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XV Competition diary: 29 June

Cello, Piano, Violin, Voice

XV Competition diary: 29 June

The second day of auditions for piano finalists took place in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on June 29th.

The accompaniment was provided by the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia “Evgeny Svetlanov” with Alexei Bogorad conducting.  Pianists Lucas Debargue of France and Lukas Geniušas representing both Russia and Lithuania took the stage to play their concluding concertos.

The final heat between these two audience favourites had generated a great deal of interest and drew into the Conservatory even people who had not been following the action of the Competition before.  As a result the hall was absolutely packed — music lovers sat on the steps of the amphitheatre, and some had only standing room to hear the competitors.

The most unpredictable part of the evening was the performance by Lucas Debargue, who had impressed many admirers in the solo rounds.  For his programme in this final stage the pianist included Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto (with which he began) and Tchaikovsky’s First.  Debargue had played the Yamaha piano in the first and second rounds, but for this evening he replaced it with the brighter and more penetrating Steinway.  The order of the compositions was well chosen, with the Liszt concerto serving as a kind of introduction that allowed the pianist to loosen up and make adjustments while he “made the acquaintance” of the orchestra.

The finely honed drama of the performance could not conceal the fact that for Debargue the finals were not so much a contest for a prize, but more a heroic struggle with himself.  This was the first time in his life that he had performed with a symphony orchestra, and he was under the most intense pressure. Debargue is an exceptional musician who brings the music to life right in front of you, who commands all the different colourations of timbre, the details of nuance, the meaning behind the intonation of a work, the feelings and tangibility of imagery.  And he also had the most important thing — that sincere, confessional lyricism and pulse of life which at times are lacking in the well-fashioned interpretations of this concerto even by the most acknowledged masters.

Appearing on that evening after his French colleague, Lukas Geniušas offered a programme that was not quite standard for the finals in the International Tchaikovsky Competition.  He selected the great Russian composer’s Second Piano Concerto in place of the First, which is the traditional choice of all the contenders for victory.  By doing this, he shifted the emphasis and placed his hopes on Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, which diversified the repertoire in the finals while avoiding direct comparisons with the other competitors.

As Geniušas came on stage the audience took a deep breath.  Here in the Great Hall was a real competitive warrior — experienced, thoroughly prepared, rather bold but with an understanding of his strengths and able to deal with the pressure.  And he had a good feeling for the orchestra and how to work with it to get the maximum results.  The repertoire was chosen to show off the best features of the brilliant pianistic style required for concertos, which Lukas Geniušas most certainly has.  In the masterpieces of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov he was flawless technically and stylistically, although some in the audience felt that his playing was a bit more detached and academic than all the excitement about the competition had led them to expect.

On June 30th the piano auditions will come to a close with the last pair of finalists.  Daniel Kharitonov will be first (his programme has Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and Liszt’s Second) and last of all comes Dmitry Masleev (he will play Tchaikovsky’s First and Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto).

(Text by Elena Chishkovskaya)

Round III violin auditions continued in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall on June 29th.

In this third round the competitors are Pavel Milyukov (Russia), Alexandra Conunova (Moldova), Bomsori Kim (South Korea),  Yu-Chien Tseng (Taiwan), Clara-Jumi Kang (Germany),  and Haik Kazazyan (Russia).  All of them play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in the composer’s own edition plus one other concerto that they choose.  Three finalists selected the Sibelius Violin Concerto, and the other three chose Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, Brahms’ Violin Concerto, and Beethoven’s.  On each of the evenings in the finals the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto will be heard twice and the Sibelius once.  On this next to last day Yu-Chien Tseng played the Sibelius, and then Bomsori Kim performed the Brahms.

In Round III Bomsori Kim held to the same high standard she attained in the semi-finals.  If in Round I her most notable characteristic was her virtuosity and not much more, then in the second round she showed herself ready for a larger stage.  This performer had done more than assemble one of the best programmes of all (Hindemith’s Violin Sonata No.1, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8, Tchaikovsky’s “Meditation”, the “Tanz-Idylle” and “Berceuse” by Sibelius, and Franz Waxman’s “Fantasia on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen”).   She brought things to a climax with her compelling account of Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto, but she also revealed herself a true artist by bringing alive before us all the highlights of Bizet’s opera in just a short span of time.

The Moscow Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yuri Simonov, which accompanies all the violinists in Round III, again was in top form.  Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, which had already been heard three times in two evenings, was played by the instrumentalists in a lively direct fashion without any sense of the routine.  Bomsori Kim played her part in it perhaps a little less vividly than finalists had on the previous evening, but she gave a much better account of herself in the Brahms.  The best moment came in its slow movement with one of the most beautiful themes ever written.  Even though this concerto is on a symphonic scale, the soloist played throughout as if it were a large chamber piece, an approach unexpected but legitimate.

This might have seemed more natural in a continuation of Round II, as if Bomsori Kim were playing a Brahms sonata for it.  It may have seemed natural, but it was the second finalist of the evening, Yu-Chien Tseng, who had in fact chosen a Brahms sonata in the semi-finals.  Just as it had seemed for the finalists on the preceding day, it was no stretch of the imagination after Yu-Chien Tseng ‘s very first performance to picture him in the finals.  In Round II he was the only one to choose not one, but two major sonatas — Mozart’s K.454 and Brahms’ Second, which together made up the longest solo programme at 67 minutes.  In the finals this competitor, just as in the previous two rounds, dialed up the emotion.  Both concertos, the Tchaikovsky and the Sibelius, sounded more than competent overall, and one had the feeling that this competitor had been headed for this very evening all his life.

The contributions of two more finalists in the day’s competition have come to a close and are now history.  Both of the musicians received strong applause on that evening, and a line formed to get Bomsori Kim’s autograph. On June 30th the last two finalists, Clara-Jumi Kang and Haik Kazazyan, will go on stage. 

(Text by Ilya Ovchinnikov)

June 29:  The final stage of cello auditions continued in Saint Petersburg.

On Monday evening in the Grand Hall of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Alexander Buzlov of Russia and Seung Min Kang of South Korea performed.  These competitors displayed on this day the very highest level of mastery and an ability to collaborate with a full symphony orchestra, in particular with the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Nikolai Alexeev.

Both of this day’s competitors played identical programmes:  Antonin Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme”, Op. 33.  However, each of them found their own original approach to these colossi of the cello literature.  Just one day remains to the end of the Competition.  Tomorrow the Grand Hall will host the last auditions in Round III in which Jonathan Roozeman from Finland, the youngest cellist, will be matched with Alexander Ramm, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory studying under Natalia Shakhovskaya.  The evening will be divided into two sections (one beginning at 6:00 pm and another at 7:45 pm), and again there will be identical programmes.  Both musicians will perform Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme” and Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto in E minor, Op. 125.  

(Text by Egor Kovalevsky)

June 29th, Saint Petersburg:  Voice

For the eight finalists in the voice discipline of the International Tchaikovsky Competition the entire day was devoted to rehearsals of their programmes for Round III.  These rehearsals with accompaniment by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra conducted by Pavel Smelkov took place in one of the best venues in the world — the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre — which has the best acoustics in Russia.  In the third round the participants are to perform two arias — one chosen by the performer and one from one of Tchaikovsky’s operas or from his “Moscow” cantata (No. 4 for baritone, No. 5 for mezzo-soprano).  For a coloratura soprano the Competition rules require singing an aria from one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas. The Queen of Shemakha’s aria, “Hymn to the Sun,from “The Golden Cockerel” will be performed twice in the finals by two coloratura sopranos — Svetlana Moskalenko and Antonina Vesenina.  Baritones Hansung Yoo of South Korea and Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar of Mongolia are readying Yeletsky’s aria from “The Queen of Spades”, while Chinese tenor Chuanyue Wang will offer Lensky’s famous aria, “Where, where have you gone”, from “Eugene Onegin”. Dmitry Grigoriev is rehearsing King René’s aria from “Iolanta”.  And soprano Mane Galoyan has chosen a very great challenge — Tatiana’s letter scene from “Eugene Onegin”.  Good luck to all!

(Text by Vladimir Dudin)