Volume 6 / Chapter 203
All of the broadcasting stations were preparing for live commentary for the last day of the competition finals. Large screens were installed in the lobby and outside of the theater out of consideration for the people who could not acquire tickets.
There was especially a lot of anticipation for Jun Hyuk, who had conducted in 2 different ways, in the thoughts that he might show yet another performance.
The biggest watching point is to watch conductors with 2 completely different styles in sequence to compare them. This kind of unique stage is hard to come by again.
The audience filling the seats did not stop applauding when Jun Hyuk appeared on stage. They are an audience that knows that there are manners that they need to maintain, but they were showing how shocked they were by his previous performances and their anticipation for today’s.
Eventually, the moderator needed to come back on stage and calm them down.
The audience members gripped the edges of their seats and waited for the rollercoaster to take off.
The rollercoaster began on Jun Hyuk’s signal. When the suspenseful gallop ended, there was applause but it showed signs of regret. It was a lacking performance for the people who had been watching throughout the entire competition. They had been expecting a completely different conducting, but today’s performance was like that of his 2nd.
The only thing that lessened their disappointment was that it was a more aggressive performance with bolder soloists.
After a period of time for rest and lunch, Pierre Boulez’s last performance started. A continuous tempo and unchanging conducting, the soloists playing freely. The performance gave them the same emotions.
All of the performances of the competition were over, and all of the finalists went on stage to thank the audience. It was the most dynamic performance of the Queen Elisabeth Competition history, and a successful competition with constant news. It of course brought in the most amount of profit.
The 12 finalists could not leave the theater because they were waiting for the announcement of the judging results, while the conductors and orchestra celebrated their finishing up the competition well.
There were also people who needed to think hard and make serious decisions over the next 2 hours.
“We are judges right now. I’m sure you all know that the world’s attention is on us.”
The committee head’s stiff voice showed that she too is serious.
“The Queen Elisabeth Competition’s status could change in any way according to the results we make. That is why I would like to make a new suggestion.”
It is a great relief that there is a committee head to align them. If the standard is to deduct, it may be comfortable for the judges but the audience would not be able to understand it. Furthermore, if they consider the great maestros who watched the competition keenly, they get in a cold sweat.
“Let’s forget all about how many mistakes there were and the perfection of technique. There especially must not be a comparison of the 2 conductors.”
The element that skewed fairness most is the 2 maestros’ overwhelming conducting. They fully know that they need to think of the soloists’ performances while judging, but the pros and cons of the conductors kept popping up in their heads.
“So what are you thinking, Committee Head?”
“I had a question as I watched the 2 performances today. If I get to see Maestro Jun’s choral concerto in concert again, what kind of orchestra would be good for it?”
“Excuse me? You’re talking about a different orchestra all of a sudden?”
“Yes. I thought about it for the sake of fairness. A philharmonic that is not the Belgian National Orchestra. I thought of the Vienna Philharmonic.”
“If it is the Vienna Philharmonic, that is strictly classical music, how would they interpret and express the choral concerto? Like Beethoven? Or would they reproduce the brutishness that the composer, Maestro Jun, showed us? I had all kinds of thoughts.”
The committee head was smiling. Her first smile showed that just the thought of it was exciting for her.
“And I imagined again. If it were Berlin? Munich? London? And New York? I became happy just imagining it.”
“Hm… I see. I understand. You’re telling us to choose the 2 soloists who would be able to appear with all of those philharmonics, right?”
“Yes. That’s exactly it. My thoughts are that those 2 people are those most suitable to win.”
There were judges who could not accept the committee head’s thinking as well.
“But this isn’t an audition for performers in a concert. It is a competition. We cannot ignore objective evaluations. Aren’t you telling us to make an assessment based on a momentary feeling?”
An evaluation based on emotion without objectivity. This method is just the most personal measuring stick used when someone repeatedly asks about the evaluation and it is hard to respond.
“If it had been a normal competition like that of last year, I would not have needed to say this. But isn’t this year a bit of a special situation?”
The committee head responded while looking straight at the judge in opposition.
“Are you able to completely erase the orchestra and make an assessment based on the soloists’ performances alone? No, Maestro Boulez has already brought the incredible name of Beethoven into this competition. How would you be able to score his conducting – the 4th part in particular? Do you remember the piano and violin melody exactly?”
The judges cannot deny what she is saying. If they look at the 4th part alone, they do not remember the piano and violin solos so well that they can recall them exactly.
The entirety has just become one piece of music.
“And I’ll be honest. Think of the dozens of maestros who are in the theater now. If we judge on a deduction system, we’ll have to face their criticism first. The quality of the show and remote competition. Aren’t those the common criticisms? I don’t think it would be bad for our Queen Elisabeth Competition to be the first to break away from such obsolete methods.”
The conference room was encompassed in silence again, as though accepting the committee head’s words as a conclusion.
“I don’t think I would be able to do it if I was a judge.”
“Seems like it, right? There are too many variables to consider. The piece, conducting, the soloists’ abilities, and the ensemble.”
“There’s one other thing. He he.”
“Yes. The fearsome Beethoven!”
“No matter what the conclusion is, opinions are going to be divided.”
Opinions were even divided among the reporters and critics waiting for the judges’ decision in the theater lobby. The reporters held on to the critics in the lobby and kept asking for analyses and predictions on the results.
“If you were to personally give points, who would win?”
“I want to give the highest points for Jun’s 2nd performance. And that includes the soloists.”
“I thought Maestro Boulez’s first performance was better. I’d like to give the soloists higher points.”
The intended 2 hours for judging passed quickly and it was nearing 4 hours.
The reporters had known that judging would be difficult, but the fact that it has already been 4 hours could become another topic of news.
There are often instances where altercations between judges elevate out of control. In the 1980 Chopin Competition, piano empress Marta Argerich made headlines when she resigned from her position as a judge in protest because a competitor, Ivo Pogorelic, was eliminated in the 3rd round. Marta Argerich is also the very person who won the competition in 1965.
Since this type of altercation can become bigger news than the competition itself, reporters welcomed the lateness of the results.
The 12 judges appeared on the provided platform after almost 5 hours passed.
The 12 finalists were trying to calm their anxiety along with their parents, teachers, and managers.
“First, we ask that you understand that it was a long wait. That is how difficult it was to distinguish between the finalists’ merits because everyone was so splendid.”
“The thing that was difficult to distinguish was probably the performance, not the finalists’ merits.”
One reporter mumbled quietly. People looked at that reporter, but no one told him off. They were all thinking the same thing.
When the murmurs quieted down in the lobby, the committee head held the microphone up again.
“We will start announcing with 6th place.”
The official languages of Belgium are Dutch, French, and German. The committee head spoke in French and there were interpreters for Dutch, German, and English next to her.
“Piano, Michael Looper. Violin, Hayakawa Touku.”
The 2 people who performed in Jun Hyuk’s 1st conducting were in 6th place. The 1st performance, where the flow and feeling of each part changed severely. The soloists of the performance that the Italians had been so enthusiastic about, were in 6th place together.
“There was no good in the orchestra and conductor hiding the soloists’ disadvantages and attempting to bring out their advantages.”
“That had been too obvious. The attempt to cover up for their shortcomings might have been proof that they aren’t able to handle the choral concerto.”
Critics spoke into the microphones that reporters had out in front of them as though commentating a sports match.
The committee head announced the finalists’ ranking in a dry voice. Each time their names were called, there were those who showed bittersweet smiles and those who laughed in disbelief. There were even people who blamed the conductors for their not winning rather than their own abilities.
The committee head made up for their lateness by announcing the results quickly.
“2nd place… Piano, Ye Ji Han. Violin, Michael Placido.”
2nd place were 2 people who had gone on stage with Jun Hyuk. Michael Placido is an Italian violinist who had surprised even Jun Hyuk in today’s last performance by creating a world of his own on stage.
He shook the hearts of people listening with a natural melody like flowing water and detailed and subtle representation, rather than sharp and sparking technique.
He was not shaken by Jun Hyuk’s aggressive orchestra, and his violin did not prick the ears of the audience or make them nervous. He impressed them with an elegance like flower petals shaking in the wind and a colorless, odorless purity.
Han Ye Ji could have been disappointed that she had not won as expected, but she was making the effort to keep her composure. Rather, Professor Jeon Hye Jin had tears in her eyes as she held tightly to Han Ye Ji’s hand.
Professor Jeon Hye Jin’s eyes were not glistening with tears because they had lost the win. She had been thinking that the winner is the remaining pianist whose name has not been called yet.
It is that she is regretful that she had not been able to meet Han Ye Ji sooner. If they had met when she was in middle school at the latest, she has the qualities to try for the win in the Chopin Competition…
It would be shocking since Han Ye Ji had said that she poured all of her ability into the performance. She also worried that Ye Ji might be discouraged and fall into a slump.
“Professor, you can’t be like this. I’m okay. I need to try it for real now.”
“Yes. I realized on the stage with Jun Hyuk. The feeling of the piano’s melody riding my fingertips and coming into my body. My entire body was filled with notes… The sound wasn’t coming through the piano but through my body… It was that kind of feeling.”
Professor Jeon Hye Jin wiped her tears with a handkerchief as she watched Han Ye Ji speak firmly.
“Did you smoke weed before you went on stage or something? I heard that people who are high feel like the music crawls into their bodies.”
“I’m joking. I see you still have strength from the way you’re yelling at me.”
Professor Jeon Hye Jin saw that Han Ye Ji was not frustrated, and worried less. It seems that she will not fall into a slump because her core is solid.
The image of Han Ye Ji aiming to reach higher is actually beyond what she expected.
“Yes. I’m thinking of trying out for the Chopin Competition this time. I need to win.”
While Han Ye Ji and Professor Jeon Hye Jin were comforting and reassuring each other, the 2 people whose names had not yet been called were cheering.
“The winners. Piano, Christine Zhao. Violin, Daniel Laferriere.”
The piano winner is a Chinese American. In Pierre Boulez’s first performance, she had brought out cheers from the audience with her smooth and light touch, and clear and elegant cantabile.
She did not just show a performance that was beautiful, simple, precise, with sensitivity and liveliness, but also an objective response to the orchestra and reverence for the song.
When Danny’s manager hugged him and picked him up, he looked around. Before enjoying the moment, he wanted to find Jun Hyuk and send him a look of thanks at the least. But Jun Hyuk was rejoicing his win somewhere else.
The moment the winners were confirmed, the general public in the theater lobby cheered. The audience’s cheering showed that the judging had been faithful to the most universal feelings.
“It was a wise choice on the judges’ part.”
“Yes. The ranking will allow them to avoid criticism from maestros, who have the fiercest words.”
“So it’s not a system where they look for mistakes and deduct points. We cannot tell whether it was a mistake or an intended rubato, but it is definitely subject to point deductions in a competition. But the judges accepted the rubato. It’s proof that they only thought about the quality of the performance.”
The judges quietly left the theater as critics chatted. Reporters flashed their cameras at the 2 winners and held their microphones out to them.