Scottish International Piano Competition 2017 Final

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Miranda Heggie

four stars

THE final of this year’s Scottish International Piano Competition saw three young pianists play their chosen concerto, accompanied by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Thomas Sondergard. Emerging players from all across the globe came to Glasgow to compete, with each playing in stages one and two on the RCS’s Steinway, Bosendorfer and Fazioli grands. Chaired by Professor Aaron Shorr, head of keyboard and collaborative piano at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the jury comprised a distinguished panel of international pianists, including Russian-American concert pianist Olga Kern, chief executive of the RSNO Dr Krishna Thiagarajan and world renowned Scottish pianist Steven Osborne. Having whittled the competition down to just three, Turkish pianist Can Cakmur, Romanian-born British pianist Florian Mitrea and British-Georgian pianist Luka Okros were those competing for the top prize.

The instrument of choice for all three was the Fazioli concert grand, made 35 miles northeast of Venice. First to take to the keys was Florian Mitrea, with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no 5 in E-flat major "Emperor". With a virtuosic opening filled with velocity, he played with a subtle rubato and firm touch. Taking on a stiller, more dream-like musical persona for the second adagio movement, Mitrea fully explored the romantic nuances of the music, with phenomenal precision throughout.

Next up was Can Cakmur, again with Beethoven, this time with his Fourth Concerto in G major. Cakmur’s magnetic presence at the keyboard was felt before he played even a single note, and from the outset he owned every crevice of the music in what was an honest and impassioned interpretation of this piece. Though his dialogue with both orchestra and conductor was on point, it was in the solo passages where his stellar qualities as a pianist really shone through. His deftly measured glissandi and perfect balance of touch made for an exhilarating journey through the music.

The final competitor, Luka Okros, gave a darkly glowing rendition of Rachmaninov’s 2nd Concerto in C minor. Rachmaninov’s richly lyrical opening to the second movement was played here with both poise and passion, with Okros’s duets with the woodwind section tender and uplifting.

These were three truly stunning performances and the competition was close and well fought. The judges’ decision was based not only on the entrants’ concerto performance but the competition as a whole, and the first prize, which includes an engagement with RSNO this season, went to Can Cakmur. Florian Mitrea took the second prize, as well as the ‘Special Prize’ for the best performance of a new work by Gordon McPherson, and Luka Okros won third prize.