Tag Archives: Devon Joiner

Knigge Competition Winners Recital

The winners of the Knigge Competition in are as follows:

  1. Scott Meek, originally from Winnipeg Mantioba.
  2. Devon Joiner, Vancouver, British Columbia
  3. Magdelena von Eccher, Lethbridge, Alberta
  4. Christine Desjardins, Montreal, Quebec

The question about competition winners is always about consistency — that is can they do it again, and again. The answer for all of these performers is a resounding yes. You should look for all of the three award winning runners up in the future. As they continue studying, they will improve greatly.

Scott Meek again stands out as a finished pianist. There is no doubt in my mind that he can stand along side any of the biggest names in the world of concert pianists and hold his own. His playing of the Rachmaninov Etudes-Tableaux is as fine a reading as I’ve ever heard from the likes of even Sviatoslav Richter.

Of course I will be accused of grandstanding and over exaggerating. I deny that vehemently. There is a point during a performance, where you know that the performer has the strength of vision, the depth of understanding to paint the sound canvas with all the colours and drama the composer imbued his score with. In Rachmaninov’s case, that is the broadest of strokes the Romantic composers could use. It was crystal clear that Scott had control of the brush and knew how to paint the canvas with his own unique view of the composers work.

His Scriabin was as manic and frenetic as you would expect from the best Scriabin performers. The next work on his program showed off his uncanny ability to swtich gears and play in an entirely different style from another time period entirely and make it sound like it belonged in the program with the other more modern works.

The Mozart Fantasy in c minor K. 475 is justly famous, but is as enigmatic as it is famous. I confess that I have until now, not heard a performance I thought was convincing. Scott’s performance convinced me that the work was justly famous. Thank-you Scott.

With the required new composition by UBC composer Michael Tenzer, he showed himself capable of taking an unknown work, learning it, and performing it in a manner which made the work convincing as a composition. That is not easy to do with a work no one has heard and in a style he is unlikely to know well.

The last work on the program was the Ginastera Piano Sonata no. 1, opus 22. I have not heard this work for many years. It is rarely performed, unfortunately. It should be. It is a brilliant recital piece. Its fiendish difficulty should have convinced a few more pianists to attempt it just to prove they could play it. Unfortunately, we are more likely to hear Islamey; Balakirev ‘s massive error in judgement! This afternoon’s performance was exemplary. Scott managed the difficulties with apparent ease. I know the ease was only apparent, but part of the virtuosity is in making the impossibly difficult look dead easy.

One does not usually think of a classical piano recital in terms of visual effects, but there are times at which you had to actually see what was happening to appreciate it. There is a passage near the end of the work, the toccata-like section with the repeated notes in the base in a hammering spanish jota rhythm–left hand and right hand alternating like jack hammers. It appeared like one of Scott’s hands was poised motionless in one position above the keys for those minutes. This is an optical illusion which you are clearly aware of because you can hear that the sound coming from the piano means that the pianist is moving his hands–yet one hand appeared motionless in space while the other hand appeared as a transparent blurr near the level of the keys. As I said, you had to be there to believe it! This, I believe, is a YouTube moment if ever there was such a thing! Sadly, likely the frame rate of the video would not be sufficient to capture the action of the pianists fingers.

The instrument the competitors played on was in top form as well! It threw no unexpected curve balls Scott’s way–unlike the previous day! The problems present in Scott’s Rachmaninov the previous day were simply not there as I knew would be the case.

I anxiously await the next opportunity to hear Scott Meek play!

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An Enchanted, Lyrical Tchaikovsky 1st Piano Concerto

On Friday November 2nd, at a packed to capacity  Chan Centre concert, I heard one of the finest performances of  Pyotr Il’ch Tchaikovsky Piano concerto number 1 in b flat minor I’ve ever heard. That said, I’ll choose not to comment on the orchestra (made up of students from the U.B.C. School of Music)

From the first step onto the stage, Devon Joiner showed the confidence of a seasoned performer. Since I had no preferred seating, I was seated in the choir loft above and behind the orchestra. I thought i might not be able to see the pianist adequately. However this was not the case. I had a bird’s eye view of at least one half of the keyboard and the last quarter of the right hand side. (this is a case where the supposedly worst seating possible ended up to be the best!)

A performers demeanor as he steps on stage can sometimes make or break the the relationship with the audience. From his first step onto the platform his cool, calm confident manner set the audience at ease.  . He is a confident, extremely well poised, intelligent and musical player. He has technique to spare, but he did not waste it as many pianists do in this piece, and turn the piece into the side show show barn burner it is usually presented as. Each time textures changed or rounded a new corner in this difficult score, I knew how carefully he had prepared the score. I heard  more Tchaikovsky in the work than I ever have before.  Tchaikovsky gives  virtuoso ample opportunity to show off, after all, It was after all, written for one of Nikolai Rubenstein, Russia’s most famous pianists of the period, however, showmanship never overshadowed the lyrical Tchaikovsky we know so well from works like his Violin Concerto.

Glittering passage work and thundering octaves are not the only test of virtuosity. By far the most difficult virtuoso passages are the ones with fewer notes; they ones with hushed pianissimos and exposed, simple melody. The ability to keep the audience’s attention when the drama is less melodramatic is, perhaps, the ultimate test of a virtuoso. Devon Joiner passes that test with flying colours. One of the tests of a great pianist is his ability to show his audience a new and compelling view of what he plays. Devon succeeded.

Making the connection from the big theme at the beginning with the rest of the movement is not an easy task. The tune overshadows the rest of the work for most of the audience. I am certain, that is the only thing most people ever hear in that piece. Devon Joiner managed to make it sound more like the integrated whole it really is. I hope that in the future, he keeps his own voice and does not give in to the demands of conformity the competition circuit has successfully imposed on so many young musicians.

Music commentators for many years have claimed that since Tchaikovsky tacked on the tune after the work had been completed that it has nothing thematically to do with the first subject and the development section. This simply isn’t true. There is a connection, Tchaikovsky didn’t simply pull this tune out of the blue, even though it was an afterthought.

Too my ears, he sounds very much like a student of  Jane Coop (currently head of the keyboard department at the U.B.C. School of Music). However, since I must confess that I am not exactly unbiased. I have taken lessons with Ms. Coop. As a teacher she is as conciencious a teacher as you could ever wish for but she never imposes own view on her students interpretation. So, although Ms. Coop’s guidance is very clear, I could still hear Devon’s very exciting and personal view of this concerto. I hope I hear it again many times. If you have a chance to hear Devon perform, by all means take it. You have a chance to hear one of the up and coming leading lights of the classical keyboard!