Raymond Stults on the Tchaikovsky piano competition, June 15

  • Автор темы Мария Холкина
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Мария Холкина

When announcement was made last year that St. Petersburg would play host to the current Tchaikovsky Competition’s violinists and vocalists, my reaction was “There he goes again” – meaning competition chairman Valery Gergiev – “expanding his already overstretched musical empire by hijacking half the competition to his own backyard.”

The reason given for removing a part of what had always been Moscow’s to the northern capital was what then seemed only a faint hope of completing reconstruction of the Moscow Conservatory’s Great Hall in time to play its traditional competition role. But work on the reconstruction stuck to schedule, funds for it were apparently not pilfered and, rather miraculously, the hall re-opened on the eve of the competition’s first round. Yet even lacking the Great Hall, there were surely enough other suitable venues in Moscow for housing all of the competition’s four disciplines.

Later on it was argued somewhat more convincingly in St. Petersburg’s favor that Tchaikovsky belonged to it, as well as to Moscow, since he spent much of his creative life in both cities, and that both played a critical part in developing the so-called “Russian School” of musical performance.

Yesterday, however, as I listened to pianists playing their first competition round in the Great Hall, it occurred to me that moving half the proceedings to St. Petersburg was not such a bad idea after all. For me, attending past competitions always proved an exercise in frustration. Either I concentrated on a single discipline and was plagued by thoughts of missing what went on at the others, or I scurried from venue to venue, taking in bits of all four, without ever getting a real grip on the progress of any of them.

With both pianists and cellists playing in Moscow, there is still a choice to be made. But it’s a much easier one. I’ve decided to hear as many of the pianists as possible in their first round and the recital half of their second round and then move on to the cellists. This way, I should have at least a reasonably good idea of who is who on both instruments when final results are announced.

Hearing four of the six pianists who played yesterday produced no revelations, though some of the playing was of very high standard and at least two seem likely to advance to the second round, when their vices and virtues can be better assessed.

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