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Ada Pelleg's excitement comes through in her voice when she speaks of this year's annual Haifa International Flute Competition. Sixteen young flautists, ages 16-28, are taking part in the week-long contest (November 17-23).
Pelleg, the competition's music director, launched the event in 1997. Since then, it has become a premier festival in Israel's music calendar.
"Competitions are important for every musician. We have a good reputation," Pelleg tells The Jerusalem Post. "We offer cash awards as well as opportunity to perform with leading orchestras in Israel and abroad. The winners get a lot of exposure."
Eight Israelis and eight foreign players are partaking in the competition. The youngest player is a 16-year-old youth from Kazakhstan.
"I do have my eye on some of them, but I can't say who. It wouldn't be fair," says Pelleg, who founded the Haifa Music Center in 1996. "We have very good Israeli and Japanese players. Jacques Zoon's student is here [Zoon was on the jury back in 1997]."
Only the cream of young musicians is accepted to compete.
"There's always at least one Israeli composition that is mandatory," says Pelleg. "And I try to commission a concerto for each competition."
The second round of competition, set for Nov.20-21, and to which the public is invited, will be comprised of two concertos with piano accompaniment. The contestants will choose either F. Benda - Concerto in E minor, or C.P.E. Bach - Concerto in D minor, or S. Mercadante - Concerto in E minor. They will also play David Winkler - Concerto for flute and string orchestra.
Pelleg, music advisor Yossi Arnheim, and jury members Andras Adorian (Germany), David Winkler (USA), Uri Shoham (Israel), Noam Sherif (Israel), Noam Buchman (Israel) and Tayassir Elias (Israel) will then narrow the field down to three finalists.
The final round takes place on Nov. 23. Each finalist will perform a half-recital including one sonata by Mozart, Hummel or Beethoven; and one sonata by Franck, Schubert or Reinecke.
Pelleg began the competition in memory of her friend, Ilan Shapira. First prize, named for Shapira, is a NIS 10,000 award given by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. Second prize is NIS 5,000 award, and third prize is NIS 2,500 award.
Additional honors include invitations to perform with the Israel String Ensemble, at the Safed Music Festival, and to perform with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra.
"There's a lot of tension - only one person gets a top prize. We don't like the finalists to go out without a prize," says Pelleg, who is currently music director and conductor of the Haifa Festival Orchestra.
While the competition has been around for eight years, but during the height of the intifada, funding was harder to come by and thus Pelleg had to drop some of the competition's "extras". This year she has reinstated the master classes, concerts, workshops, and lectures.
Backed by an orchestra, the winner will end the event by performing to students. "I hope we'll give an incentive to other young people to play," says Pelleg.
The winner will also perform in Or Akiva on Nov.24 (Pelleg notes that it is important to bring music to "peripheral communities") and in Tel Aviv at the Stricker Israeli Conservatory of Music on Nov. 26. Both events are open to the general public. For more information call 04-8379852.