Thursday, January 15, 2009

The right guy won!

If the jury at the third International Jascha Heifetz Violin Competition had made any other decision about the winner last night, they might have been lynched!  From the moment he finished his first phrase, there was not a shadow of a doubt who would be the head-and-shoulders above all winner!

But first things first. Michail Pochekin, an 18-year-old Russian, living in Madrid and studying, already in his 5th semester in Cologne, began the evening with a robust and masterful performance of Viewtemps' fifth violin concerto. He produced beautiful contrasts, from very powerful bow strokes to extremely lyrical moments, playing a violin made by his father Yuri. He could have done with physically hiding a little less in the orchestra, though, but this will come.

He was followed by Evgeny Sviridov, a lanky Russian 19-year-old studying in St Petersburg, with Mendelssohn's violin concerto, shooting off into the first movement and dragging the orchestra with him. This seemed a totally effortless performance, beautifully, if a little introvertedly, played. (Did he come to the reception afterwards? I do not remember seeing him there).

Then we had three ladies and three times Bruch's first violin concerto, the UK's favourite piece of classical music for many years. Luckily we don't hear it that often in Lithuania.....First was Sunny Tae, 21, from South Korea, who was very much in control, and was having fun, with a wicked little grin shooting across her face now and again. She seems to be a seasoned performer, comfortable on the stage; her playing certainly matches her first name! I hope we'll see her again in Vilnius.

Definitely not having fun was Ieva Paukstyte, aged 23, from Lithuania, whose best day it was not. She had a few glitches, and I wondered how much in that situation it will take for a performer to throw down the fiddle and run from the stage. What goes through your mind at moments like this, when the orchestra relentlessly moves forward?

19-year-old Justina Auskelyte, also from Lithuania, had a better evening than her predecessor. Smiling constantly at the conductor (and someone up in the balcony; I began to wonder if this was a nervous thing), bits of steel occasionally flashed through from her personality, which is clearly there. Both Lithuanian ladies started the Bruch extremely slowly (they had different teachers....Justina's was in the jury....), but for this performer it also seemed quite effortless.

But they were all eclipsed, totally, by Sergey Malov (25) from Russia, studying in Germany. What a performer! He stands right at the front of the stage (as he had done during the first round) and communicates with everyone; the audience, the different groups in the orchestra, the conductor. And wow, his playing - it was electric! Like Sviridov, he played the first movement faster than I am used to (but it is an Allegro con molto, I suppose). The second movement was just stunning, soooo light....In the final movement, played at breakneck speed, he left the orchestral woodwind section floundering in his trail; this moment comes up, alas for the band, too often in this movement, and every time it came up they floundered.  It was a stunning, speechless-making performance - the audience erupted when he finished!  Thank goodness, the other performers will have thought, that he did not play first.  His playing reminds me very much of the violist Antoine Tamestit, who is only 5 years older or so, and similarly a communicator with his own style of playing.  These two would be my dream team for Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante - I just wonder if one stage could hold two big personalities such as these.  Having chatted with both I can tell that they are also very charming guys, and I am sure they could give an electric performance of this piece.  Malov, however, is also a man of impeccable taste, playing the viola, too - he hopes to study with Tabea Zimmermann, and Tabea, if you are there, take him! - so I am not sure if a Sinfonia Concertante performance with him on violin might actually happen, or whether they would both fight over the viola part!

For the winner the jury had no choice but to award the first prize to Malov; second prize was shared between Aukstyte and Pochekin, and third between Tae and Sviridov. Myself I would have swapped the two ladies around, and I suspect I am not the only one who thinks so.  But the second prize went to a Lithuanian.....

While we were waiting for the jury to return, we were treated to 17-year-old Dumitru Pocitari from Moldova playing Paganini's 17th caprice, for which he had won a special prize. Very nice performance, occasionally a bit iffy intonation-wise, but otherwise very controlled.  It would be nice if this competition (or another, he has played in many, like his little sister Lilia) gave him a chance to get out of Moldova and study abroad.  Agne Doveikaite from Lithuania, 25, played her interpretation of the 'Threshold' by Feliksas Bajoras (special prize), with huge amounts of flautando - perhaps a bit excessively. From where I was sitting she was almost totally hidden by the music stands, but I knew that as she worked her way from left to right, she would finally appear.

Finally Malgorzata Wasiucionek, 18, from Poland, in a stunning dress, played Heifetz' arrangement of fragments from Porgy and Bess, very nicely - could have had a little more come and go, but you'd probably need to grow up in the US scene to absorb this style. She might have been a more suitable finalist than.....; ah well.

 Concert organisers of the world, engage Sergey Malov!


puikioji said...

ah. here it is :) Isn't it strange, that in the so called capital of culture there is only one source of information about Heifetz competition - your blog. F.e. famous Lithuanian news portal delfi.lt is silent. All newspapers already slept during the final. Of course, hope they will wake up at some point (Saturday?) Somehow embarrassing.

violainvilnius said...

well, I suppose at least one of the local journalists was at the post-final reception, and perhaps, like me, unable to write about it immediately. Mine was written during the period of post-alcohol sleeplessness at 5.30 am, when I hope I was sober. You'll probably get a much more detailed and considered article in the papers....I see the President met the jury and finalists before the finals, see here http://news.penki.lt/news.aspx?Lang=EN&Element=News&TopicID=112&IMAction=ViewArticle&ArticleID=186124. Though I suppose that does not tell you what you really wanted to know.

Anonymous said...

Had to check Malov out after such a rave review, and found this video if you're interested. Look forward to him appearing in Berlin...

violainvilnius said...

Well, Ham, seeing as he studies in Berlin (Hanns Eisler Hochschule) that may be easier than you think.

Maybe you should invite him to gig with your band ;-)