Paul F. Zweifel
For the third year in succession, some of the winners of the international IBLA music competition gave a concert at Radford University the night after having performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The background of the IBLA performances and their connection with the Bartok-Kabalevsky-Prokofiev competition(s) can be found in my reviews of the two previous Radford concerts on the website www.ibla.org, to which the reader is referred.
This year for the first time the IBLA concert was moved from Radford University’s large (1500 seat) Preston Auditorium to the smaller, and friendlier confines of the Norwood Room in the University’s Bondurant Center. The opportunity to hear chamber music in this intimate setting rather than a large venue more appropriate for symphonic or operatic performances was as real treat, and the close-to-capacity audience responded enthusiastically.
The scope of the IBLA competition has expanded considerably during the years that is has been in existence. This was evidenced by performers from Indonesia and South Africa in addition to the more usual representations from Poland, Italy in addition to the U.S. and Russian participants (a cellist and a pianist who had earlier won the Prokofiev portion of the competition) were expected to attend, but were unable to obtain U.S. visas.
The three Indonesian participants were all young, and all played the piano. They included eight-year-old Janice Carissa, eleven-year-old Ryan Ferguson, and 13-year-old Regina Adelia Tanajaya. Their short presentations included both solos and a six-hand piece, all apparently chosen to demonstrate their technical keyboard virtuosity. From what the audience heard, great things can be expected as these young people mature.
(A fourth Indonesian, Harvstianto Swanopati, was listed on the program but, also prevented by inability to obtain a U.S. visa, was not able to perform.)
The two highlights of the program were a performance of the rather long (24-minute) Piano Sonata No.2, op. 45 in Eb Major of Dmitri Kabalevsky played by Maciej Granat of Poland and the marimba-xylophone solo by 15-year old Kelsey Tamayo of the U.S. Both of these pieces were technically demanding, both performers displayed considerable virtuosity, and both were rewarded by loud and prolonged applause. But as was the case of most of the program, the musical selections seemed to have been chosen to demonstrate technical proficiency more than musical expression (the andante sostenuto movement of the Kabalevsky being perhaps the exception that proves the rule). I personally would also like to see what these fine young musicians could do with music of other genres, thinking for example of the beautiful performance by Gesa Leucker of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13 in the 2005 Radford concert. Granat, the winner of the Kabalevsky competition, also served extra duty as a page-turner for some of the other performers, and was praised by the IBLA director and concert emcee, Salvatore Moltisanti, for his pleasant demeanor and cooperation in mentoring many of the younger performers.
The duo pianists from South Africa, Cara Hesse and Laura Pauno, continued, nobly, in the virtuosic mold with a splendid rendition of Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnol. Lukasz Lagun Kuziminski, a Polish violinist, played two pieces accompanied by the Italian pianist, Alessio Quaresima, who also accompanied Italian soprano Simona Rodano in a medley of show tunes (La Vie en Rose, Volare, Over the Rainbow, etc.) Kuzininski did have an opportunity to demonstrate his musicality with a rendition of Ernest Bloch’s Nigun, a Jewish prayer. Quaresima, who seems to be turning into a professional accompanist, also accompanied violinist Kyoko Ishigame in last year’s concert. Rodano displayed competence for the type of music she chose; it is a pleasure to hear such music sung by a well-trained musician, as opposed to what one usually hears on Broadway and in the cinema (I am thinking especially of the woeful singing in Phantom of the Opera).
Piano virtuosi Moltisanti and Chi Sato Roden concluded the program with a performance of Ibla Antica by Marcello Abbado (brother of Claudio). This four-hand piece involved considerable hand-crossing and extensive plucking of the piano strings (as opposed to striking the keys). Two years ago the same pair played another piece which also involved manual manipulation of the strings, that one by George Crumb.
The audience gave the performers, who came forward for a joint bow at the end of the program, a well-merited standing ovation. But for next year’s program, Maestro Moltisanti might consider scheduling an intermission. The length of the program (almost two hours) became a little tiring for the old (like myself) and the children, a number of whom were in attendance.