Report from ARD Competition 2023, 4th Round (Finals)

The prestigious ARD music competition 2023 (ARD Wettbewerb) for Viola is ongoing these days in Munich (D). Karin Dolman reports exclusively for the DVS her personal impressions day-by-day until the Final on Sunday, Sept. 10th.

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Round 4, Finals (Sept 10th, 2023):

I meet my friends from The Netherlands, now residents of Munich, and we go together to the Finals of the competition, which is held in the “Herkulessaal” of the Residenz, a very noble hall. The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks led by Andrew Grams will accompany the finalists in the Bartók and Walton concertos.

This time there is a program with background information on the final competitors: Ionel Ungureanu, Takehiro Konoe and Haesue Lee. For the Dutch it would be great if Takehiro wins the competition. But it can go in any direction, it depends also on the jury taking the other rounds into consideration.

Ionel Ungureanu was the first to play. He chose the Bartók concerto. He had trouble getting the sluggish sounding orchestra going. The second movement was touching and all the solos in the orchestra were well matched. Here was chemistry. Unfortunately in the last movement he had trouble organizing the orchestra. The public was nevertheless very enthusiastic about Ionel, bit of a “home favourite”.

O wow, Takehiro Konoe’s performance was really amazing. We have to turn off our mobiles so I always make my report after the performance. Takehiro was playing the Walton and the orchestra was ready to play as well! I must say, they did a better job than in the Bartók. Maybe they should have put the Bartók in the middle!

Takehiro’s vibrato, mentioned earlier, is just right, a bit big in amplitude, which helps his sound carry. I am wondering what instrument he plays on. But it is clearly his playing, not the instrument. I am really proud of this performance. In the program it said where he was born and raised in the Netherlands, so our country gets a bit of credit.

Now we return go back to hear the last of the finalists, Haesue Lee! She also plays the Walton concerto! So mobile and really enjoyable! Yes yes, what a performance!!!! For today she was the one who grabbed the audience by the throat!! Her timing was great, she took the lead, not the conductor. I hope a lot of people watched the livestream.

But being here was so great. Now we have to wait for the jury decision. All of the competitors were excellent in their own respects. Ionel is the greatest all-round musician, Takehiro has the best tone and vibrato and my beloved Haesue is the one who stole my heart, already in her Brahms.

Ionel will have a great career, hopefully write a lot of pieces for the viola (maybe the next solo piece for the ARD!!!!) Or for another competition, or play his own pieces like Hindemith did! And Takehiro will be the best ambassador for new music, hopefully with his pianist Meeuwsen.

And the winners are ..: (drum roll)… :

First prize and Audience Prize: Haesue Lee (South Korea)
Shared 3rd prize: Takehiro Konoe (Japan/Netherlands) and Ionel Ungureanu Germany)

The Jury of the 2023 ARD Viola Competition consisted of:

  • Lars Anders Tomter, Chair
  • Steven Ansell
  • Tatjana Masurenko
  • Jutta Puchhammer-Sédillot
  • Naoko Shimizu
  • Edward Vanderspar
  • Wen Xiao Cheng

Note: The competition was Livestreamed on the ARD website, and also on YouTube, where you can go back and listen (if you missed it) and make up your own mind of the performances!

<previous blog report>