The final round was held from 1 p.m. on October 3 at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. As the state of emergency declaration has been lifted, the final round was conducted with spectators, and flowers decorating the stage were creating an atmosphere of the long-awaited final round. It was just like a concert. Unlike the preliminary rounds where the contestants might stop the performance so the way of rehearsing could also be assessed, the finalists competed each other only with performances. They had a rehearsal on the day and two days before the final round, when they had enough time to convey to the orchestra their interpretations of the music pieces.
The four finalists are all youths in their 20’s; Samy Rachid (age 28 from France), José Soares (23, Brazil), Bertie Baigent (26, UK) and Satoshi Yoneda (25, Japan).
In addition to the assigned piece; The Thieving Magpie, the overture, by Rossini, the finalists performed one of the three pieces of choice they had submitted at the time of application; the one decided by the Executive Committee.
First the Thieving Magpie, the overture, was performed by Samy Racid, José Soares, Bertie Baigent, and Satoshi Yoneda in this order. Then another round of performance of their respective piece of choice followed in the same order with New Japan Philharmonic. The compositions of choice performed are as follows: Saint-Saëns: Symphony 3 "Organ Symphony" Op. 78 I: Adagio - Allegro moderato, II by Samy Racid, I.Stravinsky: Petrushka (1947 version) Movements I, II and IV by Jose Soares, R.Strauss: Death and Transfiguration Op. 24, TrV 158 by Bertie Baigent, and P.I.Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture by Satoshi Yoneda. The organ solo for Saint-Saëns’ Symphony 3 was performed by Hiromi Nagai, and the piano solo for Petrushka by Koji Mori. It was a rather heavy program for the orchestra, but NJP showed stable performance under the leadership of Munsu Choi, solo concertmaster.
TEXT BY Haruo YAMADA (Music critic)
The first prize winner was José Soares from Brazil, the youngest among the twelve contestants who participated in the competition rounds, an amazing 23-year-old conductor who gave the orchestra precise technical instructions composedly for such a music as Petrushka which requires a large orchestra with complicated irregular meters. He conducted sharply, by ear, even jumping lightly during its ethnic fourth movement. For the assigned piece; the Thieving Magpie, obviously he was enjoying conducting, with vibrant and dynamic rhythm in the music. In the prolonged Rossini crescendo, he had his conducting movement gradually larger as well, finely creating the music. He also received the Audience Award.
The second prize went to Samy Racid from France. He has been a successful cellist as a first prize winner in the ARD International Music Competition Munich as part of the Arod Quartet in 2016. It was since the beginning of this year when he turned to a conductor at full scale. As for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in the first preliminary round and the Thieving Magpie, the overture, he seemed to have shown his lack of experience as conductor. (For example, Rossini crescendo is not something to simply increase the sound volume gradually nor to let the orchestra do the work, but something which can be realized through the communication of the conductor’s emotional elevation.) In his piece of choice, Symphony No. 3 by Saint-Saëns, however, he showed remarkably different, wonderful performance. By ear, he conducted the piece as if he has absorbed the entire music within himself. Rich sound by the brass section and colorful music were created. It was confident and convincing conducting. It could be anticipated that this full-fledged musician will transform into a major conductor.
Bertie Baigent received the third prize, Special Award (the Hideo Saito Award) and Orchestra Award as well. In the Thieving Magpie, the overture, he produced a “song” suitable for the piece and expressive muted sound. Especially, emotional elevation expressed in Rossini crescendo was wonderful and the entire performance was fully appreciated. In his piece of choice, Death and Transfiguration by Strauss, he successfully made the orchestra perform rich sounds and created peaceful, cleansed and blissful resonance towards the end of the music, enabling the performance bringing about positive feelings in the end.
Satoshi Yoneda received honorable mentions and Encouragement Award. He conducted Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture by Tchaikovsky as his piece of choice. Something extraordinary tragic could be felt through the woodwind sounds and phrasing of the introduction. The first theme was clearly presented and the second theme indicated extendedly. The music grew larger and dramatic towards its climax. While he tried to express the entire piece as a whole, it could have been better if each of the scenes had more dynamics. As he gains more experiences, he will become able to acquire even a wider variety of possible expressions of orchestra. He made unique performance of the Thieving Magpie, the overture, which started smoothly and expressed a Rossini type of humor. Something extraordinary was felt through the surprisingly serious look he gave in brief minor.