For the 63rd year of the Kocian Violin Competition we had total of 59 contestants from the Czech Republic and 14 other countries. Originally we received 65 applications. Total number of contestants from the Czech Republic was 25.
For well-known reasons we couldn’t organise the competition in 2020 and for some time we were wondering what will happen this year. Finally the decision to make an online version via video recordings was made. Of course, we didn’t have any experience with that but today I can say that everything went smoothly and that it was a success. All this thanks to great effort of the organisational team, of the town of Usti nad Orlici represented by the Mayor Mr Petr Hajek, the competition directress Mrs Lenka Lipenska, the Jaroslav Kocian Foundation Fund and everyone who took care of the technical part of our online meetings.
The jury traditionally consisted of 4 Czech and 3 foreign members. With me there was the teacher of last year’s laureate prof. Ivan Straus, as well as Jan Fiser, Petr Matejak, Shizuka Ishikawa (Japan), Hana Kotkova (Switzerland) and doc. Jozef Kopelman from Slovakia.
Given this year’s online nature of the competition we only had one round in every category. Before I give my comments and thoughts on the competition I would like to mention one problem that occurred many times this year and that were issues with time limits. We had many cases when the performance was either too long or too short. We understand the unprecedented situation this year and that is why we were more considerate and accepted everyone for the competition. However, in the future we will be much more strict with these limits. Furthermore, after some consideration we adjusted limits in each category and added lower limit of 5 minutes for the 1st category. I have to mention by name those whose videos were either too long or too short. Of course the young violinists are not to blame, as following these rules is always ultimately responsibility of the teacher. From the Czech Republic it was: Panek, Langasek (the performance was almost 30% longer than the allowed limit), Merico, Smidova. And from abroad it was Altangerel, Atav, Kellerbauer, Tulgat, Asano, Klavins, Shigematsu, Tralla, Gennari, Kidon, Polikarpov, Serovic and Zheleva.
Comments for each category.
1st category always shows the biggest age difference. From Mongolia we even had the youngest contestant ever, Amar Tulgat. In this category we always try to split the awards so everyone can take home some prize. We do this to motivate young students, as we see this kind of encouragement as crucial in early stages of violin studies. As usual, Czech representation on first three places was very limited with an exception of Lucie Troupova who took 3rd place. Regarding the other prizes, the 1st place went without any doubt to Aleksandr Kolesnikov from Russia. Even his interpretation of Kocian’s Melody was the best. Nevertheless, Vasilisa Sokolova, who took 2nd place and is a familiar face in Usti nad Orlici, also played remarkably. The other contestants were quite similar in their performances, hence many prizes and certificates of merit.
In the second category were compulsory first two Romantic Pieces by Antonin Dvorak. The Czech Republic had four hopes in this category, but in the end Czech contestants had the worst results in this category. Clear winner here was Kai Gergov (Bulgaria/Japan), who with his performance of Vieuxtemps Violin Concerto no. 2 also won an award for the best interpretation of a piece by a Belgian composer. Second place then took Valentina-Maria Schwinge, partly for a very nice interpretation of the compulsory composition, the third place was split among three contestants.
The 3rd category was quite even in quality, we heard many great performances. I think that the compulsory composition, From My Homeland was good fit also for contestants from abroad and I hope that more of them will incorporate it to their repertoire, as it is a piece definitely worth their attention. This category won Tokuji Miyasaka from the USA, whose performance was almost professional – from beautiful variety of colours in Smetana through precise virtuosity in Paganini to lovely tone projection in Bach. Also the others who took 2nd and 3rd place were playing exquisitely – Mariam Minna Abouzahra from Austria, Daria Martin Cholakova from Bulgaria and also Czech participant Milan Kostelenec who performed Violin Concerto by Paganini.
Compulsory composition for the 4th category were 4 out of 5 Madrigal Stansaz by Bohuslav Martinu. It was the first time that we had this piece in this competition and we were a bit worried how foreign contestants will deal with it. But these worries turned out to be pointless as some violinist from abroad made the interpretations much more interesting then Czech students. That is why the prize for the best interpretation of the compulsory piece went to Germany to Elisabeth Pihusch. Winner of this category was Boryana Yordanova Zheleva from Bulgaria, who played flawlessly 1st Violin Concerto by Prokofjev and Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy. The second and the third runner-up were also quite balanced and we were pleased with Czech participants here – Roman Cervinka and Alzbeta Dusova, who took 2nd and 3rd place respectively.
The discussion over the title of the laureate was not easy this year, since all four winner of individual categories had similar score points. At the end we decided to give this title to Kai Gergov, winner of the 2nd category. We will definitely hear about him in the future. And of course, we are looking forward to his performance with The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice next year.
My overall impression from this year is that even though we had a novel way of presentation of competition performances, everyone managed to deal with the situation and the competition maintained its high standard.
Our efforts to promote Czech music are reflected in compulsory compositions chosen for the following year. Same as this time, we have an award in a form of prize money prepared for the best interpretation of a piece by both Kocian and Martinu. Compulsory compositions for KVC 2022 are as follows:
1st category: Antonin Dvorak – Sonatina, Op. 100 (1st movement)
2nd category: Bohuslav Martinu – Arabesque (No. 5 and No. 4)
3rd category: Jaroslav Kocian – Intermezzo Pittoresque, Op. 18 No. 2
4th category: Otakar Sevcik – Czech Dances and Airs (The girl with blue eyes/Holka modrooka), Op. 10 No. 1
MgA. Pavel Hula, Jury Chairman of the Kocian Violin Competition