Scarlatti, Medtner & Schumann Appear At International Piano Competition

Feb 1, 2013

We continue working our way through the preliminary rounds of last years contest. This Sunday, the music of Italian Domenico Scarlatti, a man who won a harpsichord "play-off" against G.F. Handel, and was so impressed by Handel's abilities that he always crossed himself when mentioning the composers name.

Scarlatti left Rome and moved to the courts of Spain and Portugal where he taught Queen Barbara to play harpsichord. Our "concert" starts with three of Scarlatti's sonatas.

Carrying Scarlatti's style

Nicolai Medtner grew up in Russia and was influenced by the Italian master, and if you listen closely to his music you might hear runs, fingerwork and cadences that recall Scarlatti's music. Two of Medtner's "Forgotten Melodies" will be performed, but don't let the title throw you off, one of these pieces is very taxing on the pianist and instrument.

Four of the eleven contestants played Chopin in the first round and one of his most difficult Scherzos was preformed to great acclaim. This one was compared by the Hungarian pianist, Louis Kentner, to the drama of Wagner and a triumphal scene at Valhalla.

Schumann had a way with the ladies

The last work is that of Robert Schumann, whose compositions showed up five times in the preliminary rounds. I sometimes wonder if Schumann would have stuck to writing if he wasn't so determined to impress young women with music.

This time the target was Ernestina von Fricken (who was once the composer's fiancé); Schumann took a theme by her guardian "the baron" and composed a number of short works in the form of Etudes (possibly inspired by the etudes Op. 10 of Chopin). Because these works sounded so full and rich, they were deemed "symphonic" etudes and the name stuck. The last version of these pieces round out Sunday's program.

Hear more of the talented contestants from the San Antonio International Piano Competition this Sunday evening at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.