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From the Joseph Joachim International Competition: Hannover semifinals marathon IV

Heather Kurzbauer

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Published: October 6, 2015 at 8:36 PM [UTC]

“It is just the individuality of interpretative rules, which slips through the grasp of technical rules. According to the temperament of the performer, a passage which I had conceived for example as flowing in calm serenity, will receive perhaps a sentimental rendering; while another, which I had felt to be humorous, may be given as fiery.”

Words of wisdom taken from Joseph Joachim and Andreas Moser’s three-volume Violin School give precious advice to listeners at the competition that bears Joachim’s name. After all, who but the master himself should have a say as to which of the talented semifinalists should advance to the last round?

Along with the all-important recitals, the chosen twelve were required to perform a Mozart concerto of their choice. Interesting to note, the D major concerto was studiously avoided with the majority opting for the A major concerto. To continue in the statistical vein, the two most memorable candidates presented Mozart’s G major concerto.

The famed Munich Chamber Orchestra, a conductor-less gem of an ensemble was engaged to accompany the young soloists and did so with alacrity and ease. Undoubtedly the reader should download snippets of performances to form an opinion and add to the conversation on interpretation that is endemic to any discussion on Mozart. (Click here to listen to the livestream and click here to view archived performances.)

Should emphasis be placed on the free and childlike side of a composer who dashed off these concerti well before the age of twenty? Should traditional or ingenious cadenzas be presented? Should a contestant attempt to please the jury, second-guessing their stylistic approaches to Mozart? Should the performer use a healthy modicum of vibrato or tip his/her hat to the concerns of aficionados of historically informed performance?

Joachim was certainly clever enough to know his Mozart, after all his cadenzas are without a doubt the industry leaders for several of Mozart’s concerti. Scrutinizing the first sentence quoted above, I am willing to go out on a limb to wager that Joachim would vote for individuality, imagination and poetry.

Benjamin Marquise Gilmore’s prowess as an interpreter proven by his Janacek and Schumann recital selections segued seamlessly to his Mozart G major performance.

Benjamin Marquise Gilmore

Words fail the loquacious: this is a performance that must be heard to fathom its greatness! Orchestral players moved to the edge of their seats to match Gilmore’s organic sense of melodic ebb and flow: the second movement turned into one long breath infused with beauty. Magical!

Ayana Tsuji’s Mozart G major showed more gusto and projection and yes, a tad more conservatism than Gilmore’s creative adventure. Rumor has it that she is a decade younger than Gilmore which might lead to infer that she will certainly ‘grow’ in terms of risk-taking. Turning to the orchestra to set tempi at the outset of the outer movements and subsequently blending her sound with the collective provided a masterful bridge between tutti and solo parts. Tsuji’s energy and tonal clarity shed light on a different side of Mozart’s genius.

Keeping close to Joachim’s advice, my choice for the final round shows a marked preference for musical personality, ingenuity and verve:

Benjamin Marquise Gilmore and Ayana Tsuji lead my way at the 9th Joachim International Violin Competition with Serge Dogadin, Diana Tishchenko, Nancy Zhou and Richard Lin joining my preferred list.

Looking forward to serenity and fury: onwards and upwards to the final round!

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