By Lawrence Budmen

The plethora of gifted artists introduced to South Florida by the Miami International Piano Festival has been amazing. With two Gilmore Award winners (Ingrid Fliter and Piotr Anderszewski) and numerous commanding virtuosos among the Festival’s discoveries, the series’ Prodigies and Masters of Tomorrow series has been no less impressive. Audiences in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have heard remarkable performances by Rachel Cheung, Kit Armstrong, and Ji-Yong. 

The Festival’s most extraordinary young discovery took the stage of the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center in Ft. Lauderdale on March 28 and truly conquered. The diminutive Sijing-Ye is 14 years old. A native of China, she has already won top prizes at several international keyboard competitions and has been offered scholarships by both Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute and New York’s Julliard School.

The grand finale of the Festival’s Masters Series’ Concerto Night, Sijing-Ye’s performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor, Op.11 was one of the most beautiful, stirring events in many music seasons. This young artist is a born Chopin player. The grace, elegance, rhythmic precision, tonal beauty, and technical agility of her performance recalled such famous Chopin specialists as Artur Rubinstein and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. From the piano’s first entrance, her control and pianistic dexterity were phenomenal. The glittering cascades of the opening Allegro maestoso were dispatched with panache; yet what tenderness and sensitivity she brought to the aristocratic second theme. In the Romanze: Larghetto, her exquisite shaping of the principal subject was magical. Her singing tone was awesome. In the concluding Rondo: Vivace, Sijing-Ye gave a lithe, rhythmically vibrant performance of this intensely nationalistic music. She brought shimmering tone, vigor, and élan to every bar. Her natural, instinctive collaboration with conductor William Noll produced music making of the most exalted variety. 

In response to the audience’s standing, cheering ovation, she offered two encores – more Chopin and a scintillating traversal of Liszt’s La Campanella. The rapid fire bravura of Liszt’s Paganini transcription held no terrors for this pianistic dynamo. Her performance was exquisite. Sijing-Ye is a musician of rare gifts. 

William Noll was the evening’s impressive conductor. With only minimal rehearsal, he obtained supple, elegant playing from the Miami International Piano Festival Orchestra. He opened the evening with a vigorous reading of the Overture to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro – in a nod to the 250th anniversary of the birth of the master from Salzburg.

When the scheduled artist was unable to appear due to visa problems, Russian born violinist Dimitri Pogorelov took over the solo spotlight in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op.64. A student of Sergiu Schwartz (himself an impressive violin virtuoso) at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Pogorelov plays with impressive confidence and fearless technique. In the outer movements, too often Pogorelov settled for superficial flashiness at the expense of musical values. 

In an evening of intense music making, Sijing-Ye and the music of Frederic Chopin took pride of place. This young artist gave a performance that continues to vibrate in the memory long after the music had ceased. Musical accomplishment on that level is rare in artists of any age.

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