Originally posted by sonhouse
Hi sonhouse, I'll try to answer your many questions
I think that was the final?
Did you win?
Yes, there were three finalists (other two played the second Rachmaninov concerto and the fourth Beethoven) and I got the first prize
Also, how do you approach such a piece when you first run across it in sheet?
Well, basically by trying to play through (I knew the piece from hearing, before, which is mostly the case with new pieces) and then learning the places where I fail to play through (which is most of the piece with one as difficult as this one) by rehearsing slowly and such.
Obviously you would not have an orchestra to help out so how do you rehearse such a piece?
By myself, I just play the solo piano part. Prokofiev made a second-piano arrangement of the orchestral part himself, which is in the score that one practices concertos with. I was a little lucky, since I have to play this concerto in concerts soon, so I had 2 rehearsals with them before this competition.
Also, where were the judges? I didn't see anyone obvious in the audience.
They were in the hall, I think you can see them, they have a little more light than the rest of the audience.
What criteria do they use to judge playing at such a clearly high level? Like the cross hand scales of the first movement, 'did he do them with sufficient crispness? Did it come across as well as Ashkenazy?'
I don't know exactly what criteria they use, but being very experienced musicians themselves (way more than any of the competitors, obviously) I suppose they are able to tell, from their own musicianship, which competitor is in which ways stronger than the other. I'm not very familiar with Ashkenazy's recording, although I have it, but in Prokofiev I do not like his playing that much, I prefer for instance Martha Argerich, who made many recordings of this piece (youtube!). Prokofiev recorded it himself in 1932, which is a very interesting recording.
If your competitors play compositions by different composers, how can there be an objective judgement if all the players are as virtuosic as you?
It's always hard to compare, if not impossible (I think Bartok said: competitions are for racing horses, not musicians'
but there are certain standards to compare pianists playing works by different composers, although the pianist who performs the harder piece just as well as another pianist performs a slightly easier piece will generally have an edge.
I also saw your "KoffieConcert of Mozart's Sonata in C, really nice piece also! Do you have other you tube pieces? I gather the KoffieConcert series is less formal.
This series is actually rather nice, but it was recorded by someone in the audience who happened to be sitting where he was... I didn't know it was recorded until I stumbled across it on youtube. I don't have other youtube pieces, but there will probably be more in the future.
My knowledge of Prokofiev is more like from his student days, the 'Classical Symphony' for instance.
This concerto was written not too long after his student days, but indeed many works from this time are excellent. His later works tend to take some getting used to, but for instance his 5th Symphony is a really great piece as well.
Thanks for your reply, and I hope my answers are somewhat sufficient