Classical music review | What you missed He walks awkwardly onstage wearing a loose-fitting white shirt and possessing a longer gait than his height would suggest. His slender frame is topped with dark, curly hair and an impassively stoic expression, rarely allowing itself a smile. His countenance appears almost too boyish for a 17-year-old. Sergey Khachatryan, spawned from the unlikely country of Armenia into a family of accomplished pianists, mesmerized those attending the Sixth Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis as no previous fiddle player has done since the two-week event"s founding in 1982.

Sergey Khachatryan, spawned from the unlikely country of Armenia into a family of accomplished pianists, mesmerized those attending the Sixth Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. However, this young genius is not the sixth IVCI gold medallist.

Heard from myriad musicians, music lovers and music attending cognoscenti alike were such comments as: "His playing stirs me like none of the others," "When he first draws his bow across his instrument, I know I"m hearing something special," "Sergey"s playing is riveting; I can hear nothing else," "He"s the only participant I"d drive to another city to hear." In fact, Khachatryan"s playing during the IVCI Preliminaries, Semifinals and Finals differed in kind - more than in degree - from his fellow participants, including his five associate finalists. In his survey of violin repertoire from the daunting, unaccompanied Bach D Minor "Chaconne" through the Sibelius D Minor Violin Concerto with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra almost a fortnight later - and to a standing, thundering Hilbert Circle Theatre ovation - he nearly redefined what a violin should sound like Ö for us local hinterlanders. Khachatryan combines the tonal perfection of the late Arthur Grumiaux with the fire and virtuosic flair of the late Jascha Heifetz. No other IVCI participant - including the previous five gold medallists - has come close to this level of playing. From the strident textures of the BartÛk Solo Violin Sonata to the languidly seductive slow movement of Mozart"s Third Violin Concerto, the young Armenian - now residing with his family in Frankfurt, Germany - communicated all the music"s associated emotions while hardly ever betraying an ugly sound. As for interpretive nuance, one can always pick on the manner a musician executes any given passage. As for mistakes, any musician, no matter how celebrated, occasionally makes them. Khachatryan was no exception, displaying a few technical slips in Sibelius" outer movements. While all of them will grow, musically, from their prodigal beginnings, the other five finalists will never - no matter how long their careers - duplicate the beauty and the arresting nature of Khachatryan"s sound. Which is precisely why I am a bit distressed to report that this young genius is not the sixth IVCI gold medallist. That most prestigious award went to Barnabas Kelemen, 24, of Budapest, Hungary - who received the computer-determined first-place ranking from the independent ratings of the IVCI"s nine jurors. Kelemen probably tipped the scales in his favor with his splendid performance of his countryman BÈla BartÛk"s celebrated Violin Concerto No. 2 - a 20th century landmark of the genre. But Khachatryan did win the second place silver medal, which for the "Indianapolis" still affords much prestige, cash and numerous performance opportunities, including a return to Indy to play with Suzuki and Friends on Feb. 4. For the record, the third place bronze medal went to Soovin Kim (26, USA). Fourth place laureate was awarded to Frank Huang (24, USA), fifth to Susie Park (20, Australia) and sixth to Alina Pogostkin (18, Germany). The jurors, all distinguished violinists, consisted of chairman Jaime Laredo (USA); Olivier Charlier, IVCI fourth place laureate in 1982 (France); Tuomas Haapanen (Finland); Ida Kavafian, IVCI silver medallist in 1982 (USA); Mikhail Kopelman (Russia); Cho Liang Lin (Taiwan); Malcolm Lowe (Canada); Gyorgy Pauk (Hungary); and Kyoko Takezawa, IVCI gold medallist in 1986 (Japan). To give the other five finalists their just due, however, any one of them has the talent to forge a successful career either as a concertizing soloist or as a renowned chamber player. I found myself rating them at a level so close as to be unable to rank them, two through six - including Kelemen - but all quite high on the scale of achievement heard over the IVCI"s 20 years. The "Indianapolis" is now, for sure, attracting the world"s best. There was, however, another player superior, in my view, to all participants save for Khachatryan. That was Nemanja Radulovic, 16, of Yugoslavia, whom the jurors saw fit to exclude from the finals. Radulovic"s rendering of EugËne Ysa�e"s four-movement Solo Violin Sonata No. 2 in the Semis was ravishing and reminiscent of veteran world-class violinist (and native Hoosier) Aaron Rosand"s account of it here many years ago. The jurors reportedly wracked their brains such that the computer failed to spit out the winner till after midnight last Saturday, following the last Finals concert. However, for me, for my musician wife, for the numerous competition faithful with whom I compared notes - including an ex-IVCI staffer - and, finally, for the audiences at large ... the choice was obvious.

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