Saturday, September 20, 2014

The International Violin Competition of Indianapolis concludes with the announcement of the gold medal, five other awards

The moment everyone has been waiting for: the announcement of the awards in the 16-day competition. Names and award titles are followed by age, country, and cash prizes:
2014 IVCI gold medalist Jinjoo Cho


Jinjoo Cho, gold medalist, 26, South Korea; $30,000

Tessa Lark, silver medalist, 25, United States; $15,000. (She is the highest-ranking American in nine competitions since Ida Kavafian won the silver medal in 1982, the IVCI's first year.)

Ji Young Lim, bronze medalist, 19, South Korea; $10,000

Dami Kim, fourth-place laureate, 25, South Korea, $7,000

Yoo Jin Jang, fiftth-place laureate, 23, South Korea, $6,000

Ji Yoon Lee, sixth-place laureate, 22, South Korea, $5,000

 [The following review of Saturday's concert was written before I knew the competition results]

The second night  of romantic/modern concerto finals at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis presented three young South Korean women to a large, enthusiastic audience at Hilbert Circle Theatre.

The exclusivity of national origin in Saturday's final simply carried through a theme evident in the initial field of 37 participants: Women were dominant, and South Koreans were heavily represented among them.

With Joel Smirnoff, an eminent violinist-turned-conductor on the podium, all three contestants enjoyed sympathetic, knowledgeable support by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. That presumably accounted for the generally superlative level of these performances, along with, of course, the thorough preparation and conscientious study that enable a participant in this competition to get to the final stage.

I was most impressed with Ji Young Lim's account of Brahms' Concerto in D major, op. 77. Momentary burbles in the violin's initial statement were soon put behind her. The performance gained confidence, leading to an incisively played cadenza and a strong finish well-coordinated with the orchestra. She made the second-movement melody her own, projecting the attractive personality I first became aware of in the preliminaries, where her Bach and Paganini selections were among the most individualized I heard.

The finale had the jollity suggested in the tempo indication. Lim's playing was resilient, bouncy and bold. The exciting switch to triple meter near the end brought forth heightened playing that was both vigorous and sweet.

Just as much personality was invested by Yoo Jin Jang in her performance of Tchaikovsky's Concerto in D major, op. 35.  Her darker tone, compared to Lim's, immediately suited the first movement.  Her phrasing was flexible but not so far as to make her partnership with the orchestra challenging. She came close, however, rushing some of the phrases the violin sets against pulsating staccato woodwinds.

Nonetheless, she told a story, even in passagework. The varying speeds with which she dispatched the cadenza made it particularly interesting.  In the second movement, she sank wholeheartedly into its concise song, then effected a teasing introduction to an incredibly fast finale. She made the contrasting theme slow and heavy, peasantlike. But every time the main material returned she was off to the races. Her agility never flagged in this sizzling performance.

After intermission, Dami Kim played Sibelius' sometimes dour, sometimes intensely high-spirited Concerto in D minor, op. 47. Her first-movement cadenza had the same heightened characterization as Lim's had in the Brahms concerto.  The haunted lyricism of the slow movement seemed to suit her well. The orchestra provided a fine setting for this Adagio di molto, with Smirnoff drawing a well-managed crescendo at the movement's emotional peak.

Her manner in the finale sort of spoiled the performance for me. There was some off-pitch playing, perhaps related to the soloist's frenetic manner.  The passion in this music has a cool side that didn't seem to interest Kim. This was a forceful interpretation, seemingly coaxed out by the predominance of dark orchestral colors, that made of this exhilarating music an Arctic tragedy.

(Photo credit: Denis Ryan Kelly Jr., www,deniskelly.com)