19 September 2019


We’ve come to Aachen, a small city (~280,000) and a centre of innovation on the German/Belgian border. It’s been a spa town since roman days and Megan was interested for its history as the imperial residence of Charlemagne and its associations otherwise with the Holy Roman Empire. It was bombed comprehensively in 1944 so not sure how much remains, but that’s to be seen. These days it’s a centre of innovation but our view has been rather more pedestrian. But an opportune discovery at the local tourist information centre told us of three interesting musicals event on the night and there were still tickets to be had when we arrived for our first choice: the final of the MozARTe 15th International Piano Competition. Four performers (form Germany, Italy, South Korea and Japan) each playing a Mozart (K.414, K.415 or K.449) or Chopin (no.2) concerto with string accompaniment (a double string quartet with double bass) for prizes from E3,000 down, judged by an international jury of eight chaired and sponsored by the local Lions group. The 34 entries were weaned to four for the final: Vincent Neeb (Germany, Mozart K.414); Riccardo Gagliardi (Italy, Chopin no.2); Gi Ran Jung (South Korea, Mozart K.449); Mizora Ozaki (Japan, Chopin no.2). It was interesting to compare two interpretation of the one Chopin; to hear the effectiveness of the accompaniment over the night; to listen to the acoustics in this older-style European chamber space and sound of the Steinway (~6 foot?) lent for the occasional; to wonder about comparing Mozart with Chopin; to make our own judgements for the audience prize; just to hear the capable playing from memory. They played in the order listed. The judges chose 1. Ozaki, 2. Gagliardi, 3. Neeb, 4. Jung. The audience (with instructions to choose one only) agreed: 1. Ozaki. My guess was agreement on 1/2 but swapping 3/4. Not that I like competitions so much but there was some decent and some excellent playing to hear and the first choice seemed pretty clear. She also seemed to get the best accompaniment of the night, playing last and with the strings nicely warmed up. Like interviews, the first up virtually never wins. But an opportune find.

Vincent Neeb, Riccardo Gagliardi, Gi Ran Jung and Mizora Ozaki (pianos) performed in the final of the MozARTe 15th International Piano Competition in Aachen.

This is CJBlog post no. 2,200.

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