The Italian pianist Federico Colli, 24, scooped first prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition last night. I tuned in on R3 in the middle of his Beethoven 'Emperor' Concerto, without remembering exactly who was due to play it, and was entranced. Seriously beautiful pianism with wonderful tone; very sensitive to nuances, voicing and atmosphere; intelligent, energetic and never heavy-handed: the sort of playing, indeed, that you don't really associate with the final of a piano competition.
Radio 3's announcer, Petroc Trelawny, seemed fixated, meanwhile, with the pianist's red cravat, and one of several friends who was in the audience remarks that Colli, who hails from Brescia, slightly resembled a cross between Casanova and Dracula, yet clearly had a lovely personality and superb stage presence.
Colli has also won the Salzburg International Mozart Competition (last year). He studies with Boris Petrushansky at Imola and Konstantin Bogino at Bergamo. Apparently he is "fascinated by the complex equations of quantum mechanics".
I'd take an educated guess, though, that it was a fairly close-run matter between Colli and the Swiss pianist Louis Schwizgebel, who played first on Friday evening. Of all the performances I've listened to so far, it is Schwizgebel's Haydn C major Sonata that has really stayed aboard.
Our doughty commentator Erica Worth, editor of Pianist Magazine, has just phoned us to report that she was very happy with the result. "The two top prizes went, I think, to the most interesting musicians, the ones who had the most personality and the most to say," she declares. "Personally I would have given first prize to Louis Schwizgebel and second to Colli, but I'm so glad they both came through at the top."
Third prize went to Jiayan Sun (China), fourth to Andrejs Osokins (Latvia), fifth to Andrew Tyson (USA) and sixth to Jayson Gillham (Australia). A special prize voted by the players of the Halle Orchestra and presented in memory of Terence Judd went to Andrew Tyson.
You can catch both final concerts and a selection of semi-final performances on BBC iPlayer (radio) this week. Today at 2pm there's a gala concert to be broadcast by Radio 3 involving all six finalists. And from 21 September the TV finally wakes up: BBC4 has a series of six hour-long programmes on successive Friday evenings devoted to the competition (though as we now know the results it seems a bit late to the party).
Bravo, then, Federico Colli. Keep wearing that cravat.
Here's a write-up from The Arts Desk. [UPDATE] Here are some more details about the prizes and their winners, from Pianist Magazine.
And here's Federico in the final of the Mozart Competition in Salzburg 2011:
Meanwhile, Louis has already had a Wigmore Hall debut. He seems to have dropped half his surname since then. It turns out that his father is a maker of animated films. Here's Louis himself, very animated indeed in a spot of Moszkowski.