Many music professionals and devoted pianophiles were shouting Viva Italia! last night.
When Beatrice Rana failed to win the judges’ vote, they wondered why. Many feel the Competition needs to open up and change its rules. Here’s a reasoned assessment by Nina Tichman, pianist and professor at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz in Cologne.
Beatrice Rana and the Competition Question
One doesn´t have to be a gifted prophet to predict that Beatrice Rana will be – in fact, already is – one of the most significant artists of her generation. The last wonderful weeks of (addictive) live-streaming from the Cliburn Competition have shown her in every performance to be an artist with charisma, seriousness, depth, phenomenal technique, subtlety, tremendous individuality, passion and an infallible sense of style. Music lovers all over the world can look forward to many many years (Beatrice is only 20 years old) of wonderful performances from this exceptional person.
Beatrice is not the only young artist I heard in the last weeks who deserves an audience. In my conversations with former competition winners, concert pianists, colleagues, students and enthusiastic fans of different participants in the Cliburn, it has become ever more apparent that each individual listener hopes for a different kind of experience when listening to a performance. And we were treated to the gamut: innovative programming (albeit not very much of that!), fire-breathing virtuosos, reflective intellectuals and much more that cannot be labelled.
Which brings us to the “problem” – or shall we call it the “challenge” – of competitions. Although I personally will be disappointed if Beatrice does not win the First Prize unanimously, I have heard other pianists of the highest quality (actually, everyone who was admitted to the Preliminaries) whom I would love to hear again and who will certainly delight many audiences.
Hats off to the city of Fort Worth and all of the organizers, volunteers, hosts and others responsible for this event. They have again shown that Texans have not only the largest state, but also possibly the largest hearts in the country. The resources they have managed to access for this event are impressive.
But might there not be a better way to use these resources?
Some artists are good at marketing themselves, others not, so I am certainly not against the idea of an attractive forum that makes a larger audience aware of promising talent. After all, with all of the blogs, twitters, live-streaming it seems as if it could be possible to get worldwide interest in, for example, a showcase format. I imagine that, instead of a jury of illustrious teachers, who may or may not have a vested interest in seeing a certain current or former student win, why not invite or include a large pool of conductors, concert presenters, managers, record producers and have a festival in which the artists chosen to participate present themselves in recital and with orchestra in the course of a week or two and are chosen by the above panel members to appear in their series, with their orchestras, on their labels.
Maybe even write-in votes from individual concert series around the country! No first, second or third prizes, EVERYONE interested in the arts knows that there is no such thing as artistic competition, there are only artists, each with something individual to offer.
As a colleague noted in her blog, the competition at the end sometimes seems to be a huge marketing and sales proposition which will make it easier to “sell” artists, because they may have the label “Prizewinner”. Managers like to talk about “USP” = unique selling point. Well, Beatrice´s USP is that she is unique, period. She doesn´t wear outlandish clothes, she has normal hair, there are no facial histrionics when she plays, she has no unusual pets that I know of – but she plays from the depths of her being, and her performances stay with and nourish me for days afterward.
I am writing this hours before the final results are announced. My personal thanks to all 24 contestants for the enormous pleasure you have given me over the last weeks (I forgive you all my sleep-deprivation!), also to Leonard Slatkin for loving, supportive and impassioned support in the final round. I hope to hear many of you live in the years to come.
Nina Tichman is a pianist, professor at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz in Cologne.
(c) Nina Tichman/Slipped Disc. All rights reserved.