#4: Daring Greatly

  • #Clarinet
  • #Violin

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To study music, we must learn to rules. To CREATE music, we must break them. — Nadia Boulanger

All through their training, musicians are taught to absorb critique and be open to new inputs. For many performers, it takes years to let go of this student mentality that drives growth but can rob a player of confidence in their own instincts and creativity. Making the transition to greater self-direction at the right stage can be career defining. Musicians at various points in this journey have been present in this competition.

As young musicians emerge into the competitive sphere of professional life, a certain independence of spirit begins to pay dividends. The willingness to take calculated risks: dancing with enjoyment on the line between disaster and transcendence, is a quality that compels an audience, and a jury. Courage combined with craft. Competition - behind all the refinement of technique - is gladiatorial. As we move into the clarinet semifinals, that risk-taking quality becomes the filter defining who will make it to the final.

In a second round characterized by potent emotional commitment and bold stylistic choices, players’ decisions of programming order and contemporary offering revealed a great deal about temperament as well as musicianship. Semi-finalists Kim and Chiesa offered the same program in the same order but brought out very different qualities, Kim’s performance characterized by a gentle, sonorous warmth and Chiesa’s by a raw energy wielded within a strong technical framework. Clarinetists accompanied by Vivian Fan benefited from a particularly lush swell of orchestral quality sound, which both Tikhonov and Guerra seemed to relish, Guerra in particular opening out his performance to the audience with a clarity of emotional expression that blazed musically and physically. A notably unique, poised and bold performance came from sole remaining female contender Ann Lepage, whose choice of Boulez allowed her to display (after discovering a lovely range of sonority and emotional expression in the Brahms), a fierce technical command for managing her instrument and person throughout the extremes of Domaines, a feat no other contestant remaining attempted.


Semi-Finalists: Clarinet

  • Aron Chiesa, 22, Italy
  • Víctor Díaz Guerra, 22, Spain
  • Han Kim, 22, South Korea
  • Ann Lepage, 22, France
  • Blaz Sparovec, 24 Slovenia
  • Ivan Tikhonov, 24, Russia


Amongst the violinists emerging into the second round, there was no less interest to be had, with the still wide field comprising the widest age range of the competition, spanning a full decade of finesse and experience, though the musicianship itself occupied a tight sphere of command. It’s always striking to see how different pieces seem to draw out otherwise latent aspects of a player, so that they may seem a totally different performer one to the next. Such was the case with Arata Yumi, whose deliberate, intentional Beethoven was followed by an electrifying Piazzola Tango Etude. Other players exuded an emotional intensity that communicated from the first breath, this was particularly apparent in Ava Bahari’s compelling renderings of both the Beethoven Op. 30 No. 2 and her Kreisler Op. 6, a story told with some sophistication. Other players were drawn inward by their playing, at times this invited, as to a whisper; but at times shut out. Regardless, this much was clear: we were entertained.


Second Round: Violin

  • Ava Bahari, 22, Sweden
  • Wonbeen Chung, 21, South Korea
  • Anna Agafia Egholm, 22, Denmark
  • Johan Dalene, 18, Sweden
  • Michael Germer, 16, Denmark
  • Marie-Astrid Hulot, 21, France
  • Hina Maeda, 16, Japan
  • Saina Matsuoka, 25, Japan
  • Dmitry Smirnov, 24, Russia
  • Sueye, Park, 18, South Korea
  • Belle Ting, 18, Canada
  • Arata Yumi, 26, Japan

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