The 10th Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors

18/11/2017 1st STAGE, MORNING SESSION

18/11/2017 1st STAGE, MORNING SESSION

 Yu-An Chang (Taiwan)

 

 - G. Rossini – Overture to the opera “The Thieving Magpie”,
 - L. van Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor op. 67

 

 

The first conductor in the competition: interesting, cheerful, spontaneous, as if he was in his teens, and in fact he is 32! It was a strong beginning, an excellent forecast for the nearest future. Competent, but most of all incredibly vigorously reacting to everything encrypted in the notes, as well as in …. the orchestra musicians. And the orchestra appreciates it – it plays beautifully. If there is anything he is not satisfied with, even the most minute articulation issue, he comments and corrects it right away, with the same spontaneity. Unconstrained, smiling – it is a true pleasure to watch, listen to, and admire such a personality. Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven is like a hike in the Himalayas for contestants. All they have is a quarter of an  hour, and the workload and pressure are enormous. How to begin for the entire mechanism to work out, so as to go on building the performance peacefully and interestingly… No problem for the Taiwanese. Ever since the first motif, he impresses with his confidence and incredible energy. He is assisted in it by the orchestra, and it is great help as the musicians know this piece inside out – they hit all the right notes, one is tempted to write. With great precision they implemented all his comments, but the comments were made in such a nice and cheerful way that there just could not be any problems whatsoever in this respect. And then the 2nd movement was requested – quite fortunately, as he showed us the fluidity and elegance of his movements, he demonstrated his musical flexibility and great expertise. You could hear his conscious directing of the whole performance. No clichés, no empty smoothness, and instead amazing openness and an excellent approach to work, which for him is a pleasure, but also a wonderful adventure. An excellent beginning!

 

 Henry Hao-An Cheng (Taiwan)

 

 - G. Rossini – Overture to the opera “The Thieving Magpie”,
 - L. van Beethoven – Symphony No. 7 in A major Op. 92

 

 

Even better! More composed, perhaps because of the fact he is two years older than his predecessor? He is 34 years old, and it is a respectable age for a young conductor, taking part in the competition. He was very presentable on the podium. He looked more serious, and perhaps he was not that spontaneous and vigorous. But most certainly he did not lack in the smile and calmness – these two features are common for both conductors (besides their nationality). He is incredibly cheerful, he is not in a hurry, he knows it is just a rehearsal and that he will not manage to demonstrate everything. His work on the overture was very good, and on the symphony – very interesting, too. He demonstrated watchfulness and sensitivity to each minute nuance. Incidentally, he beautifully frowned upon the strings, quite careless in that particular moment. He worked effectively, professionally. Consequently, it was a pleasure to listen to him and to watch him. He interpreted naturally, without any  excessive philosophising, without any unnecessary movements, but calmly, professionally, and with a cheerful face. He, too, reacted to performance-related issues in a suitable manner, correcting them right away with a considerable dose of wit. Another conductor I would like to see at the 2nd stage!

 

 Mateusz Czech (Poland)

 

 - G. Verdi – Overture to the opera “The Force of Destiny”,
 - L. van Beethoven – Symphony in C minor Op. 67

 



Would I like to see the Pole? Of course I would, but will I? We will find out in several days. The Pole is 28 years old, but I wasn’t particularly enchanted by him. The orchestra musicians were perfect allies for his performance, too, so perhaps this is why he did not work too much? He conducted a lot and let the ensemble play. Is it good or bad? In my view, not too good, because the band often plays here as if it was wound up (pardon the expression), and asking them to change a bit the music they know nearly by heart can be something really valuable and important. There is nothing wrong in it, but this fact, if I heard it correctly, caused an honest and significant comment of the conductor, “You know this piece  perfectly well – why don’t we try and compose something then.” And this is all it should be about! At the beginning of the fate motif in Symphony No. 5 the Pole was not really confident, and the same happened once more. Generally speaking, his whole work didn’t add up to much, only later becoming a bit more significant. Well, we will see…

 

 Pablo Devigo (Spain)

 

 - G. Verdi – Overture to the opera “The Force of Destiny”,
 - W. A. Mozart – Symphony “Haffner” in D major KV 385

 

 

The Spanish conductor looked incredible on the podium – he was probably the best so far! I had been thinking about candidates conducting more classically, but I think he was the first to deserve this title. He conducted classically, i.e. predictably, without any folly, without too much expression, tastefully, nicely, elegantly, confidently, calmly… But he limited himself – perhaps even more than the Polish conductor did – to the principle “I conduct professionally and let the orchestra play, it will be appreciated”. He showed that he knew his trade, that he knows what is most important, as if he wanted to say that a failure to lie low might do him more harm and good. Besides, in this case, too, we witnessed the syndrome of quite automatic playing of music that is perfectly well known to the orchestra. Many times it seemed to me that his conducting was lovely, but the orchestra played whatever they wanted, without any regard to him. He wasn’t shaping, modulating, changing anything… both in the overture and in the symphony. Does it shatter his chances?  I don’t think so. It was  a good, effective performance. And is it his tactics, tested during other competitions? We will soon find out…

 

 Chloé Dufresne (France)

 

 - G. Rossini – Overture to the opera “The Thieving Magpie”,
 - W. A. Mozart – Symphony “Haffner” in D major KV 385

 

 

The French conductor looked lovely on the podium, too! I liked her. Right from the start she was full of energy, she had perfect contact with the band, which played excellently, too. She allowed it, but she would stop the musicians immediately if an important reason appeared. She was irritated by too slow tempos, as well as all by any irregularities in the performance. There were nerves, there was interesting work, nice, fluid and elegant movements, but with time these values were becoming less and less important. The symphony wasn’t decisive and expressive enough; everything was becoming more and more complaisant; her work did not result in much, either. I had an impression that this oeuvre was a bit beyond her capabilities…

 

 

 Ka Hou Fan (Macau / China)

 

 - G. Verdi – Overture to the opera “The Force of Destiny”, W.
 - A. Mozart – Symphony “Haffner” in D major KV 385

 

 

I was quite bored by this 27-year-old conductor from Macau, although, I must admit, he worked and tried to model the music more than his predecessors, especially in Mozart. He was looking for many solutions there, he paid attention to details, but – most importantly – the results were insignificant. Everything was rather unremarkable, and his performance, except for the quite attractively conducted  overture, which – incidentally – was played very loudly – left me with almost no impressions at all…