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Kerikeri National Piano Competition winner

2010 Kerikeri National Piano Competition winner announced


AUCKLANDER John Paul Muir has triumphed over an international field of musicians to take the 2010 Kerikeri National Piano Competition.

Critics said the musician was able to create an icy layer of sound and was able to communicate musical sincerity through his playing. He had an understanding and maturity, a sense of timing and harmonic colouration that lifted Liszt to a “level of profound spirituality, holding the audience spellbound”.

Muir beat a field of 18 competitors who had travelled from as far as Russia and Israel and throughout New Zealand and Australia to the four-day contest at Kerikeri.

He won $12,000 in prizemoney and the distinction of gaining his own recital which will be hosted by the Waikanae Music Society this coming Sunday, 11 July.

The 2010 Audience vote went to Brisbane pianist Alex Raineri who was at his best in Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso.

Hundreds of music enthusiasts flocked to Kerikeri for this prestigious event over the weekend.

Review from esteemed pianist Rae de LIsle follows.

Kerikeri National Piano Competition

July1-4 2010

The Centre


Piano Competitions world wide have become great spectator sport and this weekend’s competition in Kerikeri was no exception. Kerikeri’s outstanding concert venue “The Centre” was filled to capacity for the final of the 2010 National Piano Competition. Each pianist had already played up to an hour of music for the early rounds of the competition, and four were chosen to perform a further 45 minute recital this afternoon.

From the 18 pianists, the four selected by adjudicator Albert Tiu from Singapore were not without controversy. Professor Tiu was obviously unimpressed with the immaculate technical wizardry displayed by so many of the competitors. At the top of his criteria was the ability to communicate, and to draw a variety of sounds from the instrument. The four chosen had in common a creativity which brought fresh insights to the music and went beyond recreating a previously heard CD performance.

(Scoop Editor's note: Some content has been removed after multiple requests)

More successful was Brisbane pianist Brierley Cutting, probably the most secure and experienced of the four, having played numerous concerts in Europe and throughout Australia. While the rubato used in Ravel’s Jeux d’eau verged on sentimentality, the limpid tones and finally graded nuance certainly conveyed the essence of the music. Here is a pianist who has at her disposal a myriad of different colours and who knows how to take the time to let the music speak. Her style was well suited to the preludes by Scriabin and Vine, perhaps less so to the Appassionata sonata where her tempo variations interfered with the rhythmic tension inherent in the music of Beethoven. However it was a performance of authority which won her second placing in the competition.

Auckland pianist Lucy Zeng was given third place and the prize for the best performance of a sonata. The youngest of the four, she has a natural understanding of the operatic quality of Mozart and her sonata K311 was full of vocal and instrumental sounds, played with effortless pianism. The highlights of her playing this weekend was the gloriously expressive cantabile in the Chopin Andante Spianato,  and the finely graded layering of Ravel’s Sonatine. Her Chopin B minor sonata has yet to reach its zenith , but it shows an organic musicality ripe for development.

Few would have disagreed with the first prize winner, Aucklander John Paul Muir.  The audience favourite in the 2008 Competition, his playing communicates a musical sincerity which is deeply felt . His Beethoven Op.78 was played with the same understanding and maturity he had already shown in the Op 109 sonata, and he was able to create icy layers of sound in Debussy’s Des Pas Sur La Neige. However it was the Liszt Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude which confirmed his winning placing. Here his sense of timing and harmonic colouration lifted Liszt to a level of profound spirituality, holding the audience spellbound.

The 2010 Audience vote went to Brisbane pianist Alex Raineri who was at his best in Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso. The competition reserve, 16-year-old Aucklander Laurence Wong, who had been called in at short notice, won the encouragement award. His extrovert playing was full of youthful exuberance, and shows more than the usual promise. Other outstanding performances included Lorelle McNaughton’s Albeniz, Michael Li’s Scriabin Fantasie, Tina Kim’s La Valse, Kapustin Etudes from Jane Nayoung Koo and Kevin Chow, James Guan’s Chopin Ballade, John Li Chen’s Bach Toccata and David Soo’s Carl Vine Sonata .

Brilliantly organized, in an ideal venue, with an excellent piano, the 2010 Kerikeri National Piano Competition was a memorable occasion. While the inclusion of international competitors has added to the calibre of the contestants, the winning placings show the standard of New Zealand’s young pianists. Lovers of piano music would do well to plan a visit to Kerikeri for the 2012 Competition.


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