Wrapping up the Klein competition on Sunday afternoon was a nerve-wracking experience. The final round in SFSU’s Knuth Hall was attended by a capacity crowd of enthusiasts, supporters, disappointed but well-wishing semi-finalists and in many cases family members too. The sequence of performances, drawn by ballot yielded two cellists before a brief intermission and the only violinist among the finalists who closed the proceedings on the and half. Leading off, Houston TX high-schooler, Charles Seo began the proceedings as indeed he had done the day before, with his program including the Allemande from the D major Bach Suite followed by the first movement of the Beethoven D Major Sonata. He wrapped up with the first movement of Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante and once more he impressed with flawless accuracy and impeccably efficient technique with only a hint of almost modest bravura, belying the audacious daredevil nature of his repertoire choice. His delivery seemed at once almost delicate yet it roared when it needed to. After a very short break, Zlatomir Fung, 15 year old home-schooled cellist from Massachusetts came to the stage apparently uncomfortable with the burden of playing before a crowd but, just as he had done the day before, he instantly took control and commanded our attention with his superb, focused, full and burnished tone. He performed the Courante from the same D Major suite as Seo. It was perfectly poised, elegant yet viscerally just fast enough so that every seat in the house heard every note with exquisitely judged articulation. The balance of the Schumann Concerto from which we’d heard the first movement on Saturday was dispatched with élan and superbly engaging expressivity. The audience responded rapturously with a hearty ovation. To close with two movements from the Schnittke 1st Sonata was a marvelous and revealing choice rounding out a superb program demonstrating this very young cellist’s estimable strengths while also challenging his pianist with some very colorful scoring. It was a tour de force for both players. The last performer and the only violinist of the day was the poised and confident 16 yo New Yorker, Angela Wee. Unfortunately the otherwise superb sonority of her instrument was marred by her tuning too sharp to the piano. Consistent the previous day, her unaccompanied Bach was burnished but the lines were lumpy and the vibrato too random with a bowing scheme ill-suited to the musical line and architecture. Beethoven fared better although it was dispatched with concerto-like flamboyant mannerisms, punctuated with physical flourishes after each “component” which left her sonata-partner at the piano with little to do besides accompany. The whole resembled an equestrian event. The first movement of the monumental Brahms Concerto is where Angela Wee is most secure. Sadly, it should have been her strong suit based on the subsequent movements which we had heard so promisingly presented the day before but in the final round her performance disappointed.
In the end the panel of judges had little difficulty in awarding first prize to Zlatomir Fung with an exceptionally close 2nd to Charles Seo. The 3rd prize went to Ms Wee who is a very promising young violinist. Like all of her gifted colleagues this weekend at the 29th Annual Klein Competition, she will hopefully have profited from rubbing shoulders with some of the most gifted up-and-coming artists of their very young generation. With luck, we should be hearing from them all again in the very near future and hopefully, for many years to come.
So I’m safely in Dallas/Fort Worth, checked into La Quinta Inn and yes, it’s raining and muggy. I seem to have packed in a lot already since leaving California just 7 hours ago. I was NOT tempted to signup for inflight WiFi but instead used the time to respond to a few accumulated emails which were all dispatched when I hit the ground – less than a 3 hour flight. I’m about to start screening some audition recordings for yet another competition but first I’m putting my head down for a nap and of course, looking forward to dinner. I find I’m definitely hungry but for what – Texas BBQ or TexMex? I’m going to let David Weuste and his wife decide as I’m assured that whatever it is, it will be some of Forth Worth’s finest! I know the company will be great.