Review by Michael Sherwin, New York
Versatile Irish virtuoso plays a piano concerto and a violin concerto
NEW YORK—On Oct. 29 at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, the New York Concerti Sinfonietta (NYCS) presented its 2017 International Shining Star Competition winners in concert, to a sold-out audience. The recipient of the Grand Prize was a remarkably gifted musical switch-hitter who took top honors in both the piano and violin categories.
The Carnegie concert featured the cream of the crop, selected from recent auditions held at Ireland’s three leading conservatories: the CIT Cork School of Music; the DIT Conservatory of Music, Dublin; and the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Also appearing were star performers trained at the Hochschule für Musik, Cologne; and the University of Music, Vienna. Featured from the United States were soloists from The Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music.
In addition, a number of previous winners made return appearances with fresh repertory. Emphasis was also placed on musical families: two of the Irish Grand Prize winner’s sisters appeared as pianists, and two sisters from another family performed on cello and flute, respectively.
Making his debut with the NYCS was an outstanding Irish conductor, Conor Palliser—a faculty member at Cork School of Music who is also an experienced professional French horn player and pianist. He is already slated to lead encore performances of the NYCS next June.
Double-Barreled Piano/Violin Virtuoso
Grand Prize winner Kevin Jansson is a musical polymath who excels on both piano and violin. Presently 17 years old, he began taking lessons on both instruments shortly before the age of 6, and studies them today at the Cork School of Music.
I know of only one other prominent performing artist who has exhibited equivalent versatility. Julia Fischer, who studied piano in her childhood before concentrating on the violin, was persuaded to perform on both instruments at a New Year’s Gala in Frankfurt in 2008. After soloing in the Saint-Saëns Third Violin Concerto, she played the piano in public for the first time at age 24, mastering the Grieg Piano Concerto, an occasion documented on a Decca DVD.
In his performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37, Kevin took immediate command of the first movement, displaying vivid dynamic contrasts as well as beautifully modulated and articulated phrasing, culminating in a stormy cadenza. When playing accompanying figures in the second movement where pianists usually hog the limelight, Kevin sensitively dropped back in volume so that the melodic phrases in the woodwinds could predominate. In the finale, his sparkling technique was a delight, particularly his playful, chiseled crystalline scales, ornaments, and trills.
As a violinist, Kevin traversed the last movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 with total security and at a vertiginous tempo approaching that of Jascha Heifetz. “Allegro molto vivace” indeed! At the supplemental concerts, Kevin deftly played unaccompanied Bach, the Franck Sonata, and a Rachmaninoff Trio, plus the first movement of the Mendelssohn Concerto. If forced to choose the instrument on which Kevin demonstrates the greatest proficiency, based on these concerts I would say that he is a highly accomplished violinist, but an exceptional pianist. Notably, his debut CD of solo piano music ranging from Liszt to Ligeti has recently been released by a major Swiss label, Claves Records.
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