - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Silver Blaze”
Let’s start with the dogs that didn’t bark at all.
|One of only two known|
photos of Alkan
And, speaking of Stravinsky, the Pétrouchka suite was the only work of his on the bill.
François Couperin – Yes, he wrote for the harpsichord and organ rather than the piano, but so did Bach and that didn’t keep him off the program (although he didn’t appear that often either; three performances including a Siloti transcription).
John Field – Nothing from the inventor of the nocturne. In fact, no nocturnes at all. Maybe everyone was afraid of putting the audience to sleep?
George Gershwin – He's marginal in this context, perhaps, but surely his Preludes would have made an interesting addition.
Dimitri Shostakovich – Granted, Shostakovich might not be as well known for his piano works as Prokofiev (see below), but his Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues are real gems. It would have been nice to see a few performed.
These dogs, meanwhile, barked so little you could easily have missed them.
Albèniz – A prolific and popular composer for the piano, he’s represented only by Book 2 of Iberia (Tomoki Sakata)
Bartok – Again, a composer well known for his piano works, but represented by only three performances: the 1926 Sonata (Luca Burrato), the Étude, op. 18, no. 3 (Alexy Chernov), and Out of Doors (Beatrice Rana).
Grieg – Another prolific and popular composer of piano miniatures and one massively popular concerto, Grieg is represented by a whopping total of three pieces (two waltzes and a valse-impromptu, Alexey Chernov). I find this odd, to say the least. Is it because most of his work doesn’t offer the kinds of opportunities for flash that one finds in the work of (say) Liszt (who is very well represented)? Or has he simply fallen out of fashion?
Mendelssohn – Only three works: the Fantasy in F-sharp Minor, op. 28 (Scottish Sonata), the Sonata no. 3 in B-flat Major, op. 106, and Variations serieuses, op. 54.
Schubert – Only two Schubert works (if you count the Drei Klavierstücke as one piece, which I am)? Seriously? And not even major works at that: Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, D. 718 (Alessandro Deljavan) and Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946 (Claire Huangci). Truly a head scratcher.
|Liszt by Lehmann|
Ravel looks to be well represented—sixteen performances—but those performances covered only five works including the multiples of Gaspard de la nuit. Still, they’re major works, so maybe that’s not a big deal.
What, if anything, does this mean? The Cliburn and other competitions have been criticized for encouraging safe repertoire and performance choices—a kind of reversion to the mean, in which idiosyncrasies are weeded out. I didn’t see enough of the preliminary and semi-final rounds to comment on the performance side, but it certainly does appear that, given the ability to choose their own music, contestants tend to go with the tried and true. What do you think?