From now on we don't have to show till at least 1:30 p.m. instead of 9:30 a.m.--and we hear only four players a day rather than
nine or ten. The International Violin Competition of Indianapolis runs with two
afternoon participants and two in the evening in its semi-finals division. Its
recital format continues at the Indiana History Center,
this time drawing from the Romantic and post-Romantic eras--always including
Beethoven, plus a new piece written for the event.
On Friday we first heard Nancy Zhow, 21, U.S., play
Beethoven's Sonata No. 4 in
A Minor, Op. 23 with Nelson Padgett, pianist; Strauss's ambitious Sonata in
E-flat, Op. 18; the performance debut of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Fantasy for
Solo Violin; and Eugene Ysaÿe's Sonata No. 6 for Solo Violin, Op. 27. The Zwilich piece
is quite accessibly tonal, its slow and fast linearity complemented by double
stops, trills and pizzicati. It starts and ends on a sustained D.
Next came Yu-Chien Tseng, 20, Taiwan,
with pianist Chih-Yi Chen offering Beethoven's mercurial Sonata No. 8 in G, Op. 30 No. 3, Ravel's "Gershwinesqued"
Sonata, also in G; Zwilich's Fantasy; and the Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25 by Pablo
Tseng was followed that evening by Ayana Tsuji -- at 16 the
youngest of the 37 participants -- from Japan.
She played Beethoven's Sonata in A, Op. 30 No. 1; Zwilich's Fantasy; the
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Saint-Saëns; and the monumental Prokofiev
Sonata No. 1 in F
Minor, Op. 80.
Tessa Lark, 25, of the U.S.
ended the evening with Beethoven's Sonata No. 8 in G; the Sonata No. 5 for solo
Violin, Op. 27 of Eugene Ysaÿe; the Zwilich Fantasy; and the Sonata No. 1 for
Violin and Piano by Bela Bartók.
Lark, who incidentally also plays top-tier bluegrass music,
easily bested her three competitors in presenting a sustained tonal beauty. She
was their equal in other criteria: virtuosity and musicality. In these latter-day IVCIs--let's say
from 1998 to the present one, few participants vary much in displaying those latter
two criteria. This
is not to say any two of them play them alike -- far from it. It is rather that their musicianship
has approached the summit of penetrating a score's depth--to the player, along
with the ability to impart this "vision" to their audiences.
What they all cannot impart is a consistent level of beauty
and tonal perfection when drawing their bow across a string and vibrating their
left fingers in such a manner as to render that tone as pleasing to the most
this day Lark reached this exalted state the most often. More to follow on the tone rendering criterion. Sept. 12; Indiana History Center