Monday, May 25, 2009

Zhang Haochen

All the evening sessions so far have run a good half-hour over, but tonight's actually got out at a decent hour. Zhang Haochen is the last pianist today, and he's no relation to Zhang Feng. They just share the world's most common surname, according to the latest data. Zhang H.C. is only 19 years old (the youngest contestant in this field), but you can't accuse him of lacking ambition. He started off with late Beethoven, the same sonata that Ilya Rashkovskiy played earlier. I wasn't as taken with this performance as many of my fellow music critics were, but the maturity on display was enough to give me pause. The same held true for his performance of Chopin's Polonaise-fantasie in A-flat, a troublesome work for a pianist who's not prepared for the intricacies of its structure. Zhang was strong in the piece, and played passages of considerable beauty.

He finished with Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petrouchka, and delivered the most astonishing display of pure technique we've seen yet in this competition. It was more explosive and powerful than Vacatello's rendition last night, but it had a crystalline quality to it as well. Zhang found the music within the technical obstacles, but really, analysis doesn't do much good in the face of something like this. Check it out online and just sit back and marvel at it. Nobuyuki Tsujii is a project, but this kid is much more of a polished performer. What can he achieve in the future? We can only hold our breath and wait to find out.

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