What judges look out for in competitions

October 13, 2019, 2:19 AM · Hi all,

I will be participating in a violin competition soon, and for the quarterfinals round, we are expected to present 10 minutes worth of unaccompanied Bach. I was wondering what the judges will most likely be focused on in this round -- is it mainly intonation and rhythm or rather, more of tone, musical interpretation and sense of style?

Thanks in advance!

Replies (9)

October 13, 2019, 9:02 AM · It depends on the level of the competition.

At high-prestige, but local/regional competitions, the basics will be assumed -- that the competitor has perfect rhythm, lovely tone, flawless intonation, and fundamentally sound technique. Anyone who doesn't will be immediately eliminated. Beyond that, it's refinement in musicianship.

At a competition where random local kids will enter for experience and judging comments, expect that the technical basics will be a much greater component of the score.

October 13, 2019, 9:17 AM · I'd bet that if the competitors have to prepare 10 minutes of Bach and that this is a only quarterfinal, this is a pretty serious competition for advanced (possibly pre-professional) musicians, but only the OP can speak to that. I think the simplest answer to whether the judges focus on technical things like intonation and rhythm or tone/musicality is both. There are many qualified musicians out there, so why should the judges have to choose? I agree with Lydia: intonation and rhythm are pretty much assumed, especially in Bach. When we listen to a great violinist, we might remark on their great sense of rhythm or intonation, but because these are taken care of, our attention gravitates towards their musical decisions and the story they are trying to tell with their music. So long as the fundamentals are there, I think you'd be better off focusing on making sure you are phrasing with intention and conveying the message you want to convey. Knowing what you want to say and saying it will put you leagues above many other students who are just focused on playing everything perfectly. Don't forget the technique though - it won't necessarily make you if done well but it can hurt you if not taken care of first! Best of luck :)
October 13, 2019, 9:47 AM · Thanks Lydia and Evan for your helpful responses!

Evan, I'm from Singapore and this is our national violin competition so I guess it is a pretty serious competition haha

On a separate note, the semifinals of this competition requires participants to present a virtuosic piece. I was wondering if the relative difficulty of the showpieces will be a major factor in influencing the judges' decision? I'm quite worried because there are others playing stuff like Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy and Ravel's Tzigane while I am playing Saint-Saens' Havanaise, a comparatively "easier" piece technique-wise

October 13, 2019, 10:09 AM · For Bach at that level, it would definitely be all about interpretation, musicality, historically informed performance, and so forth. I assume with that amount of time you need to do a slow and a fast movement. In the slow movement, it is all about the musical line(s) and interplay between melodies and (sometimes implied) harmonies. In the fast movements, it depends on whether it is a sonata or partita. In the partitas, you have dance movements, and they need to both sound like dances and also maintain the integrity of the original dance form. In the sonatas, you are often getting fugues, which opens up an entirely different musical can of worms.

Yes, the level of the virtuosic piece will be taken into consideration, but most important is the quality of the performance.

October 13, 2019, 10:41 AM · "musical can of worms"..

Susan - thanks for that, I have my poetic imagery for the day! The only question is, what would they be singing?

October 13, 2019, 11:47 AM · I think it depends on why you have chosen the easier piece. If it is because you are not able to manage anything more difficult and that is apparent to the judges, that will impact how well you do.
October 13, 2019, 7:00 PM · @Susan thanks for the advice -- I will be playing the Andante and Allegro from Sonata No. 2 in A minor

@Lydia my teacher chose Havanaise mainly because he felt it played to my musical strengths but there's no denying the fact that I am not able to handle showpieces like Wieniawski Variations (which one contestant is playing) yet

October 13, 2019, 7:16 PM · In a high-level competition, the beauty of tone is very important.
October 14, 2019, 1:00 AM · There have been a lot of good points, and I would also like to add that they will probably expect a true 'performer' (which isn't really a musical skill) - they want someone who can perform convincingly on stage and captivate the audience.

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