Monday, February 18, 2008

Maria Callas Grand Prix

The Maria Callas Grand Prix is an international competition that takes place every year in Athens; it is for piano and voice alternating. The piano competition started last week. It is not the usual kind of competition in the business, at least not anymore. It used to be one until the early '90s. But the organizers started getting hundreds of applications, so after a proposal from the late György Sándor, they changed the competition's program: in 1994 for the first time in history a competition of this size was devoted to the piano concerto. The competitors should chose to present 10 of them. No one would actually play all the movements from all the concertos in these 10 days the competition lasted, it was nevertheless a challenge for anyone. So, in the first edition of the new comp. 6 pianists came finally to Athens.

I was intrigued from this change. You see, I always did fancy more as a player concerto performances than solo recitals... So, I waited for my turn to go to this competition. Sadly (for me that is), in 2002 -because of the very small number or participants?- they changed once again the program. The number of concertos droped to 7 and a recital was added. Detailed rules here. When I decided to come in 2004, I had to prepare the latter program. My participation was not succesful in this competition either. And apart from my share of responsibility, this competition was never fair to Greek pianists who did not have their teacher in the jury.

This year's jury however seems nicer -more fair- than the previous ones, and the results of the 1st round were not arguable. Now, the program of the competition has a funny small -or not so small- text at its end mentioning after an introduction the rules of the jury voting procedure. The intro is weird, since it gives an explanation for the publication of the following rules. I did not see any reason of explaining the presence or the rules; nowadays, it is a common practice in international competition everywhere. In this text, it seems that the organizers have been a bit annoyed by the fact that the audience members were discussing a lot the decision of the jury right after the finals... consequently they explain that everything is fair, and that the decisions of the juries depend on all 3 (for the voice) or 4 (for the piano) rounds and not just on the final which is the only round most of the listeners listen to.

In the rules now, something did strike me as weird, and I sincerely hope, though I doubt, that it's just a typo. There's the following sentence: after the voting has been completed one of the lowest and one of the highest scores among those of the jury members will be deleted etc. From what I know, and I've been long enough around and read few dozens of competition leaflets, the lowest and the highest score are deleted... Is this a typo? But if typos are hard to tackle, how hard is to organize a competition?

Anyway, they've been very unlucky with this year's edition. The Goethe Institut would host the first two rounds. It got burnt in December.. they had to find another hall. The first round took place in a small hall -rather a large chamber- with two Steinway D... It was loud in there. The second round would be somewher else, due however to the snow storm -yes, snow storm-, and the cold weather that hit Attica since Sunday, they changed it to the hall of the organizer's conservatory. Even if this change was for good -far better piano and acoustics than the initial place-, I think I should stop writing and commenting this competitions. I feel, I have cast a spell on them. Me, or somebody more powerful...

Otherwise, Athens and Attica was very quiet today, schools and universities were closed, as most of the shops downtown. Busses started running after 11am, the airport was closed in the morning and many flights got cancelled. With all this ice and snow around however, Athens finally feels like home!


buzz it!

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