Music review: Leeds International Piano Competition, Leeds University Great Hall

THIRD TIME LUCKY?: Piano competition's contestants prepare for another round.
THIRD TIME LUCKY?: Piano competition's contestants prepare for another round.
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“If you look only for attributes which happen not to be present, you fail to hear those which are,” wrote Richard Steinitz in his history of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival – Yorkshire’s great festival of music and composition.

And this applies equally to the Leeds International Piano Competition – Yorkshire’s great festival of musicianship and performance.

As the 62 contestants sallied through the first stage – the piano competition equivalent of ice skating’s compulsory figures – the unanswerable conundrum of how to make objective judgment of subjective performance raised its head.

Will the jury of pedagogues and performers – including Cristina Ortiz and Pascal Rogé plus a Radio Three producer and the competition’s founder and grande dame Fanny Waterman – look for certain attributes only?

Will the contestants try to second guess what the judges are looking for? Will the audience at the finals go for the contestant playing the most passionate concerto with the swooniest slow movement?

Or will we all follow Steinitz’s mantra and stop looking “for attributes which happen not to be present” in order to “hear those which are”. If we do, that’ll be a first.

Watch this space this weekend as the contestants move into the third round, the semi-finals, where they must play night piece ‘Notturno’ for Piano, which was composed by the revered Benjamin Britten for the first Leeds International Pianoforte Competition (as it was then known) in 1963.

If they make the grade they may just make it to the finals where competitors play a concerto with the Hallé orchestra conducted by none other than Sir Mark Elder.

Semi-finals take place on Sunday, Leeds University Great Hall, noon, £4.

Finals take place in Leeds Town Hall, The Headrow, on September 14, at 7.30pm, and September 15, at 6.30pm, £14 to £48

Rating: 4/5

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