Saturday, February 22, 2014

An extraordinary winner at the RCM's 2014 Chappell Medal competition

I was lucky enough to spend yesterday adjudicating the Chappell Medal - the Royal College of Music's top award for pianists. With me on the jury were the pianists Margaret Fingerhut and Charles Owen and we were prepared for a day-long feast of music from the creme-de-la-creme of the college's students. What we hadn't anticipated was being completely blown away by one extraordinary winner.

John Granger Fisher from Brisbane, presented the kind of programme you don't see every day in concert halls, let alone a college contest. He opened with the Haydn Sonata in B minor; next, the Brahms Paganini Etudes, both books thereof; as interlude, the Chopin C sharp minor Etude from Op.25; and to close, Balakirev's Islamey. We were put in mind of the story that Murray Perahia tells about Horowitz: at one of Perahia's consultation lessons, Horowitz said to him, "If you want to be more than a virtuoso, first be a virtuoso." John - a modest and unaffected performer - made the gargantuan demands of the Brahms and Balakirev look easy, wrapping them up with stylish phrasing and classy finishing touches. His virtuosity knocked us over. More than that, he simply moved us to tears.

We were delighted to award second prize to Riyad Nicolas from Syria, a fascinating, accomplished young artist who is very much his own person and excelled particularly in Ravel's 'Scarbo' and Ligeti's 'Fanfares', as well as some gorgeous Scarlatti; and third to Jun Ishimura, who drew us into her beautifully coloured and shaped performances of Beethoven Op.109, the Chopin B flat minor Sonata and Ravel's La Valse. Prize for the best undergraduate went to the highly promising Aleksander Pavlovic from Serbia and we much enjoyed the performances by Dinara Klinton from Ukraine whose Prokofiev Sarcasms were glittery, original and well projected, and Hin-Yat Tsang from Hong Kong, whose tone quality and sense of love for the music were exceptionally beautiful.

Here's John's biography from a competition he entered last year.

John Granger Fisher

John Granger Fisher
Age: 27
Origin: Australia
Education: Hartt School of Music University of Hartford, Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University
Competitions and Awards: Queensland Piano Competition (First Prize), Yamaha Australian Piano Competition (First Prize), 4MBS Chamber Music Competition (First Prize), John Allison City of Sydney Piano Scholarship, Florence Davey Piano Scholarship, Queensland University Postgraduate Award
John Granger Fisher was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1984. He began piano lessons with his mother at the age of four. In 1997 he commenced studying with John Winther at the Young Conservatorium Queensland. In 1998 he began studying with Natasha Vlassenko. From 2006 to 2008 he studied with both Natasha Vlassenko and Oleg Stepanov.
John completed the Bachelor of Music (Advanced Performance) with First Class Honours at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. He has been studying at the Hartt School of Music since September 2008. He has taken lessons from Oxana Yablonskaya and Boris Berman.
John has won first prizes in a number of competitions including: the Queensland Piano Competition (2001), the 5th Yamaha Australian National Piano Competition (2001) and the 4MBS Chamber Music Competition (Trio) (2004).  He has also been awarded the Queensland Conservatorium Postgraduate Award (2006); the Florence Davey Piano Scholarship (2007); the John Allison City of Sydney Piano Scholarship (2008) and the Hephzibah Menuhin Memorial Scholarship (2009). He received the second prize in the 2009 Louisiana International Piano Competition.
In Australia, John has appeared in the Tyalgum Festival of Classical Music, Kawai Keyboard Series, 4MBS Beethoven Sonata Series, Mostly Mozart Concert, Ithaca Auditorium Brisbane City Hall and the 4MBS Mozart on the Move Concert Series. He has appeared as soloist with a number of Australian Orchestras. In 2009 he toured with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor”.
John has also maintained a keen interest in accompanying and Chamber Music. In 2005 he accompanied the Queensland Chamber Choir in a performance at the Queensland Parliament House. He has performed in a variety of chamber music ensembles and is involved in the 20/20 chamber music program at the Hartt School.