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The Star Tangled Banner - Happy July 4!

By Laurie Niles
July 4, 2015 12:02

Star-Tangled

In the U.S. we are celebrating Independence Day, but it's July 4th everywhere, so Happy Fourth! Here's an arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Stars and Stripes Forever," superimposed. It was recorded recently by Los Angeles musicians Mark Robertson & Eun-Mee Ahn, violins, Luke Maurer, viola , David Low, cello, Tom Harte, bass, Joachim Horsley - conductor and arranger. Enjoy!

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Vote: Did anyone deserve gold in the Tchaikovsky Competition?

By Laurie Niles
July 3, 2015 07:33

tchaik

As you have probably read earlier this week, the violin jury of the Tchaikovsky International Competition awarded no gold in the violin division this year.

Jury member James Ehnes explained that the way the voting worked, "no one had the votes." Of course, the perception, when you give no gold, is that no one deserved it. We don't know how the jury felt, but considering the outcome, we have to assume they did not make any extra efforts to come to a majority decision to give anyone a gold medal.

Is this actually because the "general level was simply so low," as one anonymous poster who said he/she was at the finals stated?

Modern technology allowed a reported 10 million viewers to witness this competition, so it's not like the old days, when we just had to rely on the audience that was there in person. There are plenty of discerning listeners that saw this competition and can judge as well. So, in your opinion, was the level just too low for the jury to give out a gold, and risk launching someone's career at the wrong time? Or were there performers who deserved gold, a performer that you would make the effort go see in concert? (If you want to watch some performances, here is the link for the Medici feed and archive.)

Jury members for violin were: Salvatore Accardo, Yuri Bashmet, Maxim Vengerov, Liana Isakadze, Leonidas Kavakos, Ilya Kaler, Boris Kushnir, Mihaela Martin, Vadim Repin, Roman Simovic, Viktor Tretyakov, Maxim Fedotov, Vera Tsu Wei Ling, James Ehnes, Michael Haefliger and Nikolaj Znaider.

Tchaik jury 2015
The 2015 jury, announcing semi-finalists.

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Working to Live

By Mendy Smith
July 2, 2015 18:14

Between getting a wisdom tooth pulled and finishing up a project that I've been managing for nearly two years now, it has been almost impossible to pick up my viola on a daily basis like I'm used to over the past few weeks. I won't go into how wrapping up this project was like pulling teeth as I still have recent memories of the pain of both. But today I can celebrate the completion of the project and being able get back to practicing in preparation for Interlochen!

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Though multiple sequential 12+ hour days ate into my practice time severely, somehow I still managed to eek out a few minutes here and there and once a week several hours of practice. I've become a master at practicing while doing laundry: load washer, practice 30 minutes, move laundry to dryer and add new load to washer, practice 30 minutes. Repeat until done. What is wonderful about this weekend practice schedule is that it has built-in breaks every 30 minutes or so and kills two birds with one stone.

Now with the project signed off, I can get back to my normal routine and start preparing for Interlochen this summer. This year I will be part of a pre-formed group for coaching throughout the week. We will be working on Beethoven's String Trio Op 9 #3.

The piece is not incredibly difficult technically (with limited practice time, a huge bonus), but sufficiently challenging musically. A perfect piece for a week's worth of coaching in a month and a half. It has elements of whimsy and seriousness - a perfect balance for my state of mind.

And best of all, some very juicy viola parts!

So, for the remainder of this evening I will be kicking back and relaxing, and then tomorrow morning pick back up where I left off in my practice. Camp is only a month and a half away!

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Jury Member Explains Why They Gave No Gold to Violinists at the Tchaikovsky

By Laurie Niles
July 1, 2015 22:05

After Wednesday's unusual outcome in the violin division of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition, in which no First Prize was awarded and the rankings went 2-3-3-3-4-5, I stated in a comment that "It almost feels like a breach of contract, to fail to grant the awards as promised."

I received an e-mail from jury member James Ehnes, who was taken aback by this statement.

"The rules, as published on the competition website, state that a gold medal can only be awarded in the case of a competitor receiving a super-majority of first place votes," Ehnes wrote. "We didn’t have the numbers. You and your readers can disagree with the results, but to state that we failed to grant the awards as promised is untrue."

Ehnes is technically correct. The awards, though they were not granted as expected by millions of viewers, were indeed granted as specified by the rules of the competition. Here is an explanation of those rules:

The general rules of the Tchaikovsky Competition, as stated here, say that "depending on the results achieved and with account of the fixed quantity of prices, the juries have the right a) not to award all prizes, and b) divide prizes between contestants (exception: Grand Prix and 1st Prize)."

Also, the jury rules, as stated on this page, say that "The 1st Prize/Gold Medal (the tied vote is unacceptable) can be awarded by a majority of votes (with a deciding vote of at least 8 out of 11). For special prices [sic] each judge will give one name; prices will be decided by simple majority of votes. Jury decisions are final and not revocable."

I think that the "tie is unacceptable" clause led some people to believe that the jury was required to award a gold medal to one laureate, thereby required to actually come to that super-majority consensus. However, taken with the other rule, that states that the jury has the right "not to award all prizes," the jury apparently is not actually required to award a first-prize gold medal.

So the jury did its assigned job, but what was the result? I was ready to celebrate a competition that did a stunning job of attracting worldwide attention this time around, with a reported 10 million viewers via the Internet, and so many wonderful performances. But the failure of the competition to produce a winner in the violin category, or even a clearer ranking of the laureates, was both disappointing and deflating, for participants, for audience, and for the future of the Tchaikovsky and other violin competitions.

Tchaik 2015 finalists

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