Cliburn JR: Preliminary Round 2

Reviews of six pianists in the second preliminary round of the First Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition.

Photo: Rodger Mallison/The Cliburn

Misha Galant plays in the preliminary round on June 21

3 p.m. — Misha Galant, 17, was born in California to a family of musicians. He is currently studying with both his mother, Olya Katsman, and Sharon Mann at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Other influential teachers are a distinguished list: Nelita True, Boris Berman, Yu-Jane Yang and most recently has had coaching with Yoshikazu Nagai.

He was wearing a black tux with an open shirt collar and made a very dignified entrance. He played the Allegro from Haydn’s Sonata in C Major, Hob. XVI:50: I. He followed that with two big Rachmaninoff pieces: Étude-Tableau in C Minor, Op. 39, No. 1 and his evocative Prelude in B Minor, Op. 32, No. 10. He ended with some technical fireworks: Liszt’s Transcendental Étude No. 10 in F Minor.

His Haydn was absolutely charming. He enjoyed playing it for us and caught Haydn’s playful nature from the first notes. He tossed the motives around like kids with a Hacky Sack. He used only minimal, practically noticeable, sustaining pedal. He body language showed that his mastery of the music went beyond mere memorization and he absorbed the music systemically. His playing was sharp, clear, intelligent and stylish, never exceeding the boundaries of the classical style. He gave us a fresh look at the piece.

Before starting the Rachmaninoff Étude-Tableau, he took some time to change gears—and he certainly succeeded. He got a completely different sound from the piano. It was a wise choice to play the Haydn first because, otherwise, we would never have realized what a stylistic change he made.

Galant played Rachmaninoff’s soaring music with a huge full sound that filled the hall, instead of just plain ol’ loud. Again, he was completely prepared and had absorbed the music, but he let it loose, unsupervised, to play itself. He gave the Prelude in B Minor lots of space at the beginning to speak and hang in the hall. Best of all, he enjoyed being here and playing this music for us, and that certainly came across. My notebook page on his performance of the Liszt is empty. I was so involved with the music he was producing that writing about it during the performance was impossible.

Cliburn JR: Quarterfinal Round 2

Reviews of the second set of quarterfinalists at the First Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition.

published Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Misha Galant, 17, United States7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 23

Photo: Rodger Mallison/The Cliburn

Misha Galant performs in the quarterfinals on June 23


Bach, Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, Book II, BWV 889
Beethoven, Sonata No. 18 in E-flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3: I. Allegro
Chopin, Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48, No. 1
Liszt, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

Galant played the best Bach so far. A prelude and fugue is a required element and not always instinctive to everyone. This is a particularly strange prelude for Bach because of its descending chromatic line, although he did more creative things with chromaticism in parts of the Art of the Fugue. Bach’s manuscripts are silent about most performance instructions so it is open season for performers. Thus, every performance is different. Galant accentuated the strangeness by adding in a crescendo when the chromatics crawled upwards and a decrescendo when they crawled downward. He also minimized the inversion that occurs after the double bar. The result was a wondrous slide, up and down. He also played the fugue theme, which subtly suggests the demised seventh, in a much more forthright manner. The result was the best Bach so far.

In the Beethoven, he rounded off some of the sharp dynamic edges, such as the sforzando markings in the beginning and not dropping the soft (piano) sections as dramatically as Beethoven intended. He set a fast tempo and delivered a sharp staccato stroke that was most impressive in the Alberti bass patterns. He had some fun with the series of ascending chords.

The Chopin Nocturne was lovely. He kept a relatively strict rhythm in the left hand and let the right-hand melodic material roam free over it. When the right hand had chords, he still brought out the top note to keep the melody above the fray (not easy to accomplish). He also kept the petulant octave passages subdued at first and only gradually let them speak out to dominate everything. Here, he soaked the music with the sustaining pedal so that it was a surging force rather than a virtuoso showoff passage. When the melody returned, we hung on every note. When it reached the top, he released it and us so that the last chords were like a benediction rather than part of the main body of the nocturne. Excellent!

The Liszt is one of the most well-known pieces of music in the repertoire, made famous by Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny as a duo piano team. Galant changed moods in an instant: slow and sultry now, quick and sassy later. He obviously had fun playing it: exaggerating the wide leaps in his best Bugs fashion. Galant chose to play the interpolated, interrupting, and inconsistent cadenza by Rachmaninoff, which keeps the audience waiting while he riffs on the music. It gives the effect of having the pianist having an ischemic event and improvises in a bizarre manner until he regains his grip on reality. However, that aside, this was an exciting performance and gave Galant the opportunity to show us his ability to play incredibly fast octaves.

» Read a review of Galant’s preliminary round performance here

YAG Artist Misha Galant Plays Up a Storm in Santa Cruz

If you visit “You Tube” online and enter pianist Misha Galant’s name in the search box, you will find many examples of his solo piano performances. You will also discover that these are live performances from some of the recent competitions he has entered and reveal him not to be just an 18-year-old gifted student, but a supremely confident and gifted young artist who plays like a professional and master of his craft.

Complete story: Peninsula Reviews

Pianist Misha Galant in Santa Cruz Recital

Pianist Misha Galant will be performing Bach, Haydn, Lizst, Rachmaninoff and Bolcolrm on Sunday, January 31st at Kuumbwa Jazz Center at 2:30 p.m. Recently inducted into the Music Teachers’ Association of California Young Artist Guild, Galant’s playing has been characterized as “absolutely charming, sharp, clear, intelligent and stylish.”

A senior at San Ramon High School, Misha Galant has a long list o accomplishment, including the Audience and Third Prizes at the Eastman Young Artists International Piano Competition and the Audience and Best Classical Performance Prizes at the First Junior Van Cliburn Competition in June 2015. He has performed with the Oakland East Bay, Rochester and Utah Symphonies.

This recital is sponsored by the Santa Cruz County Branch of the Music Teachers’ Association of California. Although admission is free, contributions will be gratefully accepted.

Full Review in Pennisula Reviews