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Ionarts at Large: From the ARD Music Competition - Prize Winner Concert No.2

Like a revue of old friends, familiar works from rounds before pass before my eyes and ears at the three prize-winner concerts. Teng Li, third-prize winner in this years viola competition failed to make it beyond the semi finals in 2004 when she didn’t take the hurdle of the Hoffmeister Concerto for Viola in D-major. Now she’d evidently subdued it and put it out on display again in the second of these prize winner concerts – this one with the Munich Chamber Orchestra (MKO) at the Prinzregententheater.

At least as much joy as listing to Teng Li was it to hear the MKO again – a wonderful sounding chamber orchestra that, a few lesser moments aside, cannot be commended enough for the engagement with which they participated in all of the competitions’ concerts, not just this broadcast, live, penultimate one.

Taira Kaneko, a member of the excellent Young German Philharmonic Frankfurt and student of Sabine Meyer in Lübeck (as are the other two clarinetist prize winners), took the Eduard Brunner arrangement of Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Quintet out for a ride. With many of his colleagues, Kaneko showed the slightly puzzling habit of moving about and contorting himself on stage like a snake charmer. Whether this actually improves his tone or clarity is questionable; it certainly wasn’t audibly helping in this case.

Hearing the souped-up Weber quintet I wondered if there isn’t such a version for the Brahms quintet as well, and if that might not make a better would-be concerto. A greater flexibility of tempos and greater dynamic range – in short: a conductor – would likely have benefited the work, avoiding the prolonged crawl that lasted up until the superbly played, madly leaping finale.

There is something irresistibly charming about the Charles Koechlin Bassoon Sonata that the South-Tyrolean second-prize winner Philipp Tutzer (a Camerata Academica Mozarteum Salzburg member) played so securely and even lyrically. A round tone in all registers, he gave the bassoon an air of elegance and a touch of the debonair – a skill in-and-of-itself. The sonata is not the least so pleasant because it doesn’t last longer than the music it contains.

The Afiara Quartet, the San Francisco State University’s Quartet-in-Residence, were personified cohesion for much of the competition… until they had a Beethoven (op.59/2) accident in the finale. There was plenty of that cohesion to be heard again this night, when they took the opportunity to redeem Beethoven, themselves, and show why they deserved that second prize, after all. Beethoven op.18/1, which they played very nicely in the first round already, was again presented to great effect, now with the pressure gone but exhaustion running high. It wasn’t nearly as tight a performance anymore, but easily as good: looser and more spontaneous – rightfully earning the enthusiastic ovations from the audience.

A most pleasant conclusion of the concert was handed to the audience in the form of Mozart’s modestly interesting Bassoon Concerto in B-major K.191 – at the hands of second- and audience-prize winner Christian Kunert (an Hamburg Opera Orchestra / Hamburg Philharmonic member). Voluminous and clear, elegiac and humorous in turn, this was another commercial for what the most beautiful looking instrument in the orchestra, with Kunert expertly hiding that after two weeks of competition playing he was quite ready to be done with the whole affair. If indeed he felt that way.

All pictures © Sigi Müller

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