Hastings International Piano Concerto Final 2018

The White Rock Theatre, host venue, during the interval. Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2018, All rights reserved.
“This isn’t a panto, you know.”
“Oh yes, it is …”
And with that interchange the third and final performance could begin following an interval that had gone on for slightly longer than planned, requiring host and Classic FM presenter Bill Turnbull to enquire if, by chance, everyone was finally ready. Nice for there to be an audience, nicer still that they were relaxed and passionate, nicest of all that their engagement and attendance were rewarded with some fine playing.
The snow and wind turned to dreary, persistent rain but the White Rock was *this close* to being full regardless. This was the second night of two for the 2018 Hasting International Piano Concerto Competition (HIPCC) final. 160 competitors were initially whittled down to 36 invited to Hastings to play,  none from the UK made the grade. The final six were two Koreans, two from China, one from Taiwan and one from Russia. They have passed their own tests in this most competitive of instruments and are now seemingly all at the stage, post graduate but pre career, where events such as this can make the difference between being merely a superb and unique player and being a recognised name.
Obviously, I couldn’t tell you who was ‘best’, I just came to enjoy the show. My nan used to teach ‘pianoforte’ via an upright in the front room of a terraced house in Newport, Gwent but her skill and discipline did not make it down the family line. All I can do is observe that Fanya Lin, Taiwanese born and now a doctoral gopher in Minnesota, played Prokofiev with fury, that Rixiang Huang, now at Juilliard, seemed swept up in his Liszt, and that Birmingham Conservatoire attendee Roman Kosyakov was thoroughly connected to the Tchaikovsky. They were aided and abetted by the Royal Philharmonic under Jac van Steen throughout. All were applauded joyously and deservedly.
In the end, the winner was Roman Kosyakov. The runners up were from the previous evening. A lesson there to maybe try and make both shows. He now gets £15,000 and several shows with the RPO and others in London and the USA. That’s not a bad return. There are prizes for the others as well although not as significant. Nobody actually loses.
The dates for next year’s event are already out. Competitive auditions will begin later. But, for now, there is an immense pleasure to be had in seeking out the names of this year’s finalists and those of previous years and seeking out their performances be that on YouTube or, if you’re lucky indeed, in the flesh.

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