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La Scena Musicale Online Reviews and News / Critiques et Nouvelles

Visit La Scena Musicale Online Reviews. [Index] Critiques de La Scena Musicale Online

CIMJM Semi-finals Showcase High Standards and Controversy

By Piotr Gawek and Mary Katharine Wallbridge-Gawek / June 4, 2003

Everyone who has been to Montreal knows that it is a city with much to offer in terms of cultural activities. In the musical sphere, visitors to the city and residents alike have the good fortune to be exposed to the offerings of young artists from around the world, who come here to study, perform, and participate in musical competitions.

This year, Montreal plays host to a group of especially talented young violinists who hail from fifteen different countries around the world, here to compete in the 2003 Concours International de Montréal des Jeunesses Musicales in violin. The competition, now in its 2nd year, is held annually, and operating on a three-year cycle, alternates each year between voice, violin and piano. The semi-final round of the competition took place from May 26 to 30, 2003. The final round began June 2 and continues until June 4, 2003.

In the semi-final round, performances were given by twenty-five candidates who had impressive past achievements to their credit. Among the competitors were past laureates of the Niccolo Paganini International Violin Competition, the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition, the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competitition, the Tibor Varga International Violin Competititon, the Tchaikovsky International Competition, and others. Indeed, it was apparent throughout this round that the level of playing among the competitors was very high.

Ultimately chosen to advance to the final round were Diana Galvydyte of Lithuania, Alexis Cárdenas Marcano of Venezuela, Oleg Kaskiv of Ukraine, Nicolas Koeckert of Germany, Matthieu Arama of France, Laura Andriani of Italy, Yossif Ivanov of Belgium, Julia Sakharova of Russia, and Linus Roth of Germany.

Two of the finalists, Laura Andriani and Linus Roth, deserve special mention. Both succeeded in presenting a large palette of colours in their sound, and both demonstrated a tremendous amount of imagination and willingness to take risks in order to achieve a highly personal and spontaneous kind of musical expression. They both managed to speak through their playing, imparting the sense that their instrument was an extension of their personalities.

There were other notable performances in the semi-finals. Alexis Rafael Cardenas Marcano was remarkably at ease on stage, almost as though competing was routine. Yossif Ivanov had a very solid technique and played with a beautiful sense of phrasing.

One of the challenges in the semi-final round came in the form of the required performance of the Canadian work Chant, by Ana Sokolovic. Chant is a work that provides performers with room to employ their imagination. It is important that the musician impart a personal identity to the work by using sound production and tone colour to achieve an effective feeling for the composition's construction. Many of the competitors, though performing the work skilfully, had difficulty finding the right direction for Chant. Some treated this imposed work like homework. Truly inspired and well-crafted interpretations, however, came from Linus Roth, Laura Andriani, and Chinese violinists Yi Li and Feng Ning.

Some of the choices of the finalists by the nine-member jury came as a surprise. Amongst those eliminated, Feng Ning played with a tremendous freedom, beautiful technique, and a wonderful singing quality. Hailing from South Korea, eighteen-year-old Hyuk Joo Kwun, who moved to Russia at an early age to study with Eduard Grach, and a second prize winner at the Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition in 1997, demonstrated much artistic maturity and technical competence. Zhijiong Wang of China offered a beautiful presentation in the semi-final round, giving an especially solid performance of Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 8. Japanese violinist Kyoko Yonemoto’s performance of Paganini was flawless, and her Tchaikovsky (Waltz-Scherzo Opus 34) was sensual and expressive; one has the sense that she has a wealth of passion in reserve and has only to take more risks in experimenting with sound colours. Now studying in Montreal with Eleonora Turovsky, Yi Li proved to be very solid and well prepared in the semi-final round; she played a difficult program and imparted a lovely energy throughout.

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