Worthy contenders for prestigious awards

Norah Sande awards 2018
Norah Sande awards 2018

Conventional wisdom suggests that anyone who has done something important can be studied online, using one of several search engines.

So it is something of a surprise to discover that although the Norah Sande Award gets huge coverage, Norah herself remains a mystery. Presumably she was an Eastbournian benefactress who loved the piano, because the annual competition which bears her name attracts superb pianists up to and including age 25. The 2018 competition was held on July 7/8. The heats on the first day invited a non-paying audience, then the finalists each gave a short recital in the Birley Centre on the Sunday.

This year three finalists were selected, and each played three items. The adjudicators were David Patrick (Chairman), Richard Deering and Graeme Humphrey. Overseeing the whole event as Artistic Director was Spencer Freeman MBE.

Barcelona-born Marta Puig Gomez has recently completed the Guildhall Master Artists course in London. She opened the proceedings with a delicate presentation of Berio’s Wasserklavier. J.S.Bach’s E Minor Toccata followed, and she then gave what was for me one of the most beautifully-conceived performances I have ever heard of Cesar Franck’s Prelude, Chorale and Fugue. It was exciting playing which subtly brought out the luscious tunes which lurk in this masterwork. Chinese Pianist Bo Lyu is studying at the Royal Academy of Music. He too found the tunes, this time hidden in Beethoven’s Thirty-two Variations. Next he gave us two Movements from Stravinsky’s Ballet Petrushka. Although these are better when heard from a full orchestra, Bo Lyu’s technical mastery was there for all to hear. The opening movement of Chopin’s Third Sonata was made to sing after a forceful beginning. Inga Liukaityte is a Lithuanian based in London. Her Messiaen excerpt really covered the entire keyboard, and in Schubert’s A Major Sonata her rhythmic sense seemed to entice from the notes a sort of embroidered funeral march, and what seemed a second Flight of the Bumblebee. She finished her programme with Chopin’s F Minor Fantasy.

As can happen in such competitions, any one of the finalists would have been a worthy winner. After an interval David Patrick announced Marta Gomez would go home with a £500 cheque, Inga Liukaityte with £1000, and Bo Lyu with £2000. I expect to see all of them do great things in the future. By Robin Gregory.

Photograph - Eastbourne Mayor Councillor Mrs. Gill Mattock, 1st prize Bo Lyu, 2nd prize Inga Liukaityte, 3rd prize Marta Puig Gomez, International Judges David Patrick, Graeme Humphrey, Richard Deering.