6th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition concludes

The 6th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition has concluded, the prizes have been awarded.

Musica Viva Prize winners Kelemen Kvartett

Of the eight piano trios and eight string quartets competing, the Rhodes, Rafale and Paul Klee Trios and the Amaryllis, Attacca and Kelemen Quartets were selected for the finals. While the Monash University Grand Prize was awarded to the Amaryllis Quartett, the Musica Viva Australia Prize of a national tour in a future season was awarded to the Kelemen Kvartett. First prize in the Piano Trio section was awarded to Trio Rafale. The full list of prizes can be seen here.

Grand Prize winners Amaryllis Quartett

The Amaryllis Quartett make their Sydney debut tomorrow, performing Haydn and Ravel in Musica Viva’s Sydney Coffee Concert series.

Music competitions tend to generate debate – whether and how performances should be evaluated and compared.

“Competition is of course largely anathema to most forms of the arts,” writes Martin Ball in the Sydney Morning Herald, “for unlike sport where there are distances and times to be measured, and scores to be tallied, in the arts there are few quantifiable categories… There are degrees of competence, however, and in the case of chamber music it is possible to compare players’ technical facility or the ability to play as an organic ensemble. But the great joy of this event for local audiences is not about seeing their team win, but rather barracking for the music itself. It may sound like a cliche, but art is the winner.”

There is the question of whether winning an award really means anything.

“[W]hen you pick up a CD of the late lamented Beaux Arts Trio, do you check the liner, whether they won any competitions?” asks blogger John of Oz. “Better put it back on the rack. I suspect they never did. Amadeus Quartet? Guarneri Quartet? I think not. They were just bloody good. No argument. Trouble is we the audiences, the listeners, no longer have the courage of our convictions. Got to be led by the nose. No worries: they won the West Woopwoop competition in 2001. Must be good, musn’t they?”

Piano Trio section winners Trio Rafale

And then there is the question of personal taste, and whether it is possible to be truly objective when judging art and performance. Grand Prize winners the Amaryllis Quartett admit in an interview in the Age “Everyone who is here is already very good so in the end it’s just a question of what the jury liked more.” But for many young musicians, competitions are still a major motivator, a reason to strive harder, and often the impetus for expanding their repertoire, due to the varying entry requirements of competition. Say the winners of the Piano Trio section, the Trio Rafale, “We’re really happy. You can never really know in a competition and we worked really hard … the whole preparation process was really important for us and I think we made a lot of progress as a group.”

According to Carl Vine, “The Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition has become a major player in the support network for live chamber music performance that spans the globe. The competition has brought to our attention many young and emerging ensembles that might have otherwise remained unnoticed. The Musica Viva Prize enables us to offer the best of these groups indispensable performance opportunities in Australia, as well as establishing powerful connections with them that continue to stretch well into the future.”

MICMC concerts can still be heard online at ABC Classic FM.

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5 responses to “6th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition concludes”

  1. roger.knight says :

    I heard both quartets live. If the decison to award the Musica Viva tour to the Kelemen rather than the Amaryllis was Carl Vine’s, then I think it suggests (not for the first time) a seriously flawed artistic judgement. High time you got rid of him.

    Roger Knight. Adelaide.

    • musicavivaaustralia says :

      The Musica Viva Prize selection is made by a committee comprising Carl Vine, Mary Jo Capps, Katherine Kemp and Timothy Matthies.

      The competition this year was of an exceptionally high standard that offered us more than one opportunity to choose a world class ensemble to suit the Musica Viva main stage. For Musica Viva the Kelemen Kvartett has an inventiveness and innate sense of musicality that is simply inspiring.

  2. JohnofOz says :

    Dear Roger Knight,
    I also heard both quartets. Live. (You did hear them live? Without the interference of sound engineers?) I heard all three performances of Kellemen and four of Amaryllis. While I acknowledge that the Amaryllis are a wonderful quartet (and indeed after their winner’s concert Ravel performance I tweeted that “the smart money was on the Amaryllis for both the big prizes”), I had also immensely enjoyed the spirit, passion and courage of the Kellemen. Their Bartok was brilliant, compared with a less than satisfactory Op 131 which did not compare, for example with the Paizo performance of 2003. Perhaps you did not hear that one. It was beaten by the Eggners for the Musica Viva prize and Australian audiences have been revelling in the results ever since.That Kellemen won the (live) audience prize was salutary. They have the class and audience appeal to be a fine follower to the Atos and Eggner trios who won the MVA award in the previous two competitions.
    I cannot fault the outcomes of this competition (although one might argue that a piano trio prize should not have been awarded).
    And, for what it is worth, the scuttlebutt suggests a fair number of the jurors were enamoured of the Kellemen too. Perhaps you’d like to measure your artistic judgements against them as well.
    And peace, Mr Knight. We cannot love all artistic directors, given the range of subjective judgements at play. But Carl Vine and his colleagues at MVA do a pretty good job, all things considered.

  3. musicavivaaustralia says :

    It’s great to see some lively debate!

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