The Winners of the Ibla Grand Prize International Music Competition


Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, April 10, 2007

A review by Jeffrey James

Editor, International Composer



May 7, 2007


The Ibla Grand Prize International Music Competition is surely one of the world’s cultural treasures. Held each year in early Summer in the glorious southeastern corner of Sicily, in the beautiful and charming Baroque city of Ragusa-Ibla, this competition has proven to be a consistently open, innovative and fertile breeding ground for musical talent of the highest order.


The competition’s founder, Dr. Salvatore Moltisanti, has created an atmosphere at this competition that encourages openness to any and all forms of music, a spirit of innovation that allows presentation of all musical styles as well as instruments (this has included performances by several types of jazz ensembles, electronic music composers, domra virtuosos, accordian players, folk singers, piano improvisers, whistlers and many others from outside the classical mainstream, as well as, of course, classical instrumental and vocal virtuosos), and a place where the ideas of wonderfully talented people can be exchanged and nurtured in a spirit of international brotherhood.


This year’s Gala concert on April 10 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall was once again the best possible proof of this and presented music making of the highest order.


The evening’s festivities opened with the gifted South Korean pianist Klara Min who performed a very forward yet nicely nuanced Liszt Etude.


Next up was composer Roberto Scarcella Perino who performed his own Basket-dance, a charming, basketball-inspired composition, complete with a referee’s whistle and a strong hint of Arthur Honegger’s Rugby homage.


Then came pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski, who was an Ibla child prodigy. Now a fully-formed talent of considerable ability and depth, he presented a strong and subtle Isolde’s Liebestod.


This was followed by one of the types of performers that make the Ibla Grand Prize unique. Kelsey Tamayo is a marimbist who has grown up as a daughter of the U.S. military. She is a natural talent of great fluidity and striking technical ability who performed a Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints by Alan Hovhaness. This was an excellent choice to showcase her considerable ability. She was accompanied by her mother on piano.


After this Janice Carissa, a young pianist from Indonesia performing Jamaican Fumble by Sonny Chua. This piece is a study in fun with odd meters that were performed with a strong, sure hand(s) and a fine control of dynamics and a particularly good left hand technique.


Next up was one of my particular favorites, Ryan Ferguson, an 11-year old pianist, also from Indonesia. He presented the gorgeous, jazzy harmonies of Nikolai Kapustin’s Etude. This was very well played by the jazzy and snazzy looking Mr. Ferguson. He is a young talent to be watched.


Indonesia was well represented again by the next young pianist, Regina Adella Tanujaya, who performed Fragment by Jaya Suprana. This piece starts as a lovely, rather traditional piece, then take a sharp turn toward the rhythmic and contemporary. Good control and nicely presented.


Then the duet of violinist Lukasz Lagun Kuzminski and pianist Alessio Quaresima presented Nigun from Baal Shem by Ernest Bloch. Kuzminski has lovely technique and a rather darkly colored sound and generally played quite well, although he was sometimes almost swamped by the accompanist.


Russian pianist Tatiana Nikitina was up next to present a Rachmaninoff Polka. Apparently, her performance was given under sad personal circumstances, but her artistry shone forth through any personal pain she may have felt and made for a lovely, evocative performance.


Another Russian pianist then came to the Carnegie stage – Liudmila Dukhan, with selections from Brahms’ 16 Walzer, Op. 39. She is a lovely young lady with a big sound and strong technique that has nice understanding and control of dynamics. Well done.


Next up was the stylish and talented Indonesian pianist and singer Ivonne Atmojo, who performed a cabaret-styled You’ll Have To Swing It (Mr. Paganini). This was a nice performance, although I might suggest a little better piano/vocal balance for future consideration. Take the piano down a bit for the sake of the vocals and also work a bit on the scat singing – it needs to have a sharper edge.


Then, Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole, as presented by the South African piano duo of Cara Hesse and Laura Pauna. Very tight teamwork and finely nuanced playing – four hands playing as two and a very good performance.


Next was the founder of the feast, Salvatore Moltisanti, and the superb Chie Sato Roden performing the World Premiere of Ibla Antica for piano four-hands, by the renowned composer, teacher, mentor and friend Marcello Abbado. This is wonderful, vivid, atmospheric music that suggests the quickening progress of time through the old and beautiful village of Ibla, or perhaps a walk through its many, many alleys, steps and side streets. It is darkly colored and tremendously evocative of this special place. The performance by Moltisanti and Sato Roden, who are superb pianists collectively and individually, was quite beautiful and moving, especially to those of us who have been privileged to visit and get to know this magical village.


This was followed by another of the types of performers that make the Ibla Grand Prize concerts unique. Soprano Simona Rodano, accompanied by pianist Alessio Quaresima, treated the audience to a medley of La Vie En Rose, Over the Rainbow, Volare and Come Fly with Me. This came complete with thematically appropriate costume changes, or more accurately, costume sheddings and was a campy, slightly goofy, but uniquely entertaining success.


Next up was Polish pianist Maciej Granat and his performance of a selection from a Kabalevsky Sonata. He has nimble fingers that created a bit of Polish thunder. The Kabalevsky was a good choice to show his considerable and motoric abilities.


Then came yet another of those performances that make the Ibla Grand Prize concerts special – panpipes virtuoso Matthijs Koene and the fine guitarist Stefan Gerritsen, both from the Netherlands. They performed Astor Piazzolla’s Nightclub 1960, and proved that the Argentinean master’s music can work in almost any setting, with almost any combination or selection of instruments. Their performance was quite wonderful and Mr. Koene showed that an instrument with seeming technical limitations can be greatly expanded by the right player.


Next up was a presentation of music by composer Pietro Floridia, a local boy from Ragusa and Modica, Sicily, whose operatic works are rarely performed today. So, to at least partially remedy this situation, the Duetto a San Giorgio from Floridia’s beautiful opera Maruzza was presented by American soprano Lisa Charles and American mezzo Charlotte Paulsen, accompanied by pianist Alessio Quaresima. Ms. Charles has a bright, lovely voice and Ms. Paulsen a lovely, dark coloration to hers. The duetto was intense, melodic and very dramatic, with fine, strong vocal performances to match – well in keeping with the spirit of the music. Perhaps we’ll hear the complete Maruzza some time in the near future…


Finally, to put a real exclamation point on the evening, the Italian piano duo of Francesco and Vincenzo DeStefano closed the festivities with a performance of the four-hands arrangement of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. You can’t lose with the Rite. The DeStefano’s made very good use of space and texture in their playing, a nice dynamic sense and seemed in complete control of this profoundly knotty score. Very, very good work, and a flashy way to end the concert.


Dr. Moltisanti and The Ibla Grand Prize organization can once again take great pride in its accomplishments, as evidenced by this varied, immensely enjoyable and wonderful concert event. This was, as it has been for many years, an ongoing showcase for this competition where the talents of superbly gifted people from around the globe can be brought to the capital of the world, New York City, in a spirit of international brotherhood.


Jeffrey James

Editor, International Composer



May 7, 2007