The DVS once again visits new viola frontiers! This time our intrepid reporter Karin Dolman is reporting from the very First Oskar Nedbal International Viola Competition in Prague (Oct 31st – Nov 3rd, 2019).
By now I’m in the train from Berlin to Prague – so far no delays. After a few hours of sleep (:-)) I am sitting with my iPad connected to the onboard WiFi, browsing through the competition repertoire and the schedule.
The first round will start tonight – and Oh my, it continues throughout Friday and most of Saturday – there are 76 participants from 27 countries! The 2nd round participants (finalists) will only be announced on Saturday afternoon at 1700h! To my regret I will have to miss the prize winners’ concert on Sunday evening (I’ll be on my way back). But I suppose the most important decisions are made in the 1st round.
Now for the repertoire list – that seems not too bad in terms of playing time: Two contrasting movements from Bach’s solo sonatas/partitas or (cello) suites, or one of the Reger suites. And furthermore another 5-minute solo work of your own choice. Everything must be played by heart.
The 2nd round piece is a choice of sonata with piano: B. Martinů, P. Hindemith (op.11/4), R. Clarke, J. Brahms (op.120/1 and 2), F. Schubert, N. Paganini, J. Feld (Sonata), M. Reger, H. Vieuxtemps, V. Kalabis. The unknown ones for me are Feld en Kalabis. I sincerely hope that some of the finalists will have chosen those, and that we don’t get too many Rebecca Clarkes – clearly one of the most “fashionable” viola sonatas of recent years. To think that, back in my student days, I was the first violist in The Netherlands to play the Clarke sonata!
The most interesting aspect of this programme is the free choice of a solo work. What would I have chosen? Well, first I would want to know if it has to be an original viola composition. Then I would consider to have a solo piece commissioned for myself. Nowadays I’m studying the (transcription of the) 1st Britten cello suite, which is very challenging. This music assumes extensive use of the cello thumb position, for which I am trying to develop technical solutions on the viola. So if I were a Nedbal competition participant, I would have chosen Britten.
What am I hoping to hear? Of course Hindemith, but not the “Tonschönheid ist Nebensache” – I’d rather hear one of his other three solo sonatas. Or Stravinsky’s Elegy, or some (hopefully surprising) national repertoire from the participants’ home countries.
So in short – I’m tremendously looking forward to the 1st round. Almost 3 days long!
For now I decide to make another attempt at a power nap in the train. More thoughts tonight!