This double disc set from the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition is a fine souvenir for those who attended, and an enjoyable recital for all music lovers.
Without question, the winner Andrey Gugnin has something special to offer. His feeling for rubato and dynamic balance is completely natural, never imposed. His Sibelius Impromptu Op. 5/5 is ravishing, and he captures the searching quality of the Three Pieces Op. 45 by Scriabin. The same composer’s Poème Op. 32/1, beautifully played by Quang Hong Luu, had me holding my breath. (Luu was not a finalist).
Sergey Belyavskiy’s bold attack is better suited to Beethoven’s Rage over a Lost Penny than Chopin’s Etude in A flat, Op. 25/1, which sounds too emphatic. Similarly, Ming Xie misses the Spanish idiom in her phrasing of Granados’s Goyescas Op. 11/5. Jianing Kong, who won the Roy Agnew Best 18th Century Concerto prize, sounds at home in Scarlatti’s Sonata Kk 455: neither italicised nor rushed.
The set closes with an invigorating encore: Feinberg’s arrangement of the Allegro Molto Vivace from Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony, dashed off by Roman Lopatynski. Despite different piano brands, the sound quality remains first class throughout.