Published on 10 December 2019
SPH Digital News / Copyright © 2019 Singapore Press Holdings
REVIEW / CONCERT PRIZE WINNERS' CONCERT
The prize winners' concert of the National Piano and Violin Competition (NPVC) celebrates the winners of the four categories of the piano and violin sections, giving those who did not attend the judging rounds a chance, albeit brief and incomplete, to hear the winners in performance.
In the previous competition in 2017, the two youngest winners were revelations - clearly eclipsing their older counterparts.
The violin section saw just one first prize awarded, in the Junior category (11 years and below). Only second prizes were awarded in the Artist (25 years and below), Senior (21 years and below) and Intermediate (15 years and below) categories.
Each of the second-prize violinists did commendably. Artist category winner Yuchen Zhang played the third movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with strong tone and solid fingerwork, although his excessive variations in tempo must have made the NPVC Orchestra and conductor Peter Stark's work that much more challenging.
Senior category winner Dai Ailin performed Wang Chenwei's set piece Thaipusam. Although not trained in the carnatic violin tradition, Dai performed Wang's intriguing composition with spirit and great aplomb.
Intermediate category winner Javan See Kaiyi's performance of the Allegro from Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 was secure.
In contrast to Zhang's Tchaikovsky, his tempo for the Mozart was metronomically steady, arguably a touch wooden.
All the notes were nicely in place, but See, and especially his piano accompanist, seemed in an awful rush to get through the music.
First prizes were awarded in all the piano categories. Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts student Tew Jing Jong, winner of the Artist category, seemed unable to get beyond second gear in his playing of the first movement of Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto. Technically tidy and musically sound, his was an inoffensive but uninspiring performance.
Senior category winner Wang Huang Hao Jia, who played Wang Chenwei's set piece Mid-Autumn Festival, was far more impressive.
The Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music student fully mastered the technical demands of the work, which was reminiscent of a Debussy etude. Unfortunately, the piece did not show off a broader spectrum of Wang's talents.
Brahms' Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79 No. 1 is a work which Intermediate category winner Justin Low Renkai clearly has strong affinity with. He communicated strongly through his playing, showing real character, supported by sound technique and good musicality.
The evening's order of performance saw the youngest musicians performing last.
Winner of the Violin Junior category Cheng Wang Hoi, Jacob Reuben played the first movement of Saint-Saens' Violin Concerto No. 3.
One would have thought that this work was not ideal for such a young violinist, but Cheng proved otherwise. His intonation was superb and his control was excellent.
Piano Junior category winner Casey Li WeiXi topped off the concert with the most well-rounded and mature performance of the night.
She played Chopin's Bolero, Op. 19, which once again seemed like a work beyond her age and stature, but she did so with great poise and persuasiveness.
Jury member Singapore violinist Kam Ning's commentary was spot on: "The Junior contestants are especially bold and musical and I hope to hear them again when they're older."
At this year's NPVC winners' concert, the youngest stars once again shone the brightest.
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