Pianist Filippo Gorini triumphs at the Telekom Beethoven Competition

Deutsche Welle
5 Min Read

It was a sensational win for the 20-year-old Italian, who had never before performed with an orchestra. At the ITBCB finale he more than tamed a warhorse of the piano repertory: Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto.
On Saturday evening (12.12.2015) in the sold-out Beethoven Hall, the audience favorite was announced first. Filippo Gorini left his competitors, Canadian Ben Cruchley and Moritz Winkelmann of Germany, far behind.

Then Pavel Gililov announced the jury’s verdict at the 6th International Telekom Beethoven Competition Bonn (ITBCB). The jury president was doubly satisfied: not only were audience and jury in agreement, but the nine-member panel of experts had shown rare unanimity, basing their decision on the first three days of the ten-day music competition as well as the final round.

“I still can’t believe what is happening to me this evening. It’s like a dream come true,” Gorini told DW in an interview.

The soloist had exhibited a dreamlike confidence in his rendition of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto.” From the first notes, it was clear to this reporter: he’s the one. At one point in the second movement, Gorini lost his way, missing a phrase and then over-compensating with harsh determination. For a frightening moment, it seemed as though the self-confident performance could end up a shambles. But the young artist went on to astound all in the third movement of Beethoven’s most varied and difficult piano concerto with moments of enchanting lyricism, rendering phrases with a poetic touch and in complete accordance with conductor and orchestra – Stefan Blunier and the Beethoven Orchester Bonn – before storming on to the conclusion.

First performance with an orchestra

Filippo Gorini seemed most surprised by his win: “When I first applied for this competition, they asked on the online form how many concertos with orchestra I had played. And I have never played with orchestra before this evening. And: ‘Do you have a manager?’ And I didn’t. ‘Have you recorded any CDs? And so on.'”

Neither did the modest musician hesitate to admit his trepidation: “I didn’t know if I would be able to do anything meaningful in this competition. Also, when I learned that I was the youngest competitor, I was really surprised each round to go on. I’m very, very happy – and very tired.”

He won’t have much time to rest: on December 16, Filipo Gorini has a follow-up performance with the Beethoven Orchester Bonn at the “Long Beethoven Night.” He’s already found a suitable use for the cash award of 30,000 euros ($32,977), which he has earmarked for further musical studies.

Strong competition

Twenty thousands euros went to Ben Cruchley, winner of the ITBCB’s second prize, and 10,000 to third-placed Moritz Winkelmann. The latter opened the competition finale, playing solo in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 – a bit dry and tame in the first movement but befitting the classical mode of the piece – then with captivating momentum in the third movement. The 31-year-old critically acclaimed pianist has appeared at major festivals in Germany, with big-name orchestras, and at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Ben Cruchley has stage experience as well, having performed with the Toronto Symphony and the Montreal University Orchestra. At the competition finale, the charismatic 29-year-old rendered Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with an astonishing range of nuances, charming the orchestra as well to achieve a satisfying collaborative effort. And something that those who heard only the finale didn’t know: “He plays Shostakovich like a Russian,” remarked a visiting colleague from classical broadcaster Radio Orpheus in Moscow. Interested users can watch the performances of all 22 contestants online.

In sum: a three-hour concert, the three odd-numbered Beethoven concertos performed in numerical order (1, 3 and 5); the winners of third, second and first prizes in order of appearance; and the “Emperor Concerto” as a crowning conclusion. And a sensational first-prize winner. This time at the piano competition in Bonn, it all fit.

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