By Christine Lee
(In order to prevent confusion between the
two contestants Chi Li and Zeyu Victor Li, who share the same last name, Zeyu
Victor Li is referred to with his full name in this article.)
The finals for the Montreal International
Music Competition ended yesterday with the last three finalists performing a
concerto with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra led by guest conductor Maxim
The night began with the young violinist
from China, Zeyu Victor Lip performing Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in D major, opus 35. Zeyu Victor Li played with ease,
confidence, and personality. His phrasing displayed great musicality,
especially in the first two movements. His clever use of diverse sound and
articulation was astounding, and so was his vibrato. However, what set him
apart the most from the other candidates was his musical direction, which
involved the entire orchestra.
Zeyu Victor Li’s performance showcased his
understanding of the piece’s structure. Every moment – a note, a melody, silence
– led fluidly to the next . Each instance created suspense, set up a climax, brought out
a certain line, or prepared the next moment.
The piece was a complete entity: the
soloist, when ending his solo parts, anticipated the phrasing and dynamics used
by the orchestra, which created a sense of unity in the music. This in turn inspired the orchestra to reciprocate
with equal musicality.
Zeyu Victor Li continuously performed with the orchestra, commanding its
attention, and connecting with its musicians, often turning to make eye contact
with Maestro Vengerov.
In the second movement, Zeyu Victor Li’s
singing tone, coupled with his natural vibrato, showcased the desolation and
solitude inherent in Tchaikovsky’s score. A few weeks before he composed his violin
concerto, Tchaikovsky, trapped in an unhappy marriage, attempted suicide.
Zeyu Victor Li breezed through the last movement,
the most technically challenging section, with a clear technique, clean and on
key. He was probably the candidate with the best technique, in both the bowing
and the left hand.
Perhaps the only thing somewhat lacking in
the final movement was a hint of delirious happiness, the kind that Tchaikovsky
might have felt as he was composing this violin concerto: he finally divorced and
immersed himself in his work. He was so enthralled by the idea of a violin
concerto that he set aside his work on the piano sonata he had been working on
to concentrate. The last movement in his violin concerto in D major most
probably reflects the ultimate happiness, relief and freedom he found in music.
The night continued with another
Tchaikovsky violin concerto, performed by Fédor Roudine, hailing from France.
Roudine’s sound was elegant, light, sweet
and enchanting. From the first movement, he played with an earthy tone and brought
out the melodic aspect of the music. He showcased a beautiful legato.
Unfortunately, the orchestra did not follow Roudine’s style, and played in a
more ‘Russian’ style – a little more detached, with more accents and thicker in
tone. Overall, this created a disjointed feeling. Also, because the first movement
was so elegant and beautiful, there was very little contrast with the second movement,
which is meant to showcase the melodic aspect. As such, the latter movement did
not have the expected impact, which is a shame because Roudine’s interpretation
was beautiful and very sensitive. Perhaps he tried to compensate by choosing a
slower tempo, but it was not enough to impress the judges.
The third movement, which should be
uplifting, did not have the appropriate character. Roudine’s technique was
good, but at times there were problems with pitch. It is to be noted, however, that
Roudine performed his last movement much faster than the other candidates.
The last performer of the night and of the
competition was Stephen Waarts, performing the Brahms Violin Concerto in D major. As in his semi-final recital, Waarts displayed
a beautiful tone and a majestic sound. Every time Waarts played the melody, it
sang and resounded with sensitivity, and it moved the piece forward. Though he
was slightly nervous at the beginning, he truly brought out the eerie and
worrying spirit of the first movement. The young violinist offered a palette of
intense moments, especially in the cadenza, where he performed with great
In the second movement, Waarts’s musicality
and phrasing were truly showcased. Undoubtedly, his sense of melody is his
strength: every note, every crescendo, and every vibrato had its place.
Everything was on key. (Definitely a must listen!)
The last movement of the Brahms Violin
Concert in D major possesses a jolly, almost playful spirit, with some gypsy
influence: detachés, portamentos, double-stops, dotted-rhythms, accents and
glissando. Brahms wrote his violin concert for his friend, Joseph Joachim (to
whom the piece is dedicated), and no doubt, this movement is a wink at the
latter’s Hungarian background. Waarts’ rendition of the piece captured just
that spirit, and gave it a dancing feeling. Waarts’s beautiful counterpuntal
melodic line was also noteworthy and brilliant.
Though the soloist and orchestra were not
always together, the audience showered Waarts with thunderous applause and
cries of ‘Bravo!’ A rather comical situation then occurred: perhaps shy, the
young violinist slipped away, before Vengerov had a chance to shake the hands
of the concertmaster or have the orchestra rise, and so Waarts was ushered back
on stage. The applause doubled, and with one last bow, Waarts, Vengerov and the
musicians left the stage.
After a rather long deliberation (during
which the audience was encouraged to vote for their favourite performance by
depositing their choice in a ballot), the judges finally revealed the results of
the Montreal International Music Competition:
- First place: Marc Bouchkov ($30 000 first
prize with a ‘Sartory’ model bow valued at $3 700)
- Second place: Stephen Waarts ($15 000
- Third place: Zeyu Victor Li ($10 000 third
All the prizes, including Radio Canada
People’s Choice Award, the Award for the best performance of the compulsory
Canadian work, the Wilder & Davis Award for the best semi-final recital and
three MIMC grant for three unranked finalists, will be officially awarded during
the Gala Concert on Friday, May 17, at 7:30pm, in the Maison symphonique de
Don’t miss these three young
violinists, who will perform once again under Maxim Vengerov’s baton and with
the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal!
Labels: competition, Concert_Review, Montreal, violin