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Finals Competition Professionals

According to tradition, the finals of the professionals competition is on the Sunday afternoon, the third day of the festival. A lot of audience had shown up!

In accordance with the draw, Henrique Almeida set the ball rolling with Fandango from Tres Piezas by Joaquin Rodrigo and Sonate by Leo Brouwer

Almeida played the Fandango slightly too hasty, but had a strong sonorous tone in the melody passages. It became an exultant performance.

In my personal opinion the tempo of Fandango y Boleros was a bit too high. Yet he succeeded in keeping the tension in the music, so its story became clear. With Sarabande de Scriabin he played what the music dictated, mysteriously and solemny. La Toccata de Pasquini got a dazzling tempo with exciting contrast in the arpeggios. Not a bad start of the finals!

Jacob Bangsö closed up seamlessly to the previous player with two movements from Tres Piezas by Joaqin Rodrigo, again the Fandango, but now supplemented with the last movement, the Zapateado. Maybe playing the same piece is risky, but it is possible that you win the comparison! His second piece was an old acquaintance, the Sonata Op. 47 by Alberto Ginastera (1916 - 1983).

Concerning speed, Bangsö surpassed Almeida with the Fandango. Additionally he distinguished himself with a fresh approach and some calculated risk in the runs. A cycler’s risk, for instance on the descent of the Tourmalet you have to cycle close to the abyss to gain maximal speed.

Right away he played a likewise dazzling Zapateado. I was thinking: “Wow, as an audience you want to catch your breath too!” This piece sounded fresh and energetic too and the risky descent of the Tourmalet just went on, but it did yield the player a head start.

The Sonata Op. 47 is an old acquaintance for me since 2006. I have heard finalists winning the race with this piece, so I was curious. The Escordio was powerful and full of contrast. In the Scherzo Bangsö added some extra spice to the piece, wide dynamic range, convincing effects and a speed with the effective risk we already heard before. He did not pull his punches on the guitar! In the Canto Bangsö took a breath and played a pleasant quiet impression that was abruptly interrupted by the acid end. The Finale became the fiery conclusion with an original interpretation of some sections. The audience reacted with an enthusiastic applause , somebody had played and excellent final round!

I have heard Jacob Bangsö a few times before on the competitions in Nordhorn and Enschede. So I did notice that his play has remarkably grown in all these years. I guess that he will be a stayer in the guitar scene.

Jinsae Kim had three pieces on his programme. With some effort I heard that he would play a Sonate van Domenico Scarlatti, something that sounded like Piece en Forme de Fantasia and as a conclusion the often played Zapateado from Tres Piezas by Joaquin Rodrigo. My conclusion was a bit, that you should include your announcements in your rehearsals too, because an audience that knows where it is all about, will listen better.

Jinsae Kim already had played the Sonata in the preliminaries. His somewhat hasty interpretation did not convince me. The second piece turned out to be a romantic piece with a warm tone that reminded me of Mertz. The tender prelude soon evolved in a final section in Bolero rhythm. Fun piece! Mr. Kim made all efforts to surpass the Zapateado by Bangsö and took off even faster than the Danish guitarist. Unfortunately this caused haste to step in and some passages completely lost their clarity because of the excessive speed.

Robbert Vermeulen paid homage to the music from the past ages, Sir John Smith his Almain and the famous Fantasia by John Dowland and the Fantasia Op. 9 by Luigi Legnani.

He played the Renaissance piece with capo on the second fret and the G string tuned to F sharp. In the Almain, Vermeulen added a number of original ritenutos and made a pleasant wave movement with his phrasing. In the Fantasia he made a perfect start with the theme and played the elaborations with a clear voicing and interesting phrasing. Legnani, well, that’s Opera! Vermeulen expressed the drama in the composition with all effects in an exemplary manner and made maximal use of the rests in the piece to stress the tension in the piece.

I had met Robbert Vermeulen in competitions in this region too, and also in this case I noticed that there is a clear progression in his play and musical eloquence.

There was the last candidate, Andreija Lazarevic. He provided interesting material for comparison with the repeat of Fantasia Op. 9 by Luigi Legnani. He added an unknown piece, a nice tango by Astor Piazzolla.

Lazarevic put more of the spirit of the opera in the Fantasia than Vermeulen had done, particularly in the lyrical passages his play was more “vocal” and singing. His tempo in the runs and bridges was dazzling, yet the individual notes remained clear. In comparison I also found that Lazarevic’s performance was more transparent and it was breathing more, particularly in the Arias between the virtuoso sections The Piazzolla piece had the passion that you expect from compositions like this. Exultant dynamics and a nice quiet atmosphere with effective vibrato made a tasteful alternation.

The finals were completed. My thoughts about the winner? Well, I was indecisive about Bangsö en Lazarevic. With the first player I was enthusiastic about the interpretation and the technique. The second player enticed me with his musical depth. To be fair I had a preference for the latter.

Tough job for the de jury!