Flawless performance wins piano competition

A RESPECTABLE audience of 500-600 piano lovers turned up at Llewellyn Hall  yesterday to witness the grand final of the fourth biennial Southern Highlands International Piano Competition.

Winner Konstantinos Destounis

Winner Konstantinos Destounis

After a gruelling competition, the judges awarded the $20,000 Ted Springett Memorial Prize to the young Greek pianist Konstantinos Destounis for his  technically flawless and refined performance of Rachmaninov’s “Concerto No 2 in C minor” Op 18.

In an unusual decision, they divided the second and third prizes of $10,000 and $6000 respectively to give joint second prize to Italy’s Ilaria Loatelli for a thunderous performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Concerto No 1 in B–flat minor” Op 23 and  to Japan’s  Kaoru Jitsukawa, who had  moved many of the crowd to tears with his performance of the same Rachmaninov that Destounis had chosen.

At the end of a very long afternoon – the organisers might consider starting this event at 2pm rather than 3pm in future – we learnt that Australia’s Peter de Jager had won $5000 as Best  Australian Performer, $2000 for Best Performance of a Debussy Etude and shared 5th and 6th prizes with Russia’s Svetlana Andreevna. Both were present.

Kaoru Jitsukawa

Kaoru Jitsukawa

As well, Korean pianist Yejin Noh was awarded, in absentia, the  $2000 prize for best performance of a major Romantic work and fourth prize of $3000.

This year’s competition attracted more than 80 entries and finished with a line-up of 23 competitors from 17 countries,  including China, Japan, Italy, Russia, Netherlands, Ukraine, Latvia and America.

Artistic director Gerard Willems paid tribute to the memory of founding sponsor and prominent Bowral businessman, the late Ted Springett, whose name is now attached to the first prize, noting that other generous sponsors were now coming on board.

Vice patron and State member for Goulburn, Prue Goward, paid tribute to the “very special community” of the Southern Highlands, where the competition had originated and where the love of music was strong.

Not so strong, it seemed,  to prevent Willems from relocating the grand final from Mittagong’s Clubbe Hall to Llewellyn Hall in Canberra, creating a degree of geographical confusion. “CityNews” understands that this was partly to expand the audiences and partly to give easier access to accompaniment for the soloists.

In his concluding speech, Willems, who took over as artistic director after the third biennial Southern Highlands International Piano Competition, lamented the poor attendance at the heats, which, if held in Sydney, would have attracted packed houses. Indeed, a board member from the Southern Highlands hinted at interval that in future, the heats too  might be held in Canberra.

Ilaria Loatelli

Ilaria Loatelli

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