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From the 2011 ARD Competition, Days 12, 13, 14, and 15

September 10th, Trumpet Finals with the Munich Radio Orchestra, Herkulessaal

In many ways, the final for the trumpets at the ARD Music Competition was the most pleasant of all the performances of the event: Three times the Bernd Alois Zimmermann 1954 Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See”† after the spiritual of the nearly same name. That meant 45 minutes net music with the Munich Radio Orchestra (not to be mistaken for the BRSO, but also part of the Bavarian Broadcasting family) under the musical and pleasingly unfussy leadership of the young Rasmus Baumann (*1973) at the Herkulessaal before being allowed back home again. Brevity, that great underrated pleasure of classical music in general and concerts in particular! Frontrunner Manuel Blanco Gómez-Limón (Spain), Alexandre Baty (France, future principal trumpet of the RCO), and dark-horse finalist Ferenc Mausz (Hungary) each performed the concerto with great success. Assured and rhythmical Gómez-Limon, bluesy-but-reticent Baty, and trying and with positive struggle Mausz. No one complained when they were given first, second, and third prizes in that order, with Mausz cleaning up the audience prize presumably because he made the Concerto most immediately felt of the three. One of the more interesting special prizes went to another trumpeter: Simon Höfele got the “Under 21” prize; he had particularly pleased me when I heard him during the second round on Day 6.

Originally the concerto was called “Darkey’s Darkness”, but when it was pointed out to the alliteration-admiring Bernd Alois Zimmermann that “Darkey” had a connotation—even or especially in 1954—that he surely didn’t intend to convey, the composer changed the name to the slightly modified version of the spiritual’s title. You can find a performance of the work on YouTube.

September 11th, Piano Finals with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonie, Gasteig

If only the final of the piano competition had been nearly as satisfying an event. Instead they were an example of how much of a drudge competitions can be. Admittedly I was in poor mood and shape when I attended, but even after trying to deduct those influences on my perception, the result was still a bore-fest. Not that Da Sol Kim’s (South Korea) interpretation of the Third Rachmaninoff Concerto wasn’t technically impressive: it was rather! But one felt tempted to repeat the famous quote from Amadeus: Too many notes. And to what purpose? It sounded better, in retrospect, because Eun Ae Lee (also South Korea) Beethoven Third Concerto sounded worse. Blasé, although powerful. After the break one could sense that the audience responded a lot more to Alexej Gorlatch’s (Ukraine) interpretation of the same concerto; I, alas, only heard a different, more sophisticated kind of boring… and didn’t hear anything truly musical until Tori Huang (USA) performed Chopin’s e-minor Concerto op.11 – with such natural ease and confidence that it sounded to me in a different league. The resolute first and lyrical second movement in particular, quite different from another, charmed me sufficiently to turn an evening long frown into a faint smile.

The performance, along with her other three rounds, brought her a much deserved Second Prize; Gorlatch took First and the Audience’s seal of approval; Da Sol Kim was given a Third Prize as well as the Munich Chamber Orchestra’s Prize for his Mozart performance in the Semi Finals with them and the Alice Rosner Prize for his interpretation of Bela Bartók, Sonata Sz 80 in one of the earlier rounds. Gorlatch, meanwhile, cleaned up several of the gig-related prizes. Jury member Anatol Ugorski spontaneously gave out a special “Prize for an outstanding performance” to Mao Ishida (Japan) who must have done something very right in an earlier round but not advanced despite Mr. Ugorski’s (presumed) advocacy.

September 14th, Prize Winner Concert I with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Prinzregententheater

With all finals out of the way and three first, five second and five third prizes given away, the prize-winning musicians presented themselves to the audience once again in three concerts, two of which caught before treating myself to just a smidgen of contemporary fare at ULTIMA, the Oslo Contemporary Music Festival. The first took place in the lovely Bayreuth-like Prinzregententheater, with the Munich RSO, and Rasmus Baumann conducting again. When the repertoire-issues among the oboists suggested Jean-Marie Leclair’s Concerto in C, op.7 no.3 as a desirable choice for Marc Lachat to play, Baumann agreed to learn the continuo part over night and led that very charming piece from the harpsichord. Charming, too, was Lachat’s interpretation, if not much more than that.

Ivan Podyomov brought his mature approach to bear on the Bohuslav Martinů Concerto for Oboe and small orchestra, a piece that encapsulates in microcosm the Martinů-Problem: Extraordinary appeal and beguiling means in close proximity to wearisome episodes. Fortunately much more of the former than the latter. Ferenc Mausz and Tori Huang gave repeat performances of their prize winning Zimmermann and Chopin concertos; interestingly neither as good as under the presumably more stressful competition conditions. Especially from the Mausz-Zimmermann-I’ve-won-so-now-I-can-play-however-I-want combination I had expected much more from… instead, it was a rather timid version that we got to hear. The differences were more subtle from Huang on Sunday to Huang on Wednesday, and at least the slow movement was as delicious as ever.

September 15th, Prize Winner Concert II with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Great Hall of the Music Academy

The second prize winner concert opened and closed with the solo organ. Anna-Victoria Baltrusch, who in the semis had presented a rather stiff interpretation of the ARD commissioned work for solo organ, Arabesques pour orgue by Naji Hakim (successor of Messiaen as organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité). Lukas Stollhof opened with Bach’s Trio Sonata in G, BWV 530, but for all the beauty of Bach, it was a rather pedantic, correct effort, not an in any way inspired one. Cristina Gómez Godoy’s lovely Mozart Concerto (for the interpretation of which during the semi-final she received a special prize from the artistic director of the competition, Axel Linstädt) was sabotaged by an accidentally live monitor on stage that whispered a radio broadcast or back-stage chatter into all the concertos soft moments. Da Sol Kim also encored his semi-finals Mozart performance (KV459) and Alexandre Baty did the same with his Haydn Concerto for Trumpet… a nice enough performance but not half as interesting as the fine, retro-ish brow pinstripe suit he wore.

Photos of Trumpet finalists & jury and Piano Competition Prize Winners courtesy ARD Music Competition, © Dorothee Falke