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18-Year-Old Wins Rostropovich Competition

Ionarts hopes all of our American readers are enjoying a pleasant Thanksgiving holiday. However, we know that many of you are not from the United States, so we have some prewritten posts for you to read while we nap and eat turkey leftovers. Best wishes!

I heard a day's worth of the qualifying rounds of the Rostropovich Cello Competition here in Washington this summer. The final rounds of this prestigious competition were held in Paris, from November 9 to 20. Of the several cellists I heard that day, I was most impressed with French cellist Yves Dharamraj (graduated from Yale, now studying with Joel Krosnick at Juilliard). As it turns out, my estimation in that case matched with that of the jury, and Dharamraj was awarded the chance to go on to Paris. There hasn't been much reported in the press over the course of the last couple weeks, but the final results are coming out of Paris. According to the competition's Web site, Dharamraj played the first round on November 11 at the Conservatoire National de Région de Paris, but that was as far as he went. This is no shame to him, as he plays extremely well and the competition is terribly fierce.

Marie-Elizabeth HeckerSix lucky cellists earned the chance, in the final round, to play with the Orchestre de Paris, conducted by Janos Fürst, on November 19: Renaud Déjardin (France), Marie-Elizabeth Hecker (Germany), Giorgi Kharadze (Georgia), Julian Steckel (Germany), Elizaveta Sushchenko (Russia), and Kaori Yamagami (Canada). Incredibly, 18-year-old Marie-Elizabeth Hecker from Germany won the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris (12,000 €) and a special prize for her interpretation of the Shostakovich op. 107 concerto. Julian Steckel and Giorgi Kharadze took second and third prizes. One award went to an American cellist, Alan Toda-Ambaras, who at 14 years old received the Prix du meilleur espoir for best young cellist.

All six finalists apparently chose to play the Shostakovich op. 107 concerto. As challenging as that must have been for an audience, journalists report that the public stayed and was largely made up of young people, which is a good sign. Marie-Elizabeth Hecker was born in 1987 in Zwickau, and she has already made a recording, in 2004, of the Kodály sonata. (I can't find it anywhere.) Shortly before the competition in Paris, she gave a concert in Brooklyn, at Barge Music, with her brother, pianist Martin Hecker, on October 29 and 30. There is a picture of her playing at the competition in this article.

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