Pros and cons of musical competitions

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TENOR Rodell Rosel as Ruiz in “Il Trovatore”: A special winner in the 2010 Jose Iturbi Competition, he became the first Filipino tenor to sing at the Met.

The good news is that prizewinners of the National Music Competition for Young Artists (Namcya) have more performance opportunities now.

On Aug. 2 at CCP Little Theater (8 p.m.), Gabriel Paguirigan, Jimmy Tagala (protege of virtuoso Gilopez Kabayao) and Jeline Oliva will render the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto No. 1; Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2; and Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2.

They will all be accompanied by the PPO under the baton of Olivier Ochanine.

PIANIST Oliver Salonga

On Aug. 3, New Musicians Guild will present two-time Namcya First Prize winner Oliver Salonga in a solo recital at San Antonio Parish Center in Forbes Park.

Salonga was Schumann-concerto soloist of the PPO in 2004 under the baton of Ruggero Barbieri. He is the first Filipino gold medalist at the 2008 Joenju International Piano Competition in South Korea.

Meanwhile, Asian musicians (notably Koreans) dominated the 2012 William Kapell International Piano Competition in Maryland.

Yekwon Sunwoo was declared First Prize winner after an impressive rendering of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Center.

The only Filipino member of the international jury was Cecile Licad.

Licad did not join such competitions but she got the Leventritt Gold Medal that had been given earlier to Van Cliburn and Gary Graffman.

Graffman was a regular Manila visitor in the ’70s and ’80s, and Cliburn was a gold medalist in the first Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow in 1958.

To celebrate this musical feat, a group of music teachers and citizens from Fort Worth, Texas, created the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1962. Two Filipino musicians—conductor Luis Valencia and Lucresia Kasilag—were once on the jury of this competition.

Velasco, Arrieta, Cruz

Tenor Noel Velasco was our first and last winner of the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition.

Rowena Arrieta took part in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia and placed fifth in the same competition where Brazilian cellist Antonio Meneses (father of Licad’s son Otavio) got the gold medal.

However, Arrieta won first place in the José Iturbi Competition in Spain and the Frinna Auerbach in New York.

Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz later placed second in the competition.

SOUTH Korean pianist Yekwon Sunwoo, First Prize winner in the 2012 William Kapell International Piano tilt. Competitions do not necessarily produce star pianists.

Many years ago violinist Carmencita Lozada became the first and last winner of the Paganini Competition in Italy.

Iloilo-born pianist Maria Luisa Lopez Vito was also a winner (4th) in the second Van Cliburn Competition, where Radu Lupu of Rumania got the first place.

Singapore-based Filipino pianist Albert Tiu was a First Prize winner of the Unisa International Piano Competition in Pretoria, South Africa. He also received prizes from international piano competitions in Calgary, Santander and Helsinki.

It may be noted that Reynaldo Reyes and Raul Sunico, now UST music dean and CCP president, were also prizewinners of the Busoni Competition in Italy.

Two years ago, Filipino tenor Rodell Rosel won the President’s Prize and the People’s Choice Award at the José Iturbi Competition.

All these statistics tell us that Filipino musicians can compete with the best in the world. But joining competitions can also do harm.

I know of one Filipino contestant who stopped his music lessons when he lost in a competition. If some stories were to be believed, he became suicidal.

Not all prizewinners have made a remarkable career. At least 60 percent of winners never really made a career as a regular concertizer. Many found rewarding job in the academe.

Stop the nonsense

On the whole, music teachers should stop putting nonsense on their pupils’ heads that winning a competition is the crowning glory of a musician’s life. Competing is just a means to an end, not the be-all of a musician’s existence.

A top prizewinner of the Paganini Competition in Italy, the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud in Paris, and the Tchaikovsky Competition in his homeland, Russian violinist Vladimir Spivakov said he didn’t believe in competitions but that he had a kind word for it because it was the only way young people were given the chance to show what they had.

“I know a great artist who only placed 7th in Brussels and that’s a reflection on the judges,” he said. “Some artists who are equally good don’t find competitions a place in which to show what they have. The ideal setup would be to choose five equal winners and open the door for them. We have examples of First Prize winners who in reality are nothing.”

Romanian diva Nelly Miricioiu, a Grand Prize winner of the Maria Callas International Voice Competition, said she didn’t believe in competing with other artists. “I am more comfortable competing with myself.”

For the Aug. 3 concert of Oliver Salonga, call Michael Puyat at 2110340 or 0917-7932371. For the CCP Prizewinners Concert, call 8321125.

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