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Advice on international competitions!!! (Read 3458 times)

Offline sary2106

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Advice on international competitions!!!
« on: July 22, 2002, 06:38:28 AM »
Hi... I was just wondering if anyone could share some things that they had learned concerning competitions! I have been competing at "student" competitions for a few years, but I am preparing to record some preliminary CD's for several international competitions, like the Young Concert Artists.... Pinault... etc. I am playing a few large works, like Schumann's "Carnaval," Barber's "Sonata for Piano, Op. 26," Bach "Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue" and Scriabin "Sonata No. 5." Anyway, I would appreciate any advice you could give me - from what to expect from judges to what to wear (I AM a young female, by the way, so I don't know if you guys can help with that question!!!!  :D ) Thanks a lot!!
"Everything has to be a matter of life and death. The evidence is right here. Suffering and joy. That's all there is. They're so close, it strikes terror into the human soul."

The Mozart Season

Offline robert_henry

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Re: Advice on international competitions!!!
«Reply #1 on: July 29, 2002, 12:45:35 PM »
First of all, unless you personally know the director of the Young Artists competition, don't bother with that one.  There is one judge: the director/manager, an 9 times out of ten, unless she has taken a personal interest in you prior to the competition, then your chances are nil.

I have some general advice about competitions.  I tell you all this to help you, not to toot my own horn.  But having won four competitions in the last year, I feel that I’ve figured out the process pretty well.  

Besides playing well, there are a few things that will set you apart from the crowd.  



I. REPERTOIRE

People who play only one style LOSE, period.  I have seen it over and over.  In every round I try to include at least four periods of music, so that by the time I make it to the final round they have heard me play something from every style in existence.  THAT is what wins competitions:  Pacing and repertoire.

Similarly, people tend to avoid classical repertoire, ie Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven.  Why?  Because it instantly reveals your musicianship and technique.  Judges so desperately want to hear Mozart or Haydn played beautifully, yet people pound the piano for hours on end hoping to move the judges.  To me, it has become quite amusing.  My advice is to play Mozart.  Always include Mozart in a competition.  Judges are listening and hoping someone is a good enough musician to play Mozart.  It takes balls, but it works.  I’ve won competitions with a slow movement of a Mozart Sonata.  And you thought they were won with fireworks…hehe, nope.

That said, you still must assert your techical ability immediately - in the first found.  It only takes ONE piece to do this.   ONE PIECE!!  Choose wisely!  Why people play round after round of etude-like material, I will never know.  But I hope they continue to do so, because that just betters my chances.  Anyway, once you have played this one piece that proves that you have monster chops, you are free to make music the rest of the competition.  I always play a few Godowsky etudes in the first round because the judges know that if I can play those, I can play anything.  From then on, they can get to "know" me through less overt pieces, such as Mozart.  Too many people think they have to prove their technique in every round, with every piece.

After every competition, I speak with each judge individually.  Without fail, they congratulate me on choice of repertoire and the pacing of the music.  You should plan your competition rep just like you would a recital.  Need further proof?  The winner of the 2002 Bachauer competition played the Goldberg variations for the final round...congratulations to him!  That is the kind of pianist I would pay to go hear -  not some pianist who presents a rehash of the Rachmaninoff Second Sonata...jeez.

Also, keep in mind that there are different styles WITHIN styles.  For instance, although Beethoven and Mozart are both classical period composers, their effect on an audience is much different.  Beethoven comes across as "heavier" than Mozart.  That's why I say Mozart is best.



II.  MOTIVES

Judges are interested in hearing musicians, not pianists.  Judges are tired of robots.  When I walk out on stage, I go out there to make music.  The people who go out there to play the piano or to win the competition, those are the people who lose.

My uncle used to be a competitive martial artist and he was good…i.e. "ranked in the top 10 in the USA" good.  Last summer, I asked him how he mentally prepared for a match.  He said, “Always go into a match in such a frame of mind that if you should lose you could be happy for the winner.”  I have seen a lot of bitter people in competitions, and infortunately I have had some of that bitterness directed at me (like a few competitors not shaking my hand, etc).  But his advice to me really changed my outlook on competing and performing.  It puts me at ease knowing that I can be mature enough to accept whatever the jury decides, and that I can congratulate someone else should they win.  It’s not about “beating” someone else, it’s about music.



III.  RECORDINGS

Final word of advice is to get a professional demo CD made.  It will cost somewhere around $1000.  It is possible to do it much cheaper, but get a professional, not some dude at your church who does the sound - ya know, the guy who turns the pastor's mike up once a week.  A pro can make any edits you have seem to disappear.  Now, I usually use my own live recordings as my audition CD, but for a few years I had demo studio recording made and I got into everything I auditioned for…before that I was using a $20 tape recorder from Circuit City and a practice room piano to make my audition tapes.  Needless to say, they sucked.  I didn’t get into anything.  A good CD is a must.



IV.  I'm going on vacation in 30 minutes, so I have to wrap this up.  (Dominican Republic, here I come!)  Maybe when I get back, I will have something else to say.


Sary, I think your program could use some lighter, shorter works.  The Schumann doesn't count. :P  I don't see any works of clarity, such as Mozart, Scarlatti, or Haydn.  I see and hear heavily pedaled, thickly voiced romantic-type rep in your list.  That's cool for about 30 minutes....then what are you going to offer them?  It's like serving chicken for every course of a meal.  Barber AND Scriabin?  No.

Ok, now I'm leaving in 15 minutes...wife will be home any second...gotta go!

Robert Henry

Offline sary2106

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Re: Advice on international competitions!!!
«Reply #2 on: August 02, 2002, 07:15:09 PM »
Mr. Henry - Hi! thanks a lot for the time and consideration you put into your response to my question. I greatly appreciate it, and I have been thinking about your advice.

Your advice about repertoire was particularly helpful - and I agree with you. When I listed some works that I had selected, I didn't write them all down. I have only recently discovered (mostly through my teacher's guidance) the grace, elegance, and refinement of Mozart. Thanks for encouraging me on that way. It's helpful to know what the judges really are thinking. If you have any further advice or anecdotes about judges, I would love to hear about it - because it makes me a lot more comfortable to know what they are thinking, I guess. Maybe that's just a psychological thing.  :)

I think perhaps the most important thing to me right now is choosing the best repertoire, so I thought I would post some of it here. If anyone has any comments or critiques, I would love to hear them....

Arts Awards
Requirements: (Bach P & F; 1st or last mvmt. classical sonata; Romantic or Impressionistic piece; Modern American; Modern non-American)

Bach: Prelude and Fugue VI, WTC I
Beethoven: Sonata No. 8 “Pathetique” Mvmt. 1
Debussy: Estampes
Barber: Sonata for Piano
Ginastera: Sonata No. 1


Young Concert Artists (If I do this.... whatever. I haven't decided yet, but your note was a bit scary, Mr. Henry!!  :-/ )
Requirements: (Large-scale work of Bach; Classical sonata; Romantic recital work at least 15 min. long; Modern piece; another recital work of your choice)

Bach: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue
Mozart: Sonata in A minor, K. 310
Schumann: Carnaval, Op. 9
Barber: Sonata for Piano
Debussy: Estampes


Pinault (3 different styles or periods):
Bach: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue
Mozart: Sonata in A minor, K. 310
Debussy: Estampes


Hilton Head
Preliminary (Recording, 30 min. max., at least 3 contrasting styles/periods)
Mozart: Sonata in A minor, K. 310            
Rachmaninoff: Elegie, Op. 3, No. 1            
Ginastera: Sonata No. 1                  

Quarter-finals (25 min. max.)
Bach: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue            
Debussy: Estampes                        

Semi-finals (50 min. max.)
Schumann: Carnaval, Op. 9
Barber: Sonata for Piano

Finals (Concerto)
Beethoven: Concerto No. 5


Okay... that's it. Thanks to anyone who has time to look it over and respond!

About recording this stuff - I don't think I'm allowed to have cuts or editing done to my playing. I called one place a while back, and they said something like $80/hour to record me. I think I'm a bit unclear as to what precisely I need done, and then who or what can do it.

Sarah  ;)
"Everything has to be a matter of life and death. The evidence is right here. Suffering and joy. That's all there is. They're so close, it strikes terror into the human soul."

The Mozart Season

Offline robert_henry

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Re: Advice on international competitions!!!
«Reply #3 on: August 03, 2002, 04:16:39 PM »
Sarah,

I like your picks, except for the Barber.

Recording:  I wouldn't worry about the whole editing thing.  The demo/competition CD I made a few years ago was lightly edited and nobody at the competitions cared.  Seriously, they don't care.  As long as it doesn't sound fake, and as long as you don't send a recording of Rubenstein in place of yours, they don't care.

If you insist on having an unedited CD, another trick is to have the recording engineer put applause and audience noise in the studio recording.  That jacks up the price some though, but it excuses some of your mistakes.

Robert Henry  

Offline MzrtMusic

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Re: Advice on international competitions!!!
«Reply #4 on: August 11, 2002, 02:07:11 AM »
Mr. Henry,

I am also entering a competition, and I would greatly appreciate your insight on my repertoire.

WORLD PIANO COMPETITION: LONDON

STAGE I       30:00

J.S. Bach- Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in c minor      
F. Chopin- etude Op. 25 No. 1 “Aeolian Harp”      
S. Rachmaninoff- Etude-Tableau Op. 33 No. 7      
W.A. Mozart- Sonata K. 570                  
N. Rimsky-Korsakov- Flight of the Bumblebee                                      
TOTAL: 30:00

STAGE II      40:00

L. Beethoven- Sonata No. 23 in F Major Op. 57 “Appassionata”      
A. Scriabin- Sonata No. 6 Op. 62                              
TOTAL: 37:00      

STAGE III      50:00

J.S. Bach- French Suite No. 6                  
F. Chopin- Ballade No. 1 in G Major            
C. Debussy- Pour le Piano suite            
B. Bartok- Sonata            
TOTAL:  49:00

STAGE IV      CONCERTO

L. Beethoven- Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major Op. 58

S. Prokofiev- Piano Concerto No. 3


Thanks in advance!

Love,

Sarah
My heart is full of many things...there are moments when I feel that speech is nothing after all.
-- Ludwig Van Beethoven

Offline robert_henry

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Re: Advice on international competitions!!!
«Reply #5 on: August 13, 2002, 05:35:58 AM »
These are my opinions.  Take them or leave them:

I think the balance and diversity in your styles is GREAT!  Congrats to you.  But some of the pieces might do you in.  I'm speaking of the Beethoven Appassionata, the Chopin Ballade in G, the Bach, and the Debussy.  Why these pieces?  Because everyone on the jury has taught them a million times, and not only do they know them like the back of their hands, not only do they all disagree amongst themselves and with you on how they should go, but they are probably sick of them as well, and forgive me, but they aren't going to expect a definitive performance of a Beethoven sonata from a teenager.  Lord knows I sure didn't present one when I was.   All pianists should learn those pieces as a sort of rite of passage, but there are only so many new and exciting things that one might bring to the table with pieces that are played as often as these.  That's why, for instance, that I will never play the Tchaikowsky first concerto...I play the SECOND one.   For instance, you might pick another lesser known sonata.  I pick a Mozart sonata that most people ignore.  I play Rachmaninoff, but I don't play the second sonata; I play the Moment musicaux.  That way, one can still convince them that you can play within the style of Beethoven, Mozart, or Rachmaninoff, while at the same time, presenting them with a "fresh" piece.

In the latest issue of INTERNATIONAL PIANO magazine, there is an interesting article about the recent Rachmaninoff competition, and within it is a great paragraph that echoes a lot of what I have said here in this thread.  I will post that here later today or tomorrow.

Chopin Ballade No. 1 in G = Korean National Anthem.  ;)

Robert Henry

Offline martin_s

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Re: Advice on international competitions!!!
«Reply #6 on: August 13, 2002, 06:30:06 PM »
very interesting all ya' remarks on da competition buissines, Robert. I agree to just around 101% - based on very similar experiences of my own. Good luck in future competitions mate!!