The 5th Unisa National Piano Competition came to a close on 18 July with four finalists playing in front of a packed Z K Matthews Great Hall.
The Durban-based jazz pianist Lungelo Ngcobo opened the evening’s programme with a polished and inspired performance in a trio with Victor Masondo (bass) and Rob Watson (bass).
Kyle Shepherd then followed with an energetic and varied programme featuring Charlie Parker’s Scrapple from the Apple, three of his own compositions and the prescribed piece We will meet again by Billy Evans. His performance impressed both the jury and audience and he was awarded the first prize of R60 000 for the Jazz Category.
After interval classical pianist Willem de Beer played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 4 in G major in front of his home crowd with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Eric Rycroft. His rendition of this popular concert showed the necessary musicality balanced with a flawless technique.
The last performance of the competition was by the winner of the Classical Category, Megan-Geoffrey Prins, whose passionate performance of Rachmaninov’s monumental Concerto no. 3 in D minor brought the audience to their feet. His virtuosity and control over the instrument is really remarkable and he is a worthy winner of the competition, joining the ranks of previous winners Mark Nixon, Ben Schoeman, Johan Botes and Jan Hugo.
Prins has also won a concert tour of South Africa, sponsored by Schalk Visser Concert Promotions.
The second prize in each category was R35 000 and was awarded to Lungelo Ngcobo and Willem de Beer.
Six special prizes of R2 000 each were also awarded. Lungelo Ngcobo received the prize for the best rendition of an up-tempo jazz standard in the first round, Kyle Shepherd received the prize for the best performance of a South African jazz composition in the second round and Megan-Geoffrey Prins received prizes for the best performance of a Baroque work in Round 1 and a sonata in Round 2.
The best semi-finalists in each category who did not go through to the final round, as voted by the Shadow Jury were Misha Meyer (Classical Category) and Marcel Dednam (Jazz Category).
All four the finalists will be able to represent South Africa in the prestigious 13th Unisa International Piano Competition taking place in January 2016.