Sunday, September 17, 2006

Indianapolis Finals: Size matters

I have been waiting to write about being in Indianapolis for the finals of the competition until after the competition was finished. I am very pleased that Augustin Hadelich won the gold medal and the use of the Gingold Strad, but like nearly everyone I have talked with, I am baffled by the computerized results of the judges' decisions for the ranking of the other finalists. I imagine that many of the judges are baffled as well. What matters to me is that Hadelich will be able to use a first-rate instrument, and that he will have a chance at a real solo career. He is an extremely special musician on top of being a first-rate violinist.

I am grateful to this competition for introducing me to Yura Lee (yes, I go to meet her--she is an absolutely delightful person, and her superb musicianship reflects her personality completely). I believe that she has an original and necessary voice as a violinist, and I know that other violinists and other music lovers were moved and inspired by her performances in every round of the competition. For me her playing represents a living ideal of music making for all the right reasons: to engage performers and listeners in a kind of dance. She is a very generous musician, and she gives of herself in a very unselfish way. Because of her small size she has to work twice as hard as violinists with larger hands and longer arms. She is a physically small person, but she is a very large musician. Seeing such a small person make such large musical gestures can give the impression that those movements are extra-musical and unnecessary. In Yura Lee's case she is trying with every square inch of her body and her entire musical soul to set the air in the hall in musical motion.

In the "meet the jury" forum on Saturday, an audience member asked a question specifically about judging based on physical motion. The jury members that answered said that they did not take that into consideration at all. I don't think that such a thing is possible unless he/she is either blind or is unable to see the person performing.

Barnabas Keleman, the 2002 IVCI Gold Medal winner, played a wonderful recital between the semi-final round and the final round. He is a large man who plays with very large gestures, both musical and physical. There is no doubt that he is a great artist, and because of his physical size relative to Yura Lee, he can get away with large gestures.

I feel that Yura Lee should have gotten second place in this competition on the basis of her exceptional violin playing and extraordinary musicianship. I don't want her to change anything about her playing. I don't think that she should consider "toning down" the movement because it might get in the way of the marvelous (and original) things that she does as a musician.

The IVCI is planning to keep all the performances, not just the performances of the semi-finalists and finalists, archived on their website for three months (the interactive commemorative program guide is the best way to get to them).


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the posts on the competition. I've never had any interest in competitions like this before but found your posts illuminating.

Anonymous said...

I AGREE YURA SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN 2nd. It was so political and unfair. the competition was bs.

Anonymous said...

As a 6' 5" professional violinist, I have to disagree with your assertion that being a large person translates into being able to convey larger gestures, musically speaking. First of all, music is about sound; a gesture's effectiveness is not dependent on how much or little someone chooses to move their body or shake their head, but rather their musical intention. One of my former teachers (who was also a renowned recording artist) would always stress that our expressive powers lie in the bow arm- everything else is just decoration. This brings me to my second point. A shorter violinist actually has a visually aesthetic advantage in that they must actually move MORE in order to use a full bow. When I use full bows on every note, my arm never comes close to extending all the way, which means that it usually looks like I'm working half as hard as the other violinists in my section, even when I use more bow than they do.

Elaine Fine said...

Largeness is relative. I'm nearly a foot and a half shorter than you, so it is hard for me to imagine what it would be like not to be able to have my arm extended all the way when I'm playing at the tip. Yura Lee is even shorter than me, but she is a giant of a musician. We're talking about extremes here. I think that the fiddle players who can get away with the most motion without creating too much distraction are probably those between 5' 6" and 5' 11", both male and female, but never quite making it to 5' 2", I never would know.

You can click on the link for the competition back in the post and still see her performances. The Romantic concerto in the final round (even though it was Bartok) is the performance that people seemed most critical of.

Of course all the expressiveness connected with playing lies in the bow arm (though it has to be matched with equal energy and strength in the left hand or all is for naught)!

Anonymous said...

I watched archived videos of the finalists yesterday morning; and yes, it's clear Yura Lee should have won the 2nd! I have been trying to figure out political connections and nationalities of the jury,trying to figure out this absurd result and somehow got to your blog.
To be honest, I had been getting a little weary of the parade of Korean female violinists winning all those competitions year after year, but I must speak out,for I received the gift of true enjoyment from her playing.
This competition had been known for fairness before this and I'm very disappointed.

Anonymous said...

It's all Laredo. Yura Lee studied at Indiana while Laredo was teaching there and I'm sure they've had some sparks there. I'm a student at Indiana right now, and I know what's going on. I don't know why Laredo doesn't like her, but something must have happened. Yura Lee is amazing and she should have won at least 2nd if not 1st.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break. Though some believe that "size matters", this is music we're talking about here.
Seriously, the SIZE of a performer? The physically-smaller gestures just weren't convincing.
From my experiences listening to many of these finalists, it's not enough just to "play well". The music performed needs to touch a listener who should walk away with some sort of inspiration--something MORE than being impressed by someone who "plays well". There are many people who "play well". That's why the truly great musicians remain great...rare, but great.

Heifetz anyone? Elman? Kremer? David O? Perlman? Bashmet? Rostropovich? Tell me where the size/size-of-gesture come into play... They're all different and convey amazing music.

Anonymous said...

sorry, one more thing. Yura was NOT there when Laredo was there@ IU. She was already in Boston.