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What a learning experience this was! This is from before the pandemic. Just 8 pianists were selected for the semi-finals, out of around 35 of us in the preliminary round... a sonata by Beethoven or Schubert for this round was mandatory, with the rest of the programming free selection. Most competitors chose to play one of the short Beethoven's so they could squeeze in the Liszt B minor sonata, Ravel Gaspard, etc. I went... full-on Schubert! (Saving just enough time to juxtapose some very dense, virtuosic Rachmaninov as a kind of "encore" to the Schubert, the Polka de V.R.).
It was a dubious decision of mine. Judges seem to always have preference for the loudest, fastest, and most "difficult" repertoire. The days are very long, the ears get tired. Bladders get full. lol. The prior edition of this competition had Argerich and Babayan as judges. We aren't always so lucky!
I would like to say that I found and still find performing Schubert like this absolutely terrifying. I played the Liszt B minor sonata in the final round of another competition, for example, and while certainly daunting, Schubert is something else entirely. So many seemingly trivial but distinct details, especially throughout repetitive material, so much exposure in the texture. And very long form, in general. You feel as if a good amount of time has transpired after finishing all four movements, whereas something like the Liszt B minor seems to just fly by. And honestly, Schubert can be quite demanding technically! It doesn't always fit the hand so well. But seriously, how many Dante Sonatas and Rach 3's do we need to hear? At some point, it's not about olympian display. Everyone can play at the advanced competitions.
It suffices to say I didn't make it to the final concerto round, where only 3 pianists were allowed to advance. I am of course not suggesting that I would have automatically made it as a top 3 finalist had I programmed different repertoire, but I did find myself reflecting on a long Schubert sonata probably not being the wisest choice to captivate the attention of an overworked, likely tired jury at the end of the day haha
I'm sure some of you can share your own experiences and thoughts on this topic.
Also, I have to add that for a competition of this caliber, the recording/livestream they provided is seriously awful. Anyway, here is some Schubert with a dollop of Rachmaninov!