Szymanowski Music Competition 2018: Violin Final – Day Two & Winner Announced

It’s an odd experience waiting for a competition result – a handful of people hanging around for a sense of closure; everyone needing it; no-one knowing when it will really come. A bit like waiting at the gate for a delayed plane, just without the jaw-clenching frustration. 

As I write, competitors and their families, journos, staff, and other interested parties sit, pace or stand, some looking wistfully into the middle distance.

I’ve made a call to the Other Half (‘OH’ for any new readers) and said goodnight, “I think its going to take a little longer than I anticipated it would to find out the result.”

Tough gig tough call

I had assumed yesterday that we would be listening to another 6 violinsts tonight. We weren’t. I’d got that wrong. We were in fact hearing from the same violinists again playing different works. 

That’s two concertos on two consecutive days from each of the finalists. If I saw a professional soloist was playing two gigs one day after another I wouldn’t think anything of it. Come up close to some of the competitors like I did today and that thing you assumed was just normal – like playing two different concertos on consecutive days – suddenly seems like a massive deal. All of the competitors I spoke to appeared to take it all in their stride. I’d have been terrified, I’m sure of it. That’s one of the reasons I’m an audience member, not a professional musician. 

Four key points

The real story for me from tonight’s final (apart from the fact that I failed to make it to the concert in time owing to an afternoon spent chained to my laptop which is still on UK time), comprises four main points:

  1. Sulamita Ślubowska played with greater intensity throughout Szymanowski’s first violin concerto – a much fuller, rounder and consistent sound throughout. I really enjoyed listening to her performance this evening. 

  2. Like all of the competitors I saw this evening, there was a consistency of character and mannerisms compared with last night’s performances. Particularly so Maya Levy whose Sibelius started strong with great communication and captivating passion. Despite her stumble with the ensemble towards the end of the third movement, she regained composure – an unfortunate incident which I am in no doubt will not dim her spirit in future, only fuel it. 

  3. Polish violinist Rosana Kwasnikowska played Szymanowski’s first concerto with cool precision and a bright bright tone. She possesses amazing control and maintains a remarkable stillness when she plays. She keeps close to the orchestra but still maintains a projects the instrumental line with power. 

  4.  Whilst there was consistency in performance styles, there were distinctions between players in this concert which I thought was going to make it phenomenally difficult to pick a clear winner. I had privately settled for Sławomira Wilga (pictured) on the basis that she delivered consistent performances (which were brilliant) on both nights and that it was impossible to pick which one was ‘better’ between the two. It turned out the jury agreed with me. 

After quite a lot of sleep (there was a mammoth three and a quarter hours of interviews to capture this morning in video and audio), there’ll be editing, a little bit more interviewing and then a concert full of singers to listen out for tomorrow night. It’s quite full on here. Just how I like it. 

A full list of award recipients including third place for Royal College of Music student Maya Horvat, judges and prize money can be found on the NOSPR website

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