The 6th Unisa National Piano Competition came to a close on 26 July with four finalists from Pretoria playing in front of a packed Z K Matthews Great Hall.
Jazz pianist Thabiso Mfana opened the evening’s programme with a polished and inspired performance in a trio with Amaeshi Ikechi (upright bass) and Rob Watson (drums). His performance impressed the jury and he was awarded the first prize of R75 000 for the Jazz Category. He became the second jazz pianist in the history of the competition to win the Jazz Category, following in Capetonian Kyle Shepherd’s footsteps who won in 2015.
Ntando Ngcapu then followed with an energetic and varied programme that included Cole Porter’s Night and Day, two of his own compositions and the prescribed piece We will meet again by Billy Evans.
After an interval, classical pianist Lezanti van Sittert played Liszt’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in E flat major with the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra conducted by Maestro Richard Cock.
The last performance of the competition was by the winner of the Classical Category, Willem de Beer. His passionate rendition of Tchaikovsky’s popular Concerto no. 1 in B flat minor brought the competition to a fitting end.
De Beer joins the ranks of previous winners Mark Nixon, Ben Schoeman, Johan Botes, Jan Hugo and Megan-Geoffrey Prins as one of the best young pianists South Africa has produced.
He has also won a concert tour of South Africa, sponsored by Bryan Wallick/Schalk Visser Concert Promotions.
The second prize in each category was R45 000 and was awarded to Ntando Ngcapu and Lezanti van Sittert.
The best semi-finalists in each category who did not go through to the final round, as voted by the Shadow Jury were André Breet (Classical Category) and Teboho Kobedi (Jazz Category).
All four the finalists have gained automatic entry into the 14th Unisa International Piano Competition taking place in January 2020.