Founded in 1974 by Jan Jacob Bistritzky, the Arthur Rubinstein International Master Piano Competition is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The music contest, which is regarded as one of the world’s most important musical competitions, attracts the best young pianists from around the globe. While for the 39 competitors it offers a chance to kick-start an international career, for music-loving audiences it provides thrilling drama, full of ambitions, hope, love of art and even some small tragedies.
All the competition events are open to the public, from the first tour recitals to the final stage. Audiences are guaranteed to have many pleasurable hours in the concert hall and are invited to join the crowd’s favorite guessing game: trying to identify those who will get to the finish line and become the next stars of the classical music world.
Pianist Alexander Korsantia, who has been the local audience’s darling since 1994 when he emerged as the big Arthur Rubinstein winner, will join this year’s panel of judges. The Georgian-born pianist, who now lives in Boston, has a successful international career, records albums, manages a festival in his native homeland and finds time to teach at the New England School of Music. As a multifaceted music personality, Korsantia can, perhaps better than anyone else, provide an insightful picture of contests in general.
In a phone interview from his home, he shares his ideas with The Jerusalem Post.
“Granted, in the world of today, piano competitions are many, but it does not mean that they have lost their importance and their value. Look, some 20 years ago, you probably met one person with a shoebox size mobile phone, and it was the most thrilling event of the day. While today, everybody uses iPhones. Does that make them less important? The thing is that both the overall level of contestants and the standards of the audiences worldwide have grown immensely. But still, competitions serve as a door to the major world of music,” says Korsantia.
How does a contestant feel during a competition? “It is an ordeal, a traumatic experience,” he says.
“You can’t say to yourself, ‘OK, I’m just playing a series of concerts within a limited period of time, nothing special.’ There is a major contradiction between music making as free self-expression of the artist and a competition with a sportive air about it.
So every contestant has to make up his or her mind, to tune him or herself. Some decide that they will play better than others, but I knew this was not me.
I was unable ‘to step over other people’s bodies,’ so I told myself that I would play as well as I could.
I believe that this was when my very special, warm and intimate relationship with the Israeli public was born.”
How can music competitions be judged at all, as music is not an exact science? “This is just another built-in contradiction, which by the way leaves a lot of room for manipulation on the part of the jury,” he says. “But on the whole, this is an honest business. Judges should rely on their understanding of music; and teaching experience can be of great use in helping to evaluate a contestant’s potential. It is also important to realize that for a winner, a big prize in an important competition is just the first step into the big world of music. They are like blind kittens.
Believe me, I know that from my own experience.
For some, competitions are the peak of their careers.
They don’t widen their repertoire or they just don’t know how to behave in the competitive world of the music industry.”
But the audience can leave these dramas to young artists and just enjoy the music.
The Arthur Rubinstein International Master Piano Competition takes place from May 13 to 29 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and at Heichal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv. The competition opens with a gala concert on May 13 at Tel Aviv Museum of Art, with Daniil Trifonof, Roman Rabinovich, David Fung and other young musicians, who will present a varied program. Stage 1 and 2 feature recitals (May 14-19 and 20-22, respectively).
The finals include three stages: A: May 23-24. Competitors perform either quartets for piano and strings or a quintet for piano and woodwinds.
B: May 25-26. The competition moves to Heichal Hatarbut. Piano concerti with the Israel Camerata.
C: May 28-29. Concerti with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
For more details: http://www.arims.org.il/