September 23, 2010 at 3:09 PM
It was an all-Mozart evening Wednesday at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, with three of the six finalists playing in the Classical Concerto Finals.
I was not here for the preliminary and semi-final rounds of the competition last week, so this was my first time hearing violinists Andrey Baranov, 24, of Russia; Antal Szalai, 29, of Hungary; and Clara-Jumi Kang, 23, of Germany and South Korea.
They did not disappoint. I now see the reason for all the buzz I've been hearing about the “high level” of this particular pool of contestants. About 270 people came to hear the concert, held in the the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center.
Each violinist was accompanied by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, with guest conductor Samuel Wong. Unfortunately the orchestra was plagued with faulty horn entrances and timid string playing, which contrasted rather conspicuously with the degree of polish and shine each soloist brought to the endeavor.
Whether the orchestra or solo part, Mozart is revealing and unforgiving. Every entrance must hit the target dead-on; every last bit of intonation must be pristine. Call it the high-definition television of classical music: every little flaw will show.
The evening began with Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major played by Andrey Baranov, playing on his 1682 Andrea Guarneri.
He got things rolling with a little surprise run into the Allegro Aperto, a movement which he played with a nice, bouncy feel. He used a cadenza I did not recognize, perhaps his own? His second movement was simply-stated and straightforward. Before the second-movement cadenza, I enjoyed the effective way he melted his sound into the accompaniment to bring out the line in the woodwinds and orchestra. His presence on stage was solid and assuring.
Next up was Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, with Antal Szalai, whose fiddle seemed a bit low, but maybe it was just the darker color of its sound in comparision to Baranov's. These are the kinds of inadvertent comparisons that creep up in competitions! I enjoyed the way his second movement ended, and then how the third movement seemed to suit him so well.
Clara-Jumi Kang also played Mozart Concerto No. 5, though I did not feel even slightly tired of the piece, hearing it twice – both Baranov and Kang had their own versions.
Kang's was elegant and clean. I noticed at least one occasion in which she was using extensions to get around the fingerboard, which when played with accuracy (as she did), can make things even cleaner. She used the Joachim cadenzas, and I would certainly point any student of mine to her performance for a nice primer in using these oft-played cadenzas to good effect. I found her “a la Turk” in the last movement to be downright exciting, full of verve and precision, with well-channeled energy.
Tomorrow night: the second night of the Classical Concerto Finals, with Benjamin Beilman, 20, of the United States, playing Haydn Concerto No. 1 in C; Haoming Zie, 20, of China, playing Mozart Concerto No. 5; and Soyoung Yoon, 25, of South Korea playing Mozart Concerto No. 3. And the wonderful thing? You can listen to the performances I described above, and to the ones tonight!
I cannot wait to get home and listen to Andrey Baranov with better speakers/head phones than these here at work. His violin sounds incredibly bright, which in the hands of a good violinist can make those lovely bell like over tones sing adding lovely color to a peice especially the Mozart!
Laurie, the level is extremely high indeed and the same happened in Montreal in May. What I particularly appreciate is also the level of their musicianship... As I wrote before,there is no room anymore for the flashy violinists and hyper-virtuoso... You must excel in everything ,but the main criteria is profound understanding of the music, style and individuality!!!
They are also very professional in the way that they present themselves.
I agree, non of them look superficial or "over done"' showbiz... Hope they'll all be happy with what they did! Bravo to them!!
Really LOVED Kang's Mozart. Especially the cadenza in the first mvt!
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