City Plays Host to Half Of Music Competition

City Plays Host to Half Of Music Competition

Published: June 17, 2011 (Issue # 1661)

“Awaiting miracles rather than flexing muscles” is how Valery Gergiev would like the spirit of the 14th International Tchaikovsky Competition to be perceived.

For the first time in its history, the competition, which saw its local opening Thursday, is being held in two cities at once — pianists and cellists are competing in Moscow, while St. Petersburg is hosting the contests for violinists and vocalists. This innovation comes from Gergiev, the artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater, who is presiding over the competition’s organizing committee and is chairman of the event’s jury.

St. Petersburg has prepared several host venues for the event, including the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the State Academic Cappella, the Mariinsky Theater Concert Hall and the Shostakovich Philharmonic Grand Hall.

The names of the jurors for the prestigious event, which is held once every four years, is impressive, with Gergiev having managed to attract classical musicians of living legend status to the contest.

The vocalists’ performances will be judged by Renata Scotto, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Olga Borodina, Yelena Obraztsova and Vladimir Atlantov, while the jury for the violinists’ competition includes Anne-Sophie Mutter, Nikolaj Znaider, Yury Bashmet and Maxim Vengerov.

Many of the jury members themselves received a kick-start to their careers at a Tchaikovsky competition. The jury’s honorary president is the world-renowned pianist Van Cliburn, the sensational winner of the first Tchaikovsky competition in 1958.

In addition to prestigious prizes, winners of the competition will also embark on a global tour, with concerts on some of the most venerable stages in Europe, Asia and the U.S.

The Tchaikovsky competition was first held in 1958 and featured two sections — piano and violin. Four years later, the cello section was added, followed by vocalists during the third competition in 1966.

“The Tchaikovsky competition has always been a key event,” Gergiev said.

In recent decades, the competition began to lose its reputation as a result of speculation about the alleged bias of jury members and thriving favoritism.

This time round, the objectivity of the jury has been guaranteed by a special judging system, titled “Harmony Score” by its creator Richard Rodzinsky, a prominent U.S. arts manager and the competition’s general director. The system features a four-stage judging technique that minimizes the risk of a jury conspiring for or against a candidate.

“I genuinely hope that the contest’s participants will be able to demonstrate the full scale of their potential,” Gergiev said. “A 20-something aspiring musician can transform into a mature performer within an hour. This can happen at such a competition. I remember that almost magical feeling from my own youth.” 

The competition will run through the end of June.

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