The third round of the cello contest came to an end last night with performances by Belorussian Ivan Karizna and Italian Umberto Clerici of their “big” concertos and by Frenchman Edgar Moreau of the obligatory Tchaikovsky “Variations on a Rococo Theme.”
The Cello Concerto of Edward Elgar, very seldom to be heard in Russia, was a bold choice on Karizna’s part. But an astute one. Until last night, Karizna’s playing seemed notable mostly for its big, full tone. Elgar’s Concerto calls for relatively little of that and gave Karizna a chance to show his ability – very considerable, as it turned out – to deal with music of great subtlety and psychological depth.
Clerici proved a shade disappointing in the Cello Concerto of Robert Schumann. Though technically impeccable, as he has been throughout the competition, he somehow failed to dig very deeply into the music and came nowhere close to matching the magical reading of the work heard two nights earlier from Moreau.
Once again last night, as on Monday, the 17-year-old Moreau, youngest of the cello competitors, seemed to me the star of the show. In terms of sheer beauty of sound, his performance of the Tchaikovsky, like that of the Schumann on Monday, was simply the best to be heard from any of the cellists in the competition. And apart from the purely aesthetic side of his playing, he displayed a comprehension of the music that seemed quite astonishing for a musician of his tender age.
And now on to the final results. Under the competition’s new voting system, incomprehensible to all but a trained statistician, there is no room for back-room bargaining. The results simply appear, full-blown, from the marks recorded by the jury members, as manipulated in such a way as to allegedly ensure the fairest possible outcome.
In the case of the cellists, all five finalists are outstanding musicians with the prospect of outstanding careers. Attempting to classify them in an order of one through five seems a bit absurd. No doubt each of them covets the honor of first prize. But is the winner of that prize likely to be significantly superior to the second, third, fourth and fifth prize winners? I doubt it. Though we will never know the truth of the matter, my guess is that the outcome for the cellists will in fact be a matter of statistical hair-splitting. To my mind, the fairest solution – though it runs counter to the whole idea of competitions as they exist today – would be a single award of “Finalist” to all those who make the grade and an equal division among them of the total prize money.
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