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XV Competition diary: 27 June

Cello, Piano, Violin, Voice

XV Competition diary: 27 June

Finalists for the piano, violin, and cello categories spent June 26th and 27th in orchestral rehearsals for Round III.

Auditions for the instrumentalist in Round III will be conducted from June 28th to June 30th.  The piano auditions will take place in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, and the violin auditions in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall.  Cello auditions will be in the Grand Hall of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic.   On each day in the final rounds two competitors will each perform two concertos with orchestra.

On June 28th Round III for piano will open with Sergey Redkin (Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 and Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2) and George Li (Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 and Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3).  The competitors will be accompanied by the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia “Evgeny Svetlanov” conducted by Alexei Bogorad.  Auditions begin at 6:00 pm.

The Round III violin auditions will be opened by Pavel Milyukov (the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No.1) and Alexandra Conunova (the Sibelius Violin Concerto and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto).  The competitors will be accompanied by the Moscow Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yuri Simonov.  Auditions begin at 6:00 pm.

The Round III cello auditions will be opened by Pablo Ferrández (Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme” and the Dvořák Cello Concerto) and Andrei Ionuț Ioniță (Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme” and Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1).  The competitors will be accompanied by the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Nikolai Alexeev.  Auditions begin at 6:00 pm.

(Text by Elena Chishkovskaya and Ilya Ovchinnikov)

June 27th, Saint Petersburg:  The first day of the Round II auditions for voice took place.

Ten singers—six young women and four young men—resolutely performed in the large programme.

The jury had a chance to listen to each of the artists that they had favored in Round I at greater length and in a programme with a completely different range of genres and styles.   The chronological range of songs ran from Glinka’s “I Recall a Wonderful Moment” to Tom Rakewell’s aria from Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress” to Liza Brichkina’s vocalise from Molchanov’s opera “At Dawn It’s Quiet Here” and Ekaterina’s aria from Petrov’s opera “Peter the Great”.

Spasibo for your singing!” was exactly what Thomas Quasthoff said to Diana Kazaryan as he left for the intermission at the end of the afternoon’s auditions. She was the first in line and opened the round, and she used her voice to maximum effect.  Her rendition of Leonora’s cavatina, Tacea la notte, from Verdi’s “Il trovatore” was captivating, and one could delight in her way with bel canto, her breath control, and her agility with high notes.  Her control of emotional register allowed her to take in stride both Tchaikovsky’s dramatic romance, “Was I Not a Little Blade of Grass in the Meadow?”, and astound with rich colouration in Sviridov’s “In Autumn” while leaving her strength in reserve for Liza Brichkina’s vocalise from Molchanov opera “At Dawn It’s Quiet Here”.  After that as the second to sing was Mane Galoyan, who began her performance beautifully and poetically with Komitas’s “Lullaby” sung in Armenian.  She was very musical as she performed the Silver Aria from Douglas Moore’s “The Ballad of Baby Doe” (an opera that proved very popular with the competitors).  And in a single breath she sailed through Juliette’s waltz song from Gounod’s opera.  Soprano Gelena Gaskarova impressed with her dramatic talent and theatrical savvy, her ability to hold the audience from her first note to her last, as well as to tell a story through music.  She chose the most difficult programme centred on Thaïs’ extended aria from Massenet’s opera of that title.  She sang Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade” very gracefully.  Ann Trulove’s aria from “The Rake’s Progress” left no doubt about her excellent feeling for period.  It was as if 20th century operas had been made for her.  She left a bouncy piece for last in her rendition of the song “Po Senichkam Dunyashechka Gulyala” whose title was not translated into English when it was announced.

The only competitor from Poland in the competition—soprano Ewa Tracz—showed that she has a kindred Slavic spirit, fine artistry, and interpretive freedom.  Every one of the compositions in her Round II presentation was a journey through time and styles.  It seemed there were flashes of lighting in Mendelssohn’s “Hexenlied” with which she began her performance.  Her appearance contributed to the effect—her dark blue dress with broad a broad border around a plunging neckline was embroidered with a folk flower pattern  set off by her lustrous red hair.  The Countess’s recitative and aria, Dove sono, from Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” was a special island all to itself.  Tchaikovsky’s romance “To Forget So Soon” in impeccable Russian was performed with great abandon, and with it Ewa demonstrated the art of dramatically charged singing, after which a storm of applause broke out.  Her finale was Nowowiejski’s “Kazała mi mama” (“My Mom Told Me”) in a a very playful vein with a mazurka rhythm.  The only mezzo-soprano in Round II, Yulia Matochkina, came last in the afternoon session and made quite a sensation right from the start with her elegant black dress.  Her perfectly judged repertoire was performed very capably, with intellect and absolutely on target.  Ascanio’s aria from “Benvenuto Cellini”, an opera which is performed in Russia only at the Mariinsky Theatre and is seldom performed in anywhere else in the world, Yulia sang with exquisitely deft and meaningful phrasing.  In Tchaikovsky’s romance “Look, Yonder Cloud” and Rachmaninov’s “How Fleeting is Love’s Delight” she could not fail to win over the jury with the intimacy of her voice in which there was nothing superfluous and everything was arranged to deliver the thoughts behind the music and the lyrics.  And there could be no better aria to finish her presentation than Ekaterina’s aria from Andrei Petrov’s opera “Peter the Great” with the severe and commanding determination: “I Shall Ascend the Throne of Russia”.  This was reminiscent of the wonderful performance that Irina Bogacheva gave in this part which was written for her.

The evening session began with China’s Ao Li, whose powers of artistic expression are just as suited to the concert stage as to the opera house.  He opened with the Chinese folk song “Sister of the Rainbow” as a kind of lucky charm.  He sang “Der Erlkönig” with a face that personified the evil, deceptive smile of Death and left the audience with a quickened pulse.  Two more of his numbers—the Tchaikovsky romance “Again, As Before, Alone” and All the gypsy camp is asleep from Rachmaninov’s “Aleko”—once again were distinguished by the meaningful way each word was sung with flawless Russian diction.  The fates contrived to give us two basses in a row.  After the Chinese one came Russia’s Dmitry Grigoriev, who in contrast demonstrated a more reticent approach to life.  He pleased the ear with the timbre and solidity of his singing—both reminiscent of Shalyapin’s—however, the inner movement of his interpretation was somewhat lacking.  In the spirit of Shalyapin he sang the “Ah Ty, Nochenka” a capella.  With profound feeling he sang Philip II’s defining aria from Verdi’s “Don Carlos”, and he attempted to invest that monologue with the tyrant’s wistful spirit.  A flare-up of Broadway-style electricity could be felt in the whimsical performance of Cunegonde’s aria from Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” that Antonina Vesenina wisely chose for Round II.  Gleaming lips, glittering eyes, and an uninhibited readiness to dance painted the image beautifully.  This singer showed how to take advantage of the moment one hundred per cent by using her dramatic capabilities that were essential in bringing to life this flighty character, who wavers between hysterical weeping and equally wild merriment.  The audience could not help breaking out in applause for Antonina’s mind-boggling passagework.  She put her emotional and psychological forces to work in Tchaikovsky’s ballad “The Canary” to depict the arrogant sultana and the bird struggling to be free.   In Rosina’s cavatina from Rossini’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia” she brought to bear her experience on stage in this role that she had prepared for the Mariinsky Theatre.  Her rendition of the vigorous dance song “Travushka-Muravushka” with a frisky introduction came as a fine souvenir of Russia to the foreign members of the jury.  The first day of Round II ended with two young men—Russian baritone Konstantin Suchkov and South Korea tenor Myonghyun Lee.  Konstantin chose romances laden with emotion, Tchaikovsky’s “Weak Candlelight is Flickering” and Sviridov’s “The Virgin in the City”.  The aria of Petruchio from Shebalin’s opera “The Taming of the Shrew” and of Gianni Schicchi from Puccini’s opera of that title were very well suited to this singer’s temperament and artistic personality.  Tenor Myonghyun Lee’s performance was a diamond on this long strand of vocalists heard on the first day of Round II.  His presentation was built around an increasing intensity of drama—starting with the tentative “Der Neugierige” from Schubert’s “Die Schöne Müllerin”, moving on to Tchaikovsky’s “The Terrible Moment” and a tenor hit, Lyonel’s aria from von Flotow’s “Martha”, then to the Korean folk song “The Bok Yung Waterfall” where he involved the audience with a little ritual dance movement (perhaps to invoke help from his gods), and ending with Tom Rakewell’s triumphant aria from “The Rake’s Progress”.

(Text by Vladimir Dudin)