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Vuillaume played by Josef Špacek seized by Russian customs officials

By Laurie Niles
October 12, 2015 16:11

Russian customs officials seized a 1855 Vuillaume violin played by Czech violinist Josef Špacek as he was trying to leave Russia last week after performing in the International Music Festival Eurasia.

Josef Spacek
Spacek refused to leave the country without his instrument, according to Sputnik News, and is still trying to resolve the issue. The seizure took place at Yekaterinburg’s Koltsovo Airport on Oct. 8, before a flight from Yekaterinburg to Prague, according to the New York Times.

Spacek studied and the Curtis Institute and The Juilliard School and is a concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Officials were awaiting documentation proving that the violin belongs to Spacek. Let's hope it arrives safe, back in his hands!

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Student, Have Patience With Yourself

By Laurie Niles
October 12, 2015 11:54

"I'm being patient with you. I need you to be patient with you."

Sometimes, when I'm trying to phrase things in the most direct way possible for my youngest students, I stumble upon an idea that I didn't know I had. This comment was directed at a precocious seven-year-old, who was not understanding a concept right away and was sure that he simply wouldn't be able to. I had complete faith in his ability to understand it, and my ability to explain it, but he simply lost his own patience -- and rejected mine.

I can be patient with you, student. I need YOU to be patient with you!

metronomeI can remember being on the other side of this, being a self-conscious graduate student at Indiana University. Though I had an undergraduate degree in music, I was not studying music in graduate school. But I was taking violin lessons and while doing so, I was getting a complete overhaul of my bow arm. I knew I needed it. I was keyed up to do whatever my teacher said, and I thought I was being patient. But after about the fourth week of martelé strokes on open strings (no repertoire, no etudes) I was sure that my teacher, Henryk Kowalski, was rolling his eyes, ready to check out of having to listen to this student with her boring open A strings. After all, I was also a lowly non-major.

One lesson, after about a half-hour of deep concentration on open-string bow strokes, I couldn't help asking. "Are you tired of listening to my open 'A' strings?"

He looked at me like I'd hurled the biggest insult imaginable at him. "Absolutely NOT!" he boomed. "I am VERY INTERESTED in your open 'A' strings! CONTINUE!"

I was completely flabbergasted, and I wasn't even sure why. I did know one thing: I had a real teacher. He was ready to stay with me until I'd figured this thing out. It wasn't so simple, to completely change my right-hand technique and then produce an absolutely pristine sound with every stroke. But he was determined that I was going to get there, and we weren't about to stop short of the goal. Maybe I was beginning to think that there was a shortcut, but he knew there was not. He was going to show me the way, the long and necessary way.

He actually did lose patience with me, but it was only when I lost patience with myself. After that, we both stayed the course, and in a few months, my bow hand and arm was truly transformed, something I'd been seeking for years.

So be patient with yourself and trust a teacher who is patient with you. It may seem like your teacher wishes you'd move along faster, but oftentimes the only person trying to hurry the process is you!

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Closing Chords: 9th Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition Gala

By Heather Kurzbauer
October 10, 2015 16:04

The pleasure to hear all six finalists in the closing gala concert at the 9th Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition brought home the message that it is music that wins the day. High-points of the evening followed one another in brisk tempo as three additional prizes, the Special Prize (3000 euros for the best interpretation of the compulsory composition, Robert Coleman’s "Cut up"); the Audience Prize (5000 euros) and a Community Prize of 1000 euros.

4th prize winner Benjamin Marquise Gilmore treated the audience to color-infused dream harmony and sinuous sound in Prokofiev’s Five Melodies. The poet amongst the finalists deserves a loyal following of supporters in the near future. Bravos continued from Gilmore to 3rd prize winner Richard Lin who exuded warmth, charm and confidence in his contrasting gala gifts wonderfully supported by Melanie M.Y. Chae: Achron’s Hebrew Melody and Joachim’s arrangement of the Brahms Hungarian Dance no. 7.

Ayana Tsuji winner of the 5th prize won the hearts of the both the public and a ‘special jury’ composed of music critics including your faithful reporter. One of the jewels in Hannover’s crown, the youngest contestant delighted the composer and fellow jury members with a performance of the compulsory composition that projected super human passion into the weighty score.

A competition is but a reflection of a moment, a long moment consisting of a candidate's presentation in a series of rounds in which jury members consider criteria such as: technical mastery, talent for musical projection, career potential and communicative abilities. It would be an understatement to state that it is monumentally difficult to whittle down a considerable field of fine players to a select group of six as the spectrum of subjectivity as to “what is talent?” could fill volumes. And, as the non-voting jury president Krzysztof Wegrzyn shared, “each and every one of the 35 candidates selected to participate are winners in terms of their achievements and artistry.” The juries and public have spoken, let the music play on and on.

Ayana Tsuji. Photo by Benjamin Bonouvrier.

  • Audience Prize: Ayana Tsuji
  • Community Award (reflecting the opinions of online voters from 104 countries): Richard Lin

Performances from the Joachim Competition can be viewed on the competition's website: Click here to listen to the latest performances and click here to view archived performances.

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From the Joachim Competition: Final Round Closes

By Heather Kurzbauer
October 9, 2015 17:46

Shion Minami, a lovely apparition in purple took a muscular approach to Korngold’s Hollywood potpourri. An exemplary performer with the ability to project her ample sound to the very last row in the hall, Minami is indeed all about projection and articulation. Every phrase is punctuated and played with a great sense of urgency: the ebb and flow of the oft-saccharine score was missing in action. Relaxation and contemplation especially at the end of long phrases are not part of the accomplished violinist’s musical vocabulary. An artist performing at such an impeccable level will undoubtedly grow to discover the joys of longer phrases and the wit that lies so close to the surface in the emigrant composer’s nostalgic blend of middle European forms with America’s sassy slapstick. The ‘ain't necessarily so’ blues that extinguish the slow movement were impeccable in terms of control yet clueless in terms of musical antecedents. The closing movement was dashed off with great élan.

Just 17, Ayana Tsuji is an artist of consummate taste and persuasive musical power. Her g-string passages burned with inner fire, octaves were freed from the box of pure technical exercise and each and every phrase was treated to a special ending in order to make room for the subsequent musical idea. Tsuji’s second movement could open the gates of a rainbow-infused heaven while the atavism that inspired her third movement brought listeners to the edge of their seats. The great discovery at this year's contest comes in the form of a diminutive phenomenon: Ayana Tsuji.


Richard Lin’s rendition of the Korngold Concerto was the special treat accorded to the audience at the end of an exemplary contest. Clad like a Hollywood lad, the master of silvery tone production introduced a cadre of characters in his convincing performance. Moving the score onwards and upwards to a level where Mahler meets Mickey, Lin deserves a top prize. Wizard of Oz references in the third movement did not escape this intelligent musician and his second movement showed sensitivity to Korngold’s ethereal orchestration.

Thanks to the wonders of streaming, the last two finalists will continue to enchant and motivate. (Performances can be viewed on the competition's website: Click here to listen to the latest performances and click here to view archived performances.

Competitions are not for racehorses as the frequently cited adage pronounces: torchbearers Tsuji ,Lin and Marquise Gilmore have shown that a superlative event is like a window that opens onto a world of great art.

The audience roared its approval for four favorites: Dogadin, Marquise Gilmore, Tsuji and Lin. The jury awarded the top prize to Dogadin, third prize to Lin and a surprising 4th and 5th prize respectively to Marquise Gilmore and the most astonishing talent, Tsuji. Tomorrow night’s closing will bring word concerning the Special and Audience Prizes while as midnight melts into the wee hours many are still puzzling the second prize awarded to a temperate rather than temperamental player.

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