Alexander Koryakin, winner of the International Competition Prize Jaén

Alexander Koryakin, winner of the   International Competition Prize Jaén

The competition itself might be a bit of a mouthful ("International Competition Prize Jaén"), but it seems to have found a worthy winner in Russian pianist Alexander Koryakin. Founded in 1958, it is Spain's oldest running annual piano competition.

But the real reason for this post was the inclusion in the programme of the Franck Piano Quintet, a substantial piece, tautly contructed via Franck's characteristic cyclical form. In this performance, Koryakin is joined by the Bretón String Quartet (Anne-Marie North, Antonio Cárdenas, violins; Alberto Clé Esperón, viola; John Stokes, cello) in a performance that is both impassioned and intelligent. There is a sense of attunement to Franck's highly chromatic world that is most appealing:

The gloriously perfumed Lento, con molto espressione is wonderfully expansive here. Thsi is noe of Franck's most heart-felt creations:

The slightly close recording adds to the frisson of the finale, a performance of real commitment:

While Liszt's "Vallée d'Obermann" from the first book of the Années de pélèrinage (Years of Travel), the first piece on the recital, exists in more satisfying performances (for a superb modern traversal of the whole first book, try Francesco Piemontesi on Orfeo), Koryakin offers a brilliant Debussy L'Isle joyeuse, evoctaive, beautifllu pedalled (lighly pedalled, too):

Debussy: L'Isle joyeuse

The contemporary piece for the competition was Jorge Sastre's 2018 piece Jaenera "Ecos y temple," a modernist work based on a Jaén folk tune. The performer is given some leeway in this wide-ranging, colouristic piece. Koryakin's performance, exciting and shot through with understanding, must surely have been a key element in his competition triumph:

... and here, as a bonus, is a three-quarters-of-an-hour recital from the 2015 Clara Haskil Competition, comprising Haydn's late E flat Piano Sonata (it seems cruel to have no applause after Koryakin's scinitllating performance of the finale), a couple of  Chopin Etudes,  Debussy Images Book I and a brilliant "Alborada del grazioso" from Ravel's Miroirs :