Johansen Competition: young at art
Attending a competition is, like any marathon, a kind of endurance test; it takes a special kind of stamina to keep your focus for the whole thing, but going to part of it feels like cheating. I was therefore tempted to pass on the sixth Johansen Competition, the Friday Morning Music Club’s international competition for string players 13 to 17 years old, held every three years, which took place in Washington this weekend. And I was really glad, after hearing a few of the competitors, that I looked in after all.
I am periodically moved to diatribes about the joys of listening to music in rehearsal rather than in a polished but less vivid performance. Let me extend that diatribe to encompass hearing music played by committed, talented young artists full of idealism and fire, as opposed to hearing it played by gifted older artists who have to fight perils like routine and jet lag in a career that is, if you’re an international star, pretty grueling. (I remember Yefim Bronfman telling me about the challenge of learning the concerto Esa-Pekka Salonen had written for him; he was on tour in Asia, and the only time he had to practice it was after concerts, at 2 in the morning.)
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