In this year's International Harp Contest's final stage, three contestants - the Netherlands' Remy van Kesteren, Moldova's Ina Zdorovechi, and the American Emily Levin - performed one and the same work, Ginastera's Harp Concerto, three times in succession with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Roberto Paternostro. Although a test of patience for the audience, this was perhaps the best way to comparatively assess the merits of the three.
Not having attended the contest's first stages, which took place in Tel Aviv and not in Jerusalem as in previous years, it would not be fair, of course, to express an opinion over whether the three hopefuls were indeed the most deserving among twenty contestants from fifteen countries to be promoted to the final stage. One is therefore compelled to give credit to the jury that their choice was justified.
This year, for some strange and inexplicable reason, no first prize was awarded. The result was a verdict typical of contest juries that habitually tend to promote commonplace performers that are technically correct, fairly brilliant, orthodox and not exceptional outstanding musical personalities. Consequently, Zdorovechi emerged as prima inter pares with a second prize.
More personal artistic qualities, such as Kesteren's extreme sensitivity and utmost abundance of delicate dynamic nuances, or a straightforwardly communicative, emotionally intense expression such as consolation prize winner Levin's, are wasted on such a jury. This is not particularly surprising, since ten of the twelve jurors were harpists, naturally judging according to the strict, narrow-minded professional rules of the game, and blissfully unaware of artistic imponderabilia that remain beyond their musical horizons. This is not likely to change so long as there are no representatives of other disciplines into the illustrious ranks of the jury.