Sunday, October 2, 2011

Time Out Singapore Classical Features

So like I requested for a short chat with Vladimir Ashkenazy for Time Out Singapore's October issue, to discuss his coming concert in Singapore as well as his participation as head of jury in the Hong Kong International Competition. unfortunately the maestro only had time to answer questions on email which only came in after my article was submitted. Rather than letting these gems go to waste, I thought I'd publish them here for those who care. You're welcome!

Dear Maestro Ashkenazy,

Thank you for your time, I have only three short questions for you:

The Mad Scene: You said that there are too many competitions these days, which devalues the significance of winning one compared to your time (in this video: What role do you see the Hong Kong competition play in such a competitive environment? Where does it stand among the many competitions that are also taking place these days?

Ashkenazy: One has to balance out the likelihood that too many competitions will in fact "devalue" the significance of winning versus the likelihood that in some of these competitions we will discover a true talent.So although, sadly, I stand by my view equally I can not deny this chance of hidden talents discovered.

The case of the Hong Kong International Piano Competition and my involvement in it is rather special. I had met the organizers of the competition, Andrew and Anabella Freris a few years back in a social occasion. They, very charmingly, asked me to be the chairman of the competition they were planning to launch and I, as I was certain that nothing would come out of this, equally charmingly, accepted so as not to be rude to these kind people. Little did I know that "unfortunately" they did get the competition off the ground and I could not go back on my word. So it was a matter of charm from both sides, from the organizers and from myself combined with luck, which led to my chairmanship.

I must state that I am only involved in two competitions, the Svetlanov International Conducting Competition and the Hong Kong International Piano Competition. So I stick to my view of limiting my involvement with competitions and also now I am extra careful what I say or promise to charming music-loving couples....!

The Mad Scene: What do you hope that this competition will do for the winners?

Ashkenazy: Help launch their careers in an incredibly competitive environment packed with very talented young ( and not-so-young ...) musicians all vying for the limited opportunities to play-let alone making a living as performing pianists and musicians.

I will repeat here what is often said, that winning the first prize in an important competition helps the career but is no guarantee of success, but it is also true that not winning a prize in a competition has not stopped several pianist from becoming famous.

The Mad Scene: You will also be conducting Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony in Singapore, what is it about this piece of music that speaks out to you?

Ashkenazy: It is the tragedy and the struggle of a brave and intelligent man against fate. The first movement, in a way, says it all. All efforts and struggle were ultimately in vain and unsuccessful.

Read the full feature on Time Out Singapore here:

Also as an experiment of sorts, my October feature touches on locally-based classical artists who have put out CDs for sale. Unfortunately I wasn't able to use all the quotes they have provided in interviews for the article due to space restraints, so my apologies to the artists involved. Check out what remains and also the links to where you can buy their respective albums.

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