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The Big Winner in the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition!

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It would be easy to reel off a list of prizes in 4 separate Moscow competition categories and characterize all recipients as “winners,”–that is if we put music-making into the sports arena with a clear cut victor and an opposing loser. In pro-tennis, for example, where a point-scoring system is in part influenced by calls of the referee, we still attribute a Match outcome to the athletic skills of the superior player. (Court strategies and the big serve factor into a championship victory)

In the arena of music-making (excuse the gladiator framing), where judges, who might occasionally doze off through arduous rounds of performances can be blamed for a bad call as they eliminate favorites (for some listeners) while passing through others, we still want to believe that ARTISTRY will reign as the biggest consideration in the adjudication process.

(Artful playing is of course bundled with an ample virtuoso technique that affords musical fluency, though listeners might “connect” with a performer who is less technically bedazzling, and more organically communicative.)

For me, the spread of players at Tchaikovsky XV offered various styles of playing, with consistency of high-level music-making not always manifest, yet the subjective side of reviewing a performance by a so-called skilled adjudicator, or a sophisticated listener, or less musically informed audience member (LIVE or by Internet) is just as valid, since ART unlike SPORTS has no intrinsic need for CONTENDERS to vie for an OLYMPIC wreath.

I guess my lengthy oration, by no means Greek inspired by Spartan and Athenian framing, is to justify the global audience of MILLIONS as the true WINNER in this so-called Moscow-based competition, and that a powerful Medici driven TV partner gave Classical MUSIC unprecedented mega-exposure. (A WIN/WIN for all!)

In short, the Masterworks and their divinely inspired creators acquired a new stature amidst a feverish international SPORTS frenzy! (Soccer anyone, on ESPN?) No thanks we had the war horse concertos beamed through a select group of young performers–one, like a young Stallion (Kharitonov), catapulted himself to favored status with his Lisztian lyricism while Dmitry Masleev landed a second round prize for his rather mature rendition of Mozart’s D minor concerto. In the last grueling lap he nailed the Gold!

Finally, I must admit that I had my personal favorite through the Moscow-based opening round to the finale, and it was GEORGE LI, though in truth, my ears were captivated by playing moments of others–but not to the extent that George’s CONSISTENCY and heart-moving playing affected me from start to finish. (update: Li packed a punch subbing in for Masleev with the Tchaikovsky Bb minor concerto in a post-competition performance with Gergiev/Marinksy Theater Orchestra. And in a recent interview, Martin Engstrom, a Moscow juror, singled out the pianist as “a fantastic musician with a unique charisma that causes a range of positive emotions.”)

Without a doubt, the powerful EXPOSURE, Silver medalist, George Li received at the Competition was worth its weight in Gold.

And while I was mesmerized by Lucas Debargue’s Ravel and Medtner renderings, I didn’t feel that his last concerto round performance fed my personal need for unabated inspiration. (not humanly possible in any event)

Nonetheless, my opinion by no means invalidates scores of others. (excuse my inadvertent athletic analogies)

Obviously listeners far and wide should trust their innate assessment of beauty and artistry without having to apologize for a variety of aesthetic preferences. And at the same time, they shouldn’t be wooed to a Moscow talent showcase with the incentive of a declared Grand Prix winner in the spirit of a Nascar finale.

From my perspective, the Tchaikovsky Competition that culminated in the purple-tinged GALA awards ceremony with its crescendo to the PRIX was not about the essence of MUSIC-making.

Even its wrap-up had contestants tied for Bronze or Silver prizes while off the competitive stage, a pianist named Debargue captured a wreath from the Moscow Music Critics Association. He otherwise trailed off to fourth in the official standings. Not much of a horse race.

Those who shared second or third place might have been well-poised for a sudden death, extra round tie-breaker. But barring an overtime match re-play, were they considered on par with each other? (Golf anyone?)

All kidding aside, perhaps my UTOPIAN wish would be that a global audience of listeners could be drawn to an international showcase of musical talent without the incentive of a fever pitch march to the WINNER’s circle. To this effect, a cadre of UTOPIANS, including Seymour Bernstein have been clamoring for a new framing that would preclude putting music-making into a competitive category.

Still, for now, the big Tchaikovsky Competition, occurring in 4 year cycles, is here to stay with a new INTERNET-driven, LIVE-STREAMED boost. For this alone, we should be grateful!


Results of the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition
Piano category
I prize – Dmitry Masleev (Russia); II prize – Lukas Geniušas (Lithuania-Russia), George Li (U.S.); III prize – Sergei Redkin (Russia), Daniel Kharitonov (Russia); IV prize – Lucas Debargue (France).
Violin category
I prize – no winner; II prize – Yu-Chien Tseng (Taiwan); III prize – Haik Kazazyan (Russia), Alexandra Conunova (Moldova), Pavel Milyukov (Russia); IV prize: Clara-Jumi Kang (Germany); V prize: Bomsori Kim (South Korea).
Cello category
I prize – Andrei Ioniță (Romania); II prize – Alexander Ramm (Russia); III prize – Alexander Buzlov (Russia); IV prize – Pablo Ferrández (Spain); V prize – Seung Min Kang (South Korea); VI prize – Jonathan Roozeman (Netherlands).
Voice category
Female: I prize – Yulia Matochkina (Russia); II prize – Svetlana Moskalenko (Russia); III prize – Mane Galoyan (Armenia); IV prize – Antonina Vesenina (Russia).
Male: I prize – Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar (Mongolia); II prize – Chuanyue Wang (China); III prize – Hansung Yoo (South Korea); IV prize – Dmitry Grigoriev (Russia).

5 thoughts on “The Big Winner in the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition!”

  1. So proud of George and I am not even one you yanks. He produced some truly amazing performances and, as you mention, it is all abit subjective so this second will certainly propel his career along very nicely thank you!


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