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Indy Violin Competition begins preliminaries

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IVCI participants
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Welcome to the first of a succession of days covering the ninth IVCI, something I've been attempting with hopefully some musico/journalistic acumen since the second quadrennial in 1986.  Anyone spending a lifetime hearing concert violinists with baited breath, both live and recorded, evolves a set of criteria on which to judge their artistry level--either potential or realized--of those he or she hears, with bygone players such as Arthur Grumiaux, Josef Gingold, Aaron Rosand (a native Hoosier) and Jascha Heifeitz among the standard bearers of old.  As always, my views are pitted against those of the nine jurors, each of whom votes by secret ballot, allowing us to see only a computer-crunched consensus of their views.  Though it is safe to say that my ratings won't exactly match those of the jury consensus, it's equally safe to presume the jurors won't agree with each other--exactly. But what I will be doing, starting today, will be no different from a host of the attending faithful--the IVCI cognoscenti, those who can differentiate between top-tier and lower-tier violin playing, and are eager to deploy their thoughts to others.

The 37 participants gathered here in Indy this Sept. were chosen from among the best of today's rising stars.  Only nine men made it to this one. Of the 28 women, 12 are from South Korea, making that the best represented country. The U.S. is not far behind with 11--many of them European and Asian transplants. We hear ten performers each day -- with appropriate breaks -- from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. comprising the preliminaries.

In the course of each passing participant's displaying his/her talents, we had to hear a goodly number of pieces -- which each player chose in advance from an "allowed" list -- over and over again: in particular Bach's "Grave" and "Fuga" from his A Minor Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin, plus his "Adagio" and "Fuga" in G Minor from the same series. We heard five versions of Mozart's light-veined Sonata in G, K. 301 with piano accompaniment, two of his Sonata in A, K. 305 and one of his more interesting Sonata in E Minor, K. 304. Paganini was well represented by two caprices each from his famous set of 24 for solo violin, repeats occurring there as well. Each player could choose one of four "furnished" competition pianists: Nelson Padgett, Rohan de Silva, Chih-Yi Chen and Thomas Hoppe, all splendid accompanists.

Of Sunday's ten performers, the best clearly was 25-year-old Tessa Lark of the U.S.  Playing excerpts from Bach's Partita No. 3 in E for solo violin, Mozart's Violin Sonata (accompanied) in E-flat, K. 302, Paganini's Caprices No. 13 and 24 for solo violin and a violin-piano arrangement of Debussy's piano piece Beau Soir, Lark played not only with technical aplomb but with a tonal beauty surpassing the other nine. I picked 27-year-old Chiharu Taki of Japan as the runner up. The remaining eight would have made all their music inspiring and delightful in another setting; here our (including myself) one obsession is with ranking them. Sept. 7; Indiana History Center.

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