Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition may have a lower profile at home than further afield, but this is entirely undeserved. The combination of 40 world-class young musicians from all over the globe, a panel of judges that reads like a Who’s Who in the world of classical music, and the fact that the event is open to the public, means it is undoubtedly a highlight of Hastings’ cultural calendar.
When it came to the final on March 8th at the White Rock Theatre, a spectacular event where contestants were accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, it was easy to be blown away by the fact all three pianists were note-perfect, before even considering that each one had learned the 40-minute piece by heart.
Marcin Koziak, from Poland, played Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto, while Yekwon Sunwoo and Taek Gi Lee, both from South Korea, chose to play Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto.
How entertaining for an audience can it be to hear the same concerto repeated twice during the course of one evening? Very, it turns out. Here is where the individual skill of the performers really counts. Seventeen year-old Taek Gi Lee, appeared to have magic flowing from his fingertips as they flew across the keys, the audience hanging on every note.
Deservedly, he was pronounced the winner, walking away with a cheque for £10,000 and a chance to perform as a soloist with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, and the £500 audience prize.
Dame Fanny Waterman, co-founder and artistic director of the Leeds Piano Competition, declared that some of what was performed at the final, was of as high a standard as she had ever heard. Praise indeed. If you missed it this year, don’t make the same mistake again.