Indianapolis International Baroque Competition 

Five young Baroque instrumentalists compete for $10,000

click to enlarge Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra
  • Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra

A competition within an early music concert series--who would have guessed? The sixth and final concert program of the Indianapolis Early Music (IEM) Series launched what one hopes will be a periodic event. Five young and talented Baroque instrumentalists, previously selected by some 30 jurors to appear this Sunday as "finalists" or "laureates," displayed their wares, accompanied by the home-grown Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra (IBO)--its first appearance as part of this early summer series.

The five competition "finals" judges (one for each performer?--probably not) were IEM artistic director Mark Cudek, Barthold Kuijken, Dana Marsh, Ingrid Matthews and Jeanette Sorrell. Together they selected flutist Alexa Raine-Wright as the grand prize winner of $10,000 for her performance of C.P.E. Bach's Flute Concerto in D Minor. Raine-Wright also got the IBO player's award while the audience award went to Lauzer. The remaining laureates are trumpeter Dominic Favia, bassoonist Nate Helgeson, recorder player Vincent Lauzer and violinist Augusta McKay Lodge.

The finals concert began with Favia playing the Trumpet Concerto in D by Georg Phillipp Telemann. Favia used a valveless trumpet which may explain why he had almost consistent trouble landing on the right note. Or perhaps he was just having a bad afternoon. It's difficult to believe his audition tape to the 30 jurors was anywhere near this error prone.

Next came the grand prize winner and her C.P.E. Bach Flute Concerto. After experiencing all of Favia's sour notes, it was a pleasure to hear Raine-Wright's faultless playing.Baroque wind instruments are generally softer than their modern counterparts, and this caused Raine-Wright occasionally to be covered by the ripieno (orchestra). But we heard enough of her playing to note that it was superior indeed.

click to enlarge Grand prize winner Alexa Raine-Wright
  • Grand prize winner Alexa Raine-Wright

Helgeson had more difficulty being heard above the orchestra in the Vivaldi in his Bassoon Concerto in E-flat, RV 483. But we did experience a virtuoso bassoonist. Telemann's Suite in A Minor was the vehicle for Vincent Lauzer's virtuosity, equal to that of Helgeson--and equally soft. Contrastingly Lodge's violin work in Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in D, RV 222, shone through from first to last. Her vibrato and passage work were spot on for this period and style. She got my vote as deserving the grand prize. Still, Rain-Wright's flute playing was hard to beat--by anybody on that stage.

It remains to commend the IBO for its wholly professional performance throughout. Playing without a conductor, they were given an initial "downbeat" by each of the laureates in turn. It was almost like turning on a light switch.

Is this competition the beginning of something to recur regularly? "It's too early to tell," said Mark Cudek. "But I'm keeping my fingers crossed." July 10

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