Aram Khachaturian Cello Competition: Day 3

After hearing mostly Bach and Schubert over the past couple of days, the opening bars of Khachaturian’s Sonata-Fantasy (the set piece for the second round of the Khachaturian Cello Competition), followed by Mon-Puo Lee’s performance of Brahms’ F major cello sonata, today felt like an epic shift in mood and energy.

Each subsequent performer on the first day of the second round (see the seven semi-finalists listed in this post), chose Beethoven’s A Major cello sonata – the first movement of which sounded on a first listen like a punishing series of declamatory statements. I shudder to think what the actual score looks like – must have a look before the tomorrow’s performers take to the stage.

I’m new to the sonata and haven’t quite figured it out yet. It’s a demanding play for any of the soloists, so too for the accompanists. The Khachaturian Sonata-Fantasy for unaccompanied cello is jam-packed with heartfelt and spirited evocations and requires enormous stamina and resilience. I’ve heard it come alive in some performances and drag a little in others. A tricky work. 

Today’s video includes some impressions from today’s performances, an expansion on the idea of there being a stark contrast experienced when you shift from an immersive experience of Bach and Schubert, to that of Beethoven.

What isn’t included was an observation I’ve made this week about audiences and performers, and how the perceived distance between both is as necessary for the performance experience just as its much as its regarded a barrier to newcomers to the genre. Being in the relaxed presence of so many elite professionals eager to talk about their art (ie the judges) has been a valuable experience for me.

But to include all of that in this video meant it running a little too long (odd given that I never experience that hesitation when producing the podcast). I’m hoping to save up some of those insights for a blog post later in the competition.

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