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Opening Gala Concert of the 2014 San Jose International Piano Competition

The 15th annual San Jose International Piano Competition proudly presents Opening Gala Concert at the Le Petit Tianon Theatre. Pianists Stephan Móller, Namik Sultanov, and Antonio Pompa-Baldi, performed pieces by Beethoven, Schubert-Liszt, Amirov, Scriabin, Brahms, Debussy, and Lyapunov.

Stephan Móller
Stephan Móller prizewinner at the 1985 International Beethoven Competition in Vienna, mainly focuses on Viennese Classics, especially Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas. In addition, he concentrates on Franz Liszt's paraphrases of Wagner opera scenes and Liszt's transcriptions of Beethoven Symphonies. Móller assisted Herbert von Karajan and other conductors at the Salzburg Festival, during the years of 1983-1989. He is currently piano professor at the University for Music and performing Arts Vienna and is currently the president of the Vienna International Pianists Association.

Móller, performing Beethoven's 6 Bagatelles, Op. 126, performed with lots of expansive passion. The moment he set foot on stage, his artistic eccentricity magnetized the audience's attention. Each Bagatelle had its own character, but one Bagatelle played after another expressed completely different emotions from the one played before it; and yet there was some sort of connection. Móller's fantastic emotional expression was accompanied by lots of intriguing visual effects. At some point, he threw back his arms after a grand fortissimo and then tossed them back on the keyboard. The visual effects matched the level of emotionality his performance expressed and helped the audience feel the music along with Móller himself. 

Dr. Namik Sultanov
Dr. Namik Sultanov, who has served Chairman of the Piano Department and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Music and Performing Arts at Bilkert University in Turkey, received his doctorate from the Moscow State Conservatory. "He is frequently invited to give master classes."

Sultanov, performing Schubert-Lizt's Aufenthalt, Amirov's Two Preludes, Scriabin's Poem "Vers la Flamme", Op. 72, and Brahms's Hungarian Dance #2 in D minor and Hungarian Dance #6 in D flat Major, delighted the audience with his wide variety of pieces performed. 

Aufenthalt, starting with a mini crescendo, had a feeling of tragedy with a tint of hope. The theme is played by the left-hand while the right-hand plays an accompaniment figure, and then the theme fluidly transfers to the right-hand. Sultanov's interpretation had gorgeous swells and decreases in dynamics, producing a mysterious effect. The left-hand plays a scale in octaves and begins a subtle accompaniment figure. The right-hand crosses over and plays a phrase in the base. Then, it jumps back up plays a longing melody imploring for something. An exulting tune, which Sultanov played so that one could hear the pain and joy of whoever one imagined at the same time. The familiar right-hand crosses over the left to play in the lower register. It is as if someone is falling down and then reaching up, and then falling back down again. But this does not stop them from reaching again, even higher this time. The soft ending concludes this piece and leaves the audience satisfied. 

The two Hungarian dances by Brahms ( Hungarian Dance #2 in D minor and Hungarian Dance #6 in D flat Major) had tons of spirit in them. Every single note in the dance in D minor had a feeling of carefreeness despite its tragic tone, in my opinion. I believe that what led me to think so was the passionate manner of the performance. The dance in D flat Major was more light-hearted than the one in D minor, but it was deep nonetheless. The way Namik Sultanov displayed the character of the piece to us was extremely clear and comprehensible. In his interpretation of the dance in D minor, there was a sense of mystery. The Hungarian Dance in D flat Major obviously, judging from the title, starts in D flat Major. When the minor section begins, C# minor, the audience gets a bite into the tragic half of the dance as well as into the jolly one. The slow and majestic manner at which Namik Sultanov performs this section give the audience a chance to enjoy every second, every chord, every note. 

Antonio Pompa-Baldi, topprize winner at the 1998 Marguerite Long-Jacques Thiband Competition of Paris, France, won the Cleveland International Piano Competition in 1999 and launched into a carreer which has taken him across five continents. He has performed with conductors such as Hans Graf, James Conlon, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and Keith LockhartAntonio Pompa-Baldi recently performed with Santo Domingo Festival with Maestro Benjamin Zander, the National Symphony of Ecuador, and the Johannesburg and Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestras in South Africa. 

Antonio Pompa-Baldi
Antonio Pompa-Baldi, performing Debussy's Suite Bergamesque: Prelude, Menuet, Clair de lune, and Passepied, and Lyapunov's Transcendental Etude Op.11 #12 "Elegy in memory of Franz Liszt". Franz Liszt wrote a series of twelve pieces for piano called the Transcendental Etude. Lyapunov's Elegy in memory of Franz Liszt was performed in a truly spectacular manner. This was a clear example of virtuosic performance. Antonio Pompa-Baldi intrigued the audience with his vigorously impassioned performance. As Antonio Pompa-Baldi's hands literally danced upon the keys, the audience was stuck with their lower jaw on the floor. The zeal with which Antonio Pompa-Baldi performed the Lyapunov kept the audience possessed by both emotional content and technic. Despite the audience's obvious request for an encore, there was none. I'm never very keen on encore performances, but I actually found myself quite disappointed that none was to follow. 

"My proudest moments are always whenever I realize I've touched someone with my playing."
                                           -Antonio Pompa-Baldi

I shall now quote a few anonymous sources from the audience who have expressed their opinions.

On Antonio Pompa-Baldi's playing:

"If someone doesn't completely understand the definition of a virtuosic performer, they should listen to Pompa-Baldi."

On Stephan Móller's playing:

"I must say that he demonstrated explicitly characterized emotions in his performance."

On Namik Sultanov's playing:

"Sultanov was very energetic in the performance of all the pieces he played." 

On the evening in general:

"I thought that the programming was put together very well. It was a brilliant concert. No, really. Without any exaggeration. It was by far better than many concerts I have attended to at the SF Symphony."

Everyone needs to go to and click on "watch live", the button with a tiny TV screen on it, and watch the San Jose International Piano Competition streaming live!

Special thanks to Chairman of the Board Dan Morgan, President and Artistic Director Irina Prilipko-Morgan, Vice President Alex Poklewski, Director of Operations Julie Poklewski, Director of Marketing and Publicity Scott Ellner, Board Member Irina Sadovnikova, Student Recitals Chair Lora Kompelmakher, and Board Assistants Megan Correa and Devyn Noriel.

When every performer was done, the door to backstage would open for them and they would just walk through an already opened door. Before Antonio Pompa-Baldi's performance, Dan Morgan came out and while fixing the bench said,

"Have you ever noticed how that door magically opens? That's me."

Since the recital had no intermission, this was appreciated very much as a relief in between two performers.

And since I have the opportunity to share this glorious recital with you, why shouldn't I? Enjoy!



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