TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto and beyond!
- ​symphonic, choral, opera, chamber, jazz and period music​ -

Krzysztof Jablonski and Janet Lopinski with Senior Division First Place
​Prize-Winner Lingfei (Stephan) Xie 

The Fifth Canadian Chopin Piano Competition and Festival finished up this week at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Koerner Hall with a full day of finalists vying for the top prizes in the Junior and Senior Divisions. It was an extraordinary climax to a week of performances and special events all contributing to “celebrating and preserving the legacy of Fryderyk Chopin, and to supporting young artists”.

The day included performances by eleven finalists: six in the Junior Division, and five in the Senior Division. There had been a total of thirty-eight young performers accepted into the competition. It was quite astonishing to realize that we were witnessing Canada’s finest pianists of the next generation. The country has no lack of talented and accomplished artists ready to make their mark. Each of the finalists demonstrated incredible technique and musicianship while performing some of the most demanding piano literature.

In the Junior Division, each of the candidates performed two Études, a Nocturne, and either a Ballade or Polonaise, a total of about twenty minutes of demanding music. The prize for the Most Promising Junior Competitor was awarded to Huy Dang. The Third Place Award was won by Jason Cheng; the second-place Award was won by Matthieu Foresi; and the First Place Award was won by Catherine He, a student at the Taylor Academy of The Royal Conservatory of Music. I am never very good at predicting winners in competitions like this, but no one could deny that Catherine was an excellent choice. There was a freedom in her playing with abundant energy that was never overplayed. Her final selection, Ballade in F major, op. 38, began simply with a tempo that allowed her to build the tension of the music to emotional climaxes. Every note was played purposefully and artfully. She showed great understanding of Chopin in addition to her impeccable technique. 

In the Senior Division, each of the finalists performed Chopin’s Concerto in E minor, op. 11 accompanied by the Tokai String Quartet. There were special prizes and awards for the top three overall winners. Eric Guo won the prize for Best Mazurka Performance and for Best Concerto Performance. Jessica Yuma won the prize for Best Polonaise Performance. Overall Third Place was determined to be a tie with Agnė Radzevičiutė and Jessica Yuma. The Second Place Award was won by Eric Guo. The First Place Award was won by Lingfei (Stephan) Xie, a student of Michael Berkovsky at the Taylor Academy of the Royal Conservatory of Music. Xie showed both power and gentleness in his playing which exuded the poetry in the music. His encore performance of Nocturne op. 62, no.1 in B major was stunning. Stephan will be heading to Yale University this fall to continue his musical growth.

​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON August 31st 2019

Awards Ceremony of the Fifth Canadian Chopin Piano Competition

The Fifth Canadian Chopin Piano Competition winds up with stunning performances and the announcement of prize-winners

The internationally renowned jurors included Krzysztof Jablonski (Jury Chair), Midori Koga, Anton Nel, John O’Conor and Golda Vainberg-Tatz. Their work included both long days of listening and deliberating, but also performing themselves in an evening with the Jurors. Krzysztof Jablonski also gave a well-received concert of his own during the week.

The Canadian Chopin Society has grown from its inception in 1999 with its competition and festival occurring every five years. Both the numbers of competitors, and the high standard of performance are evidence of its growth. This year’s prize-winners in the Senior Division will all be provided expense-paid trips to Warsaw and have been admitted to the International Chopin Piano Competition in 2020 based on these results. The total prize money of $30,000 was allotted to the winners including a top prize of $10,000 for the senior winner. Yamaha Canada sponsored the Junior First Place Prize of $3,000 and furnished the CFX concert grand piano used in both Mazzoleni Hall and Koerner Hall for the competition.

Janet Lopinski, Artistic Director of the Competition and Festival as well as President of the Canadian Chopin Society, is to be congratulated on the quality of every aspect of the week. Her team of volunteers worked tirelessly to make it very rewarding. Both the music of Chopin and the development of young artists were indeed celebrated.

Janet Lopinski with Junior Division First Place Prize-Winner Catherine He