Chopin to die for: Japanese pianist wins competition

A BRILLIANT 25-year-old pianist from Japan was presented with the $25,000 first prize in the Australian International Chopin Piano Competition held in Llewellyn Hall yesterday.

Nagano receives the award from Mrs Pratt

Nagano receives the award from Mrs Pratt

The prize was presented to Kotaro Nagano by Mrs Jeannie Pratt on behalf of the Pratt Foundation, which had sponsored the award.

“We think of Canberra as a political capital and not always kindly” Mrs Pratt commented, going on to praise this “important international competition,” which was, she said, not unlike the Arthur Rubinstein competition she had also sponsored in Israel.

Nagano performs with the Enigma Quarter and McCahon

Nagano performs with the Enigma Quarter and McCahon

Nagano later performed Fryderyk Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E minor, Op.11, accompanied by Sydney’s Enigma Quartet and bassist Kirsty McCahon.

Nagano, who was greeted with rapturous applause, was also the winner of the People’s Choice Award in the competition, which had been running at the ANU School of Music since last Monday.

Runners up Elina Akselrud, 24, from Ukraine/USA and Daria Kameneva, 27, from Russia, preceded Nagano with performances which were both sensitive and thrilling of other works by Chopin.

Organised by the ANU School of Music in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Canberra and the Friends of Chopin Australia, this is the second year of the competition, carried out under the artistic direction of Maciej Pawela.

Elina Akselrud,  from Ukraine/USA

Elina Akselrud, from Ukraine/USA

While the MC, ABC Classic FM presenter Julian Day, joked that he had heard raised voices in the judging room but that the outcome had been unanimous, jury chief Professor Larry Sitsky, revealed to the audience the simple method of voting that saw the panel arrive at a decision which had not in fact been unanimous.

Daria Kameneva from Russia

Daria Kameneva from Russia

Explaining “how our jury operates,” Sitsky said that at his insistence there were no marks employed. “putting marks on artistic expression makes no sense whatsoever,” Professor Sitsky said to a round of applause. For the finals the jury members had simply marked 1,2 and 3 alongside the names.

The whole event reminded the ANU School of Music’s Prof Peter Tregear of the ambitions nursed by Governor-General Lord Thomas Denman, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher in 1913 that Canberra should become “the home of art” and “the city beautiful of our dreams.”

All photos courtesy of Peter Hislop.

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