Immersed in the 2010 Chopin Competition: Avdeeva/Trifonov/Dumont

Classical Music
This article can be read in about 15 minutes.

The lingering resonance of Trifonov’s performance which I attended a few days ago, still remains with me. Since then, I’ve been completely engrossed in his performance at the 2010 Chopin International Competition, where he secured the third prize.

Let’s rewind a few months when a friend of mine shared his admiration for Avdeeva. She, the victor of the 2010 competition, was the topic of discussion.
When I first listened to her recordings about a decade ago, I didn’t find what made her stand out. However, as I approach my thirties, I finally grasped the magnitude of her artistry.

Now, I’d like to share about how luxurious and exceptional the 2010 competition was, producing these two pianists who have become my recent favorites.

Reflecting on the 2010 Chopin Competition

Every five years in Warsaw, Poland, the renowned “Chopin International Piano Competition” takes place.
Widely recognized as the world’s premier piano competition, the 2010 edition was particularly significant as it coincided with the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth.

The laureates were as follows:

1st Prize: Yulianna Avdeeva (25, Russia)
2nd Prize: Lukas Geniušas (20, Russia/Lithuania)
Ingolf Wunder (25, Austria)
3rd Prize: Daniil Trifonov (19, Russia)
4th Prize: Evgeni Bozhanov (26, Bulgaria)
5th Prize: François Dumont (25, France)
6th Prize: Not awarded

Looking at their backgrounds, it’s evident that many had already received awards in other competitions, resembling a lineup of semi-professionals. As will be mentioned later, the performance of the winner, Avdeeva, was already at a level of perfection that could be released as a CD.

Perhaps equally noteworthy alongside her is Trifonov.
The fact that a pianist of his caliber secured the third prize is already a mark of luxury.

In the following sections, I will introduce the three bolded names along with recommended performances.

1st: Yulianna Avdeeva (25, Russia)

To explore the performances of past winners, I once tried listening to various final-round concertos.
I was fond of powerful concertos, and the fact that almost everyone played the same piece made comparisons easy.

My impressions of her at that time were, “Too many mistakes,” “Lacks a certain brilliance in the sound,” and overall, I couldn’t understand why she had won the first prize. Subsequently, my interest waned, and I hadn’t listen to her performances.

Now I am ashamed of it… (/ω\)

As mentioned at the beginning, last year, I finally listened to her solo performances last year based on a friend’s recommendation.

And what can I say?

The mellowness of the sound, intricate structuring, and a narrative with grand scale. A balance that is sufficiently romantic yet not overly dramatic.

With an almost philosophical depth, deviating from the mainstream I think, she stands out among recent winners with an exceptional level of perfection as a “contestant.”

  • The first female winner after 45 years, since Argerich (+ Sonata Prize).
  • The first winner who performed on YAMAHA, our beloved Japanses piano.

Truly, a pianist who follows her own path.

However, the concerto, no matter how many times I listen to it, remains ordinary. (Although overcoming the absurd incident of the power outage is truly commendable!)

On the contrary, it emphasizes how remarkable her solo performance was, to the extent that the result could not be overturned even with that concerto.

Recommended Pieces by Avdeeva

  • Ballade No. 4

Ballade No. 4 is such a beautiful piece that, when played by a decent pianist, it almost always sounds good – something I learned from the Chopin Competition haha

However, this was a particularly memorable performance.
As you know, there are many recordings such as by Rubinstein, Zimerman, and recent laureates, but this one has become one of my top favorites.

Given it was a competition performance, the occasional mistakes, characteristic of her playing, are somewhat noticeable.
However, they are more than compensated for by a maturity that seems to encapsulate a profound view of life.

Absolutely deserving of the first prize!

Other notable performances include the Piano Sonata No. 2 and Fantaisie. She seems to truly shine in complex, intricate works. Her award-winning performance of the Sonata is especially a must-listen.

I was also struck by her rendition of Nocturne (Op.27-2) included in the third stage of the competition. The choice is quite intriguing.

▼2010 Chopin Competition Recording – Avdeeva: Ballade No. 4

▼YouTube Playlist – Complete 2010 Chopin Competition (Avdeeva)

3rd Prize: Daniil Trifonov (19, Russia)

A prodigy who, at the age of 19, clinched the third prize and the Mazurka Prize.

His exceptional technique was already well-developed, with performances that were incredibly fast and brimming with youthful energy. Moreover, perhaps enhanced by the Fazioli, the sound was exceptionally clear and sparkling.

Despite possessing the qualities to tread the well-established paths of classical music, his approach to music is highly individualistic. Far from being a mere conformist, he is a pianist of unique originality.

The voltage in the Rondo of the third movement of the concerto in the final round was extraordinary!
It made me wonder just how high this young talent would go….

However, his performance in the competition felt somewhat unrefined and lacked a certain depth.

Still, the purity of the sound is top-notch, and there’s an evident lyrical quality that adds to the romanticism!

Recommended Pieces by Trifonov

  • Piano Concerto in E minor – III. Rondo Vivace

I have quite a few favorites, but if I had to choose one, it would be the concerto from the final round, particularly the last movement.
It’s a performance that makes you wish you were in the audience to witness the moment a young talent explodes onto the scene.

The beautiful pieces such as Nocturne (Op. 62-1), slow movements of the Sonata and Concerto, as well as Rondo à la Mazur, Grande Polonaise Brillante, and the final movement of Sonata No. 3, all showcase his virtuoso and youthfulness in a delightful way.
His rendition of small pieces like Impromptu No. 1 is refreshingly light and airy!

▼2010 Chopin Competition Recording – Trifonov: Concerto in E minor (3rd mov.)

▼YouTube Playlist – Complete 2010 Chopin Competition (Trifonov)

Absolutely, I highly recommend checking out his performances!
His progress and achievements following the competition have been remarkable.

  • Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
  • Liszt: The Transcendental Études

5th Prize: François Dumont (25, France)

I’ve been a fan of his Ravel’s solo works, but it was only while writing this article that I realized he was also a prize winner at the Chopin Competition.

This discovery led me to a deeper appreciation of his performances, both in Ravel’s pieces and in the Chopin “competition”, marked by a distinctive sensuality.

His allure doesn’t stem solely from his lustrous tonal palette; it’s also evident in the way he coaxes the lower registers, the nuanced treatment of inner voices, and his tantalizing approach to tempo. In less refined terms, there’s an undeniable eroticism in his playing.

Yet, Dumont’s artistry isn’t merely about creating a comfortable atmosphere. He possesses a compelling forcefulness, never missing the mark in moments that demand a decisive, fortissimo impact. This combination of subtlety and power accentuates the sensuality of his performances.

I couldn’t help but think that he might have been ranked even higher in more recent competitions.

Recommended Pieces by Dumont

  • Ravel: Miroirs, IV. Alborada del gracioso

This piece was a major reason why I became a fan of his.

Among the suite, indeed, even among piano compositions in general, this piece stands out as something unique.
Its allure lies not only in its virtuosic elements like rapid repeated notes and double glissandos but also in its passionate rhythmic sense and sharp, angular harmonies.

What makes this recording remarkable is how he manages to replicate these elements with a hard yet sensual tone.

While I’m fond of the Lortie‘s recordings for its overwhelming clarity, Dumont’s rendition, retaining a sense of ennui, is also captivating.

Of course, the other pieces in the complete works are all wonderful too, and his performances in the Chopin Competition are all high-level. Do give them a listen! If I had to choose, I would suggest the Barcarolle and the Sonata.

▼YouTube Playlist – Complete 2010 Chopin Competition (Dumont)

▼2010 Chopin Competition Recording – Dumont