No vlog today, other than a video of the moment Competition Chairman Krystof Penderecki announced the recipient of the first prize, bringing to an end a cracking week and a half of cello music in Yerevan.
I was expecting the evening to roll on, but it was
Swensen plays Concerto Rhapsody one more time
The more times I hear the work the more I engage with its episodic structure. There are moments of exquisite yearning during which a sweet heartfelt melody is
And whilst the piece’s showiness sometimes casts a shadow on the underlying structure, the build towards its unequivocal ending making for nail-biting drama. The cello does battle with the orchestra and there are moments in that taut coda section when there’s a question mark over who exactly is going to come out on top.
That a fifth live performance in two days could still have that effect on me, even after the tension of the competition has been released, says all you need to know about the performance. My heart was pounding. Swensen remained electrifying throughout.
After the concert, winner, jury and Media Types piled on the bus and made for some post-competition celebrations. This was the first time jury and winner had spoken directly to one another during the ten days. The introductions exchanged seemed surreal given that on paper at least everyone knew each other.
But nowhere near as surreal as the event that followed – a meal attended by the Armenian President and his wife, hosted at Chinar Restaurant by the Armenian Ambassador in Israel, here in Yerevan with his wife for the evening to attend the gala performance. “He’s my son, you know,” said Armen whispering in my eye, pointing at Armenian State Symphony Orchestra conductor Sergey Smbtyan. “You both have the same nose,” I replied.
Customary bread, cheese, salads and pickled vegetables began a meal in which wine and vodka glasses were never allowed to run dry, and toasts overran courses by about two to one. On my side of the long table, composer Krystof Penderecki’s shared stories of her first sighting of Russian cellist Slava Rostropovich, and the perceived decline of his wife Galina Vishnevskya’s career once she married Slava.
There were moments when it all seemed difficult to comprehend.
Waiters busied themselves bringing out dessert, but a swift move brought about by the President signalled the evening was at an end. People stood up, many hands shook his, goodbyes were offered, business cards exchanged, and after which everyone left.
It’s been a pretty brutal return home. By the time the Media Types made it back to the hotel it was already gone midnight. It seemed counter-productive to try and get any sleep, so I stayed awake, waiting for my 3am taxi to Yerevan Airport.
Unexpectedly, leaving the country was as challenging as entering it, only this time the query wasn’t over why I’d visited Azerbaijan in 2012, but why it was that I looked so different from my passport picture.
“You look very different. You are much fatter,” said the scowly man behind the glass.
“Well, that was taken in 2009 – I was thirty-five then.”
“Give me more photo ID!” I handed over my driving
Seemed a little personal.
Watch all of the daily reports from the Aram Khachaturian Cello Competition in this YouTube Playlist.
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