Indy Violin Competition begins preliminaries

IVCI participants

Welcome to the first of a succession of days covering the

ninth IVCI, something I've been attempting with hopefully some musico/journalistic

acumen since the second quadrennial in 1986.  Anyone spending a lifetime hearing

concert violinists with baited breath, both live and recorded, evolves a set of

criteria on which to judge their artistry level--either potential or realized--of

those he or she hears, with bygone players such as Arthur Grumiaux, Josef

Gingold, Aaron Rosand (a native Hoosier) and Jascha Heifeitz among the standard

bearers of old.  As

always, my views are pitted against those of the nine jurors, each of whom

votes by secret ballot, allowing us to see only a computer-crunched consensus

of their views.  Though

it is safe to say that my ratings won't exactly match those of the jury

consensus, it's equally safe to presume the jurors won't agree with each other--exactly.

But what I will be doing, starting today, will be no different from a host of

the attending faithful--the IVCI cognoscenti, those who can differentiate

between top-tier and lower-tier violin playing, and are eager to deploy their

thoughts to others.

The 37 participants gathered here in Indy this Sept. were

chosen from among the best of today's rising stars.  Only nine men made it to this one. Of

the 28 women, 12 are from South Korea,

making that the best represented country. The U.S.

is not far behind with 11--many of them European and Asian transplants. We hear

ten performers each day -- with appropriate breaks -- from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

comprising the preliminaries.

In the course of each passing participant's displaying

his/her talents, we had to hear a goodly number of pieces -- which each player

chose in advance from an "allowed" list -- over and over again: in particular

Bach's "Grave" and "Fuga" from his A Minor Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin,

plus his "Adagio" and "Fuga" in G Minor from the same series. We heard five

versions of Mozart's light-veined Sonata in G, K. 301 with piano accompaniment,

two of his Sonata in A, K. 305 and one of his more interesting Sonata in E Minor, K. 304. Paganini was well represented by

two caprices each from his famous set of 24 for solo violin, repeats occurring

there as well. Each player could choose one of four "furnished" competition

pianists: Nelson Padgett, Rohan de Silva, Chih-Yi Chen and Thomas Hoppe, all splendid


Of Sunday's ten performers, the best clearly was 25-year-old

Tessa Lark of the U.S.  Playing excerpts

from Bach's Partita No. 3 in

E for solo violin, Mozart's Violin Sonata (accompanied) in E-flat, K. 302, Paganini's

Caprices No. 13 and 24 for solo violin and a violin-piano arrangement of

Debussy's piano piece Beau Soir, Lark

played not only with technical aplomb but with a tonal beauty surpassing the

other nine. I picked 27-year-old Chiharu Taki of Japan

as the runner up. The remaining eight would have made all their music inspiring and delightful in another setting; here our (including myself) one obsession is with ranking them. Sept. 7; Indiana History Center.