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Culture news, 26.01.2005 12:38

World-class Competition in Russia's Great Conservatories

World-class Competition in Russia's Great Conservatories Forget the puny rivalries of American colleges and music departments: Two of the greatest music conservatories in the world went head-to-head Sunday on the second day of the St. Petersburg screening auditions for the 2005 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth.

The ornately decorated Glazunov Hall of the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory provided the field of battle as three potential stars from the St. Petersburg Conservatory played in the afternoon session, followed by three from the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory in the evening session.

Although it's not difficult to imagine any of these six amazing young musicians taking a medal in the final round of the Cliburn Competition in Fort Worth in June, 26-year-old Valentina Igoshina, a student of medalist producing Sergei Dorensky of the Moscow Conservatory, created the greatest impression of the day in an early evening program that opened with Beethoven's Sonata in E-flat, Opus 27, No. 1.

While the snow swirled outside, Igoshina warmed up the auditorium with a vision of the sonata that was majestically solid but underpinned with a constant sense of a drama unfolding. Moving on to the more passionate literature of the romantic era, she displayed a beautiful, mellow tone (on an unfortunately out-of-tune piano) to launch Chopin's Ballade in F Minor, imbuing this standard favorite with an aura of narration, like a tale told by fireside. Her moppish brown hair flying, she moved on to the unadulterated showmanship of Liszt's glitzy Rapsodie Espagnole, once again proving her dramatic gifts by finding a solid structure in this showpiece and producing a wonderfully rich quality of tone while finding constant moments of suspense and surprise.

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