Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The White Sheep

While I was gallivanting around with a bunch of pavement technicians last week, my sister Jessie was playing in the 2007 New Orleans International Piano Competition.
For one thing, my head was still spinning from Jessica Osborne's wild ride through Rachmaninov's "Sonata in B-Flat Minor" which closed Round One. The young American pianist grasped the sweeping, maximalist rhetoric of the Russian composer, letting his grand melodies smolder, rise and erupt volcanically while excavating every seam of harmonic ore. In a 20-minute span, she revealed what it means to treat the piano as an orchestra, whether ringing out downbeats with deft cross-hand work or letting bass notes resound like distant thunder. And she did it all without pummeling the piano.

But for some inexplicable reason she didn't make the finals:
Perhaps the judges wanted more technical hurdles than Beethoven's work provides. If so, why not advance Jessica Osborne, who built on her first round triumph as an interpreter of Rachmaninov, with astounding performances of difficult works by Liszt and Szymanowski? Her unhurried, slow-building account of the Liszt/Wagner "Liebestod" tapped the emotional core of the music while etching every trill and coloristic effect.

I'm kind of proud of her anyway. Still, I bet she doesn't know the difference between flex base and bonded concrete. Can you imagine?

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