Accordion player Ryan Corbett wins Royal Overseas League Keyboard Final 2021


A cracking evening at Royal Overseas League where a quartet of ridiculously young talented keyboard players brought us Lizst, Debussy, Ravel, Angeles, and Semyonov.

Alexander Lau had the toughest job opening with Debussy and Lizst, struggling to contain his nerves, manifest in sometimes over generous pedal work. The storytelling undoubtedly came together towards the conclusion of Lizst’s second Ballade, though against was the considerable competition which followed.

British pianist George Harliono has a striking presence on stage. Focussed taut playing was supported by a beautifully fluid and flirtatious right hand caressing the keyboard in such a way that the back my knee turned to jelly. The YCAT artist is one to watch.

Jinah Shim was the well-rounded pianist combining presence, technique and tenderness in addition to strength and power when Lizst’s writing called for it. There’s a solidity to her on-stage offering which is reassuring. Her storytelling is very strong.

The winner (and the only competitor I made a point of going up to during the deliberations to embarrass in front of his parents) was accordion player Ryan Corbett.

As he approached the stage the 22 year old was in already readying himself for an accordion arrangement of Lizst’s Prelude and Fugue on the name B-A-C-H. This intensity was momentarily unsettling.

What followed was scintillating. Remarkable dexterity at the keyboard, jaw-dropping isolation, and captivating storytelling that leaves me wondering why any of us are wasting any more time with pianists. A spectacle.

A cracking – I know I use this word A LOT but it’s especially appropriate here – evening, not least because the judges agreed with me.