Crap. I think Lifits might have played himself out of contention. He started off with Liszt's Sonata in B minor, the fifth one we've heard at this competition, and by far the slowest one. I timed him at 33 minutes. I had an informal clock going on most of the other Liszt sonatas, and though we may want to check, by my watch none of the others were more than 30 minutes, and most were closer to 25. The slowness didn't prevent Lifits' octaves in the opening passage from being strewn with errors, though these were mostly cleaned up in the later portions of the piece. Had Lifits' performance persuaded me that his approach was the right one, I would have gone along. Instead, he just wound up noodling over the lyrical passages, and his pace seemed like a misguided stab at profundity.
His beautiful playing the slow movements in Hagen's Suite for Piano reminded me of the musician that I liked so much in the first round and the chamber performance. (I think Hagen's work is my favorite new piece in this competition.) He finished with Prokofiev's Seventh Piano Sonata, and his "go slow" approach worked for me in the famous last movement. I always thought most pianists played that movement too fast. It was good to hear it at that speed. Still, he dawdled again over the lyrical passages, and the second movement was filled with eccentric touches that misfired as often as they hit. I had my six finalists all ready to go. Now I have to rethink one of the slots.