The focus of everybody’s attention was the young French pianist Lucas Debargue, whose unorthodox technique and impassioned playing won widespread admiration from audiences and critics. The Competition jury, while recognising Debargue’s unique qualities, placed him fourth in the ﬁ nal rankings. Instead, the Gold Medal went to Dmitry Masleev, an altogether ‘safer’ choice: clearly very talented but missing the spark of genius which animates Debargue’s playing.
This dilemma illustrates the elusive nature of great piano-playing. What are the qualities that separate a brilliant display of technical mastery from a great interpretation that has the power to move audiences? Critics spend a lifetime trying to put this difference into words, though at a visceral level it’s something most of us recognise instantly when we hear it.
Inevitably, all serious musicians spend a lot of time perfecting their technique and developing a secure mastery of their chosen instrument, but what can they do to cultivate a rich inner life that nourishes their artistry and takes them beyond the notes? It’s a question that conservatoires and music colleges devote a lot of time and attention to addressing. Oberlin College in Ohio, for example, has recently launched a new graduate programme with the International Piano Academy Lake Como to encourage students to ‘engage in ideas bigger than themselves’. Meanwhile, researchers in genetics and pyschology continue to probe the age-old question whether talent is more a product of nature than nurture.
Elsewhere in this issue, we explore the extraordinary art of the toy piano, an instrument that was favoured by John Cage. Cage will also be one of the composers under the spolight at this year’s Occupy the Pianos festival in London. International Piano is delighted to be a media partner of this important and thought-provoking event. Don’t miss the opportunity to win a full festival pass for all peformances in what promises to be one of the highlights of the autumn season.