Thursday, June 4, 2009

Zhang Haochen (Concerto I)

In my last post, I speculated that Tsujii might be better as an ensemble pianist than playing by himself. Now I'm wondering if the reverse might be true for Zhang Haochen. His chamber-music performance didn't make much of an imprint on me, but at the time, I chalked that up to the brilliance of the other pianists in that phase of the competition. Now his performance of Mozart's 20th Piano Concerto left me unmoved as well. It wasn't a bad outing for him, but the whole thing was pretty unremarkable, which certainly wasn't the case with his solo playing. Maybe Mozart simply doesn't fit him -- he didn't play anything close to Mozart in his solo recitals -- but if that's the case, then why didn't he choose one of the Chopin concertos to play? Those would seem to be a better fit.

At least, though, he didn't screw it up. In the context of a competition, when a pianist is assigned to perform music that he or she doesn't find congenial, it's more important to not screw up than it is to play distinctively. Zhang has avoided bad performances, and that'll get a pianist through the rounds of one of these things. Still, Zhang didn't do himself any good tonight. (Tsujii, on the other hand, did himself good.) For the first time, I've got questions about this player. However, there's reason to hope that those will be answered in the next few days.

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