Here they are, folks: With our collectively baited breaths, we patiently waited till 8 p.m. Wednesday — about an hour and a half following Stefani Collins’ appearance as the 40th and final preliminary participant — to learn which 16 the nine jurors picked to move on to the semifinals.
The list is as follows, keeping the order they played in the preliminaries:
Andrey Baranov — 24 — Russia
Noah Bendix-Balgley — 26 — U.S.
Stella Chen — 17 — U.S.
Antal Szalai — 29 — Hungary
Yoonshin Song — 28 — S. Korea
Clara-Jumi Kang — 23 — Germany/S. Korea
Danbi Um — 20 — S. Korea
Valentina Svyatlovskaya — 27 — Russia
David McCarroll — 24 — U.S.
Eric Silberger — 21 — U.S. (Indianapolis)
Nikki Chooi — 21 — Canada
Benjamin Beilman — 20 — U.S.
Josef Špacek — 23 — Czech Republic
Jiafeng Chen — 23 — China
Soyoung Yoon — 25 — S. Korea
Haoming Xie — 20 — China
Most of the choices were those I had rated highly, with my three top ones being Eric Silberger (no chauvinism involved here, I promise), Stella Chen and Soyoung Yoon, the latter player dazzling with her tonal and expressive beauty Wednesday afternoon as she sailed through Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Paganini. The only player I thought receiving short shrift was Stephanie Jeong, who ironically made it to the semis in 2006 while Silberger did not.
I felt Jeong was superior to a number of those who did advance this time.
Jeong and Silberger were two of four who returned to the IVCI from four years ago, the other two being Eunice Keem and Svyatlovskaya. And — like the former two — it was Keem who advanced to the semis in 2006 and not Svyatlovskaya. Were Jeong and Keem playing worse now than four years ago? Did they go up against players with a higher average caliber? Did they fail to improve as much as did Silberger and Svyatlovskaya? Or were they merely ousted by such a simple thing as how each juror weighted his criteria (and they are all free to weight them as they choose), with the randomness emerging from enough jurors’ “take” on these players at this time for the computer to disgorge them from the top 16?
We’ll never know.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter. The playing caliber in these preliminaries was as high or higher than any recent IVCI, and far higher than the earlier ones. As each participant took his/her turn on stage, a certain quality of professionalism emerged—one right after the other, forcing a degree of ordinarily unnecessary pickiness on my part to make the distinctions required in competitions.
I had several favorites, which I’ve named; below that level, I could have been equally satisfied with most of the others advancing — except that only 16 can. I think I’m quite content that I’m not — and never will be — a juror.