The Winners of the Ibla Grand Prize International Music Competition


Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, April 29, 2010

Jeffrey James

Editor, International Composer


May 18, 2010


The Ibla Grand Prize International Music Competition has become one of the world’s cultural treasures. Held each year in early Summer in the magnificent southeastern corner of Sicily, in the quietly beautiful and charming Baroque city of Ragusa-Ibla, this competition has proven to be a consistent and world-class showcase for musical talent of the highest order.


The competition’s founder, Dr. Salvatore Moltisanti, himself one of the great pianists of our time, has created an atmosphere that encourages openness to any and all forms of music, allowing presentations of all musical styles as well as instruments (this has included several types of jazz ensembles, domra virtuosos, accordionists, folk singers and many others from outside the classical mainstream, as well as instrumental and vocal performers of standard and contemporary repertoire), and creating a place where the ideas of wonderfully talented people can be nurtured in a spirit of international respect.


This year’s Gala concert on April 29 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall was, as we have come to expect, the best possible evidence of this, presenting musicianship of the highest order.


The evening’s festivities opened with the young American pianist Oliver Betz, a very engaging young man. Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of the New York City mass transit system, I did not get to the hall in time to hear Oliver perform, but I find it remarkable that someone so young should even consider presenting J.S. Bach and Beethoven. Given the audience reaction as I was entering Weill Hall, his performance must have been quite fine.


Next up was Japanese violinist Sumire Hirotsuro. She has a big, sure sound that easily filled the hall. The very fancy fingerwork in the Sarasate was adroitly handled and she really seemed to catch fire in the closing pages of the piece. Audience reaction was very warm and enthusiastic. Her accompanist, Poland’s Anna Rutkowska- Shock, provided her usual fine support.


Ms. Rutkowska- Shock then returned to the stage for some Chopin, especially appropriate given her being Polish and 2010 being the composer’s 200th birthday (although he doesn’t look a day over 175.) This was Chopin from the source. Her Nocturne was beautiful, all moonlight and delicate shades and the Waltz was also wonderfully nuanced. She really is a special talent with a beautiful touch, both as soloist and as accompanist.


Then came young Italian pianist Jacopo Giovannini, a cute little 12 year old playing more Chopin. He seemed to have a good handle on the Mazurka, with snazzy finger work and a good sense of nuance. His Etude needs a bit of work, but he still has plenty of time to grow into this music.


Following this was the extraordinary talent of whistler Michael Barimo. This young man from New York whistles with truly astonishing accuracy and intonation. He performed Verdi and Mozart arias with his usual jaw-dropping style and musicality. I was especially taken with two young ladies sitting several rows ahead of me who had obviously never heard anything quite like this before. If you haven’t either, you can find several of his performances on YouTube. As always, something remarkable to hear. And, as usual, sympathetic accompaniment from Anna Rutkowska-Schock.


Next, Salvatore Moltisanti favored us with his artistry. He has been a champion of such composers as Messiaen and Crumb, so it was really no surprise when he gave us a darkly beautiful reading of solo piano music of the much undervalued Paul Hindemith. It is truly the world’s loss that this man is not performing on more concert stages and that he is not performing more Hindemith. Both composer and pianist have much to say and the best possible technique with which to say it.


This was followed by the Hungarian soprano Adrienn Miks, a beautiful woman in a beautiful gown. She presents a big, well-focused voice that is strong throughout her range. Very nice use of dynamics in the Manon and good acting (always a plus for singers). More good work from the redoubtable Ms. Rutkowska-Schock.


Next was Italian pianist Gloria Campaner, winner of the 2009 Prokofiev Prize. She gave us wonderful, lush, deep Rachmaninoff, perhaps a bit too much so, but lovely nonetheless. The second movement showed more of her range, although I’d like to hear a bit of work on her sense of texture. I missed some of the dramatic thrust so important to the Wagner Liebestod, but there were again some marvelous moments. The same held true for her Prokofiev Toccata – it needs more drive and thunder, although she showed good fingerwork and control of resources.


Adrienn Miks returned for Vissi d’arte. Nobody wrote ‘em like Puccini and Ardrienn presented the aria wonderfully, with fine use of vocal dynamics and again, very good acting. She has an agreeably natural stage presence and really knows how to sell a song.


Then composer/pianist David Cieri performed his original improvised music. These interesting keyboard rambles hint at many contemporary and classical influences and use some extended techniques inside the piano. He shows flashes of real wit and a good organizational and musical imagination. He also seems to have brought his own loud and very supportive claque.


Finally, to end things, American Daniel Lessner presented an extended section of J.S. Bach’s The Goldberg Variations. This was fine, fine Bach – intelligent, cohesive, logical, beautifully controlled, with an almost organic naturalness. There is real substance to his Goldberg. This is never an easy piece to make sense of, and Mr. Lessner managed admirably. I’d be interested to hear his complete take on this most challenging of keyboard masterworks.


Once again, Dr. Moltisanti and The Ibla Grand Prize organization can take great pride in its accomplishment, as seen in this varied and wonderful concert. This was, as it has been for many years, a 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, for all to see and enjoy.


Jeffrey James

Editor, International Composer


May 18, 2010