[June 2009]

Vacatello is a pianist who has gone from strength to strength throughout these finals. Here she launched into a hair-raisingly high-octane performance of Prokofiev’s Third Concerto, negotiating the work’s devilish acrobatics with aplomb, maintaining a relentless forward momentum throughout and all the while maintaining dialogue with the orchestra. The reticence that had marked her recital a few nights back had here completely evaporated. The problem with her performance – and this was also the case with her recital – was that she has a tendency to rush, and occasionally she raced ahead of the orchestra. That aside, she had all the intensity of focus, the magnificent technique and the seriousness of purpose to make this a captivating performance.

For me, then, Vacatello and Son are the most mature and interesting players. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings – the final day of the finals.

Chloe Cutts

Mariangela Vacatello’s cut-glass technique was developed at the Accademia Pianistica Incontri col Maestro in Imola, Italy, where she studied for 13 years with Franco Scala. She performed Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto with the same fleet-fingered precision that had been the hallmark of her recital, but while her recital performance had been a rather nervous affair, the Beethoven saw a far more confident player emerge. A word here about the pianos: pianists have a choice of three Steinway instruments – two New York Steinways (a very new instrument and a Cliburn-owned older instrument) and a Hamburg Steinway. Son had chosen the new New York Steinway for her recital, and Vacatello the Hamburg Steinway, and the difference in tone was striking – far brighter on the Hamburg. Vacatello is a serious musical personality with a rather intense approach to piano playing, and her playing sometimes lacks warmth and humour as a result of this. Having said that, there was much to admire in her rendition, particularly in the cadenza.


Nerves, adrenaline and exhaustion no doubt played their parts, and in this respect it’s a shame that candidates must perform their concertos at the end of the competition, just when they’re ready to drop with exhaustion. Three recitals in one evening are tiring enough for the audience (particularly those who are jet-lagged); for the candidates, who have already spent weeks practising, rehearsing and performing, the finals must feel like doing a triathlon after running a marathon. At this stage in proceedings, then, my money’s on Vacatello.

I was very impressed by Mariangela Vacatello and the Takács Quartets’ sensitive and intimate reading of the Schumann Quintet op.44 in the semifinal chamber round. Her finals recital was similarly full of colour and insight with a strong interpretative vision.  Vacatello’s  remarkably light touch was entirely suited to Gaspard, which shimmered and dazzled with myriad textures and contours, and yet there is plenty of power and personality in her playing too, as witness her Shostakovich Prelude and Fugue op.87 no.15.

… Vacatello is a serious musical personality with a rather intense approach to piano playing, and her playing sometimes lacks warmth and humour as a result of this….


© Mariangela Vacatello