Music competition – preliminary round – results
2018 Prague Spring International Music Competition
This May will bring the jubilee 70th annual Prague Spring International Music Competition – 118 young musicians from twenty-seven countries will be coming to Prague to compete on French horn and cello.
The Prague Spring International Music Competition is unusual in that each year it selects a different combination of two instruments (from a total of eleven). “It has been six years since the last cello competition, and the time has gone by unbelievably quickly,” recalls Michal Kaňka, chairman of the permanent competition committee. “Because I was present for the audition of the recordings, the ‘preliminary round’, in 2012 and again last week, I was very interested in whether the development of cello interpretation had changed course over those few years.” A direct competition can be made, because in both competitions, the competing young cellists had to record their interpretations of the same works – the first movements of Haydn’s Concerto in C Major and of Popper’s Elfentanz. “The interpretation of this Haydn work is a bit ‘established’ by the top soloists that we can hear at concerts and on the internet. The speed of Popper’s virtuosic Elfentanz this year has definitely increased. The little piece lasting three and a half minutes goes constantly in sixteenth notes. It was not exceptional to measure a metronome marking of quarter note equals 190. Of course, we also heard performers who reached a constant speed of 200, and it seemed that we had heard the maximum, until we heard one player top even that, maintaining the inhuman tempo of 212,” recalls Kaňka, and he adds with a bit of detachment: “Now I know this isn’t supposed to be a horserace, but every detail like that captivated and affected us as listeners.”
106 cellists applied from 28 countries. South Korea was the most heavily represented – of 26 applicants, eighteen were invited to Prague. They were followed by the Czech cellists – of fifteen applicants, six were invited on the basis of hearing their recordings.
In the field of French horn, there were 94 talented young applicants from 26 countries. The committee selected 59 horn players to receive invitations to Prague. Germany and the Czech Republic were represented by the largest numbers – nine players each, followed by France and Spain (with six each).
“Listening to all of the recordings that came in from all round the world for the preliminary round of the competition left a very good impression, and filled me with great anticipation of what is to come,” says the solo horn player of the Czech Philharmonic Ondřej Vrabec. “From that pile of recordings, there were two or three really exclusive, amazing performances that stood out. As chance would have it, one such recording came at the start of listening marathon that went on for many hours. So already early in the morning, the facial muscles of everyone on the jury were getting a workout, and the competition team jokingly wondered whether one of the competitors hadn’t snuck in Radek Baborák’s definitive recording,” recalls Ondřej Vrabec jokingly.
The members of the competition jury are such renowned cellists as the winner of the 2006 Prague Spring Competition Tomáš Jamník, Petr Nouzovský, Miroslav Petráš, Mikael Ericsson, and Michal Kaňka. The submitted recordings of young horn players were evaluated by Ondřej Vrabec together with the Dean of the Faculty of Music at the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts Jindřich Petráš, Zdeněk Divoký, and laureate of the 2013 Prague Spring Competition and member of the Czech Philharmonic Kateřina Javůrková.
What Awaits Competitors in May
As usual, the competition will begin on 7 May with the ceremonial opening and the drawing of the order of appearance by cellists in Martinů Hall, where the first two rounds will take place. The finals will be at the Rudolfinun on 13 May accompanied by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra led by Jiří Rožeň, and Dvořák’s Cello Concerto will be heard, of course. In addition, finalists will have to demonstrate their mastery in a solo suite by Johann Sebastian Bach.
The French horns will begin competing on 9 May at the National House of Vinohrady. The finals will once again be at the Rudolfinum and in an innovative format. Half of the concert will be a chamber music performance by the finalists with the Wihan Quartet, then in the second half they will play Richard Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 2 accompanied by the PKF – Prague Philharmonia with the conductor Marek Šedivý.
There will be additions to the collection of compositions written especially for the Prague Spring competition. Receiving their premieres will be Feather of the Firebird for solo cello by Ivan Kurz and Virtuosino for French horn and piano by Jiří Gemrot.
Tickets to the final round are already being sold, and tickets to the first two rounds will be available from 12 March.