It was a real privilege to be adopted as an honorary viola player in chairing the jury for the twelfth Tertis International Viola Competition from 12 to 19 March. Well-established through the patronage of the Tertis Foundation and managed in Port Erin, Isle of Man by John Bethell and his team, the festival and competition is one of the leading events for viola players in the world. Whilst the primary aim is to run the tri-annual competition, the week achieves much more than this: promoting the viola as a solo and chamber music instrument, promoting and expanding the repertoire for the viola, encouraging young viola players and supporting research about the viola and its repertoire.
This year’s competition was a remarkable one. From over 90 applicants from more than 20 countries considered in the first recorded round, 44 were selected to compete in the Isle of Man. Coming from leading conservatoires and orchestras around the world, the standard was extraordinarily high and we heard many very fine performnaces during the week. The second round, for example, required all contestants to play solo Bach, the set piece, fenodyree by Stuart MacRae and either a Paganini Caprice or the Bach/Kodaly Fantasia Chromatica. Here the consistency of playing, much of which was memorised was an indication of the professionalism of the players and a sign of what would follow in the subsequent rounds.
The third round contained many good performances from the choices offered and for each judge there were individual highpoints in works by Johannes Brahms, Ernst Bloch, Rebecca Clarke, Paul Hindemith, Franz Schubert and York Bowen all accompanied by the trio of top accompanists, Sophia Rahman, Caroline Dowdle and Antony Hewitt. The semi-final was a fascinating one in that the eight selected contestants were required to play Beethoven’s Trio in C minor Op 9 No 3 with the two resident trio members, Krysia Osostowicz and Jane Salmon. In would be true to say that all the performances had distinct strengths and showed real insights into the art of chamber music playing.
In the end three fine violists came through to the final and, after two performances of the Walton Concerto and one of the Bartók together with performances of the set work and the Beethoven Trio, the jury selected Timothy Ridout as the winner, Manuel Vioque-Judde as second prizewinner and Wenhong Luo as third prizewinner. Congratulations to these players and to the semi-finalists for their success in such a strong field. This strength was reflected in the numerous extra prizes that were awarded to participants. The prizewinners received their awards from the Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man, His Excellency Adam Wood.
I was delighted to spend the week working with the amazing jury – Yuri Bashmet (President of the Festival and Competition), Garth Knox, Thomas Riebl and Wing Ho all of whom gave a recital and masterclass during the week. Their commitment to their younger colleagues was exemplary.
The Festival was equally interesting with a recital by Sarah-Jane Bradley and John Lenehan, talks by Tully Potter, Chris Milton and David Hume and a daily viola workshop run by the tireless and brilliant Louise Lansdowne. The Gallery bookshop with Comus Edition and Bishop Instruments and Bows was open for the week and David Hume was available to contestants for instrument repair and maintenance.
All in all, this was a marvelous week and the weather in the Isle of Man responded with daily sunshine such that Thomas Riebl was able to take daily Qigong warm-ups at 8.00am overlooking the beach.
Thanks go to all involved for making Tertis 2016 such a successful one.