Former Queen Elisabeth Competition prizewinners share their insiders’ takes on finals week at a competition in which contestants appear, two per night, after spending a week in splendid isolation at the Royal College (La Chapelle) Brussels with no access to the outside world including the lure of social media and cell phones.
1980 First Prizewinner Yuzuko Horigome noted with a tinge of whimsy, “I actually enjoyed that week at La Chapelle because when I arrived in Brussels, I was so young, so impressionable and most of all did not speak any language aside from Japanese. I was very isolated to begin with because of the language barrier and did not know what was expected of me aside from my best effort to play the violin. I was more afraid to communicate with words than with music! My advice to all contestants: be yourself!”
2015 Jury Member Mihaela Martin and a top prizewinner that same year opines, “we had such a camaraderie at La Chapelle, we shared fingerings for difficult passages in the compulsory work, took out our frustrations on the ping pong table to relax while realizing that within a few days we would be competing with one another. My advice to contestants these days is that they should not be afraid to really show themselves as performers. If you are too tentative and hide behind an interpretation that is not yours, you will never convince yourself, a jury and of course not an audience!”
Jury member and prizewinner Marco Rizzi (1993) chooses his words carefully as he takes the long-run philosophical approach to competitive performances. “You must stand behind your interpretations in a deep and convincing manner. Take the jury by the hand; lead your audience into your world. If you are brave and opt for an unexpected approach, make sure you have the artistic power not to speak of honesty in order to render your choice believable and palpable. Are you the creative type who writes cadenzas? Make sure there is some stylistic relevance to what you do, after all if you are creating a cadenza for a Mozart concerto, you are competing with one of the greatest compositional talents of all times: be original but always respectful."
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