Competition Results / Saturday Evening Gala Concert
by Sam Davies
On the fourth day of ClarinetFest® 2015 in Madrid, lectures, masterclasses, and recitals continued in the Conde Duque for the enjoyment of some 1,100 clarinet enthusiasts from around the world.
Inspecting the vendor exhibits while walking the ground floor and moving through the almost 300-year-old stone columns offered hours of interest for many attendees. Always one of the highlights of every ClarinetFest, the vendor exhibits offer everything you could need or imagine relating to the clarinet, and some things you can’t! It’s easy to lose track of time flipping through clarinet sheet music, whether its solo repertoire or newly arranged chamber works, and suddenly find that an hour has gone by and you’ve created a stack of music that may or may not fit in your suitcase on the return flight. And of course, all types of equipment, ligatures, mouthpieces, and clarinets can be tested (even the elusive A-flat sopranino clarinet!) from dozens of vendors from around the world.
Some vendors introduced new products, such as Vandoren’s Black Diamond Ebonite mouthpiece and V21 reeds, and Selmer’s Presence clarinet. Other vendors drew in attendees with competitions: try out a Backun clarinet or post a picture of a Backun artist, and be entered to win a free Backun clarinet! D’Addario offered a similar prize for those who tried out their new Reserve mouthpiece: a chance to win a new Buffet Crampon RC Prestige B-flat clarinet. Another vendor boasted a new type of crystal mouthpiece that changes color depending on the type of light that hits it! And perhaps the most useful thing of all? A small booth, completely soundproof, for practicing without disturbing those around you. How considerate!
Later in the day, the awards ceremony was held in the Auditorio at the Conde Duque. Current I.C.A. President Maxine Ramey thanked all the ClarinetFest sponsors, without whom the competitions and prizes would not be possible. The Spanish Clarinet Association gave out a bag of gifts to each of the judges of the Young Artist Competition in appreciation of their contributions. Next, an important honorary award was given to James Gillespie, who recently retired after serving for 37 years as editor of The Clarinet.
Harry Sparnaay also received the I.C.A. Honorary Member Award for work with the bass clarinet. Sparnaay was the bass clarinet professor at the Amsterdam Conservatory for many years and has had a great influence on the instrument’s place in the musical world.
Maxine Ramey then introduced the coordinators of each competition, who in turn announced the winners.
First up was Malena McLaren, coordinator of the research competition. There were eight finalists, and after 45 minutes of deliberation, the judges awarded Honorable Mention to Christopher Nichols (USA, “The Audition Process for the Premier U.S. Service Bands”), 2nd prize to Michelle Lucia-Ingle (USA, “Using Mobile, Software, and Web-Based Technology to Facilitate Learning in the Applied Clarinet Studio”), and 1st prize to Kate Young (USA, “Clarinet Thumb-rest Function and Electromyography Evidence”).
Next, an award was given to Jan Rosner from the Czech Republic, winner of the Composition Competition for a new violin/clarinet/piano trio in honor of the Verdehr Trio’s decades-long contribution to our chamber repertoire. The world premiere of his work will be given next year at ClarinetFest 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.
High School Competition
John Warren, the coordinator of the High School Competition, thanked the judges and announced that there were 30 applicants for the competition and six finalists. The winners: 3rd prize ($500) went to Minkyung Chu (Seoul, Korea); 2nd prize ($750) to Guilherme Batahla (Miharado, Portugal); 1st prize ($1000) to Ferran Arbona (Carcaixent, Valencia, Spain).
Orchestral Audition Competition
Robyn Jones, the coordinator of the Orchestral Audition Competition, informed the audience that there were eight applicants and six finalists. The runner up received $500 and a Greg Smith mouthpiece; the winner, Jake Hale, received $1000 and a Greg Smith mouthpiece.
Young Artist Competition
Caroline Hartig served as the coordinator of the Young Artist Competition. There were 32 applicants, 14 semi-finalists, and six finalists. 3rd prize ($1000) went to Lenner Barnabás (Hungary); 2nd prize ($2000) to Cristina Mateo Sáez (Spain); and 1st prize ($4000 and a Rossi A clarinet) to Ángel Belda (Spain).
Following the announcements, the 1st prize High School Competition winner, Ferran Arbona, performed Adagio et Tarantella by Ernesto Cavallini (1807-1874). Arbona played from memory with dazzling technique and great character and stage presence. Next, the
1st prize Young Artist competition winner, Ángel Belda, performed Fantasía by Antonio Romero, the namesake of ClarinetFest 2015 Madrid. Bella performed brilliantly, with a high level of communication with his excellent accompanist that showed a real depth of musicality and spirit. Congratulations to all those who competed in the I.C.A. competitions!
Gala Concert sponsored by Buffet, Vandoren and D’Addario
The fourth and final evening gala concert, sponsored by Buffet, Vandoren, and D’Addario, at 10:00pm on Saturday July 25th, was held in the same intriguingly futuristic space-age church, the Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Buen Suceso. The evening’s soloists were accompanied by the Ensemble de Clarinets del Pais Vasco, under the direction of Miguel Áangel García Estagnan. The ensemble opened the evening with a work without soloist, Mariano San Miguel’s (1879-1935) Euskeria (arr. Miguel A. García Estagnan). This work gave the ensemble an opportunity to show off their stuff, as the well-balanced sound of the group (ranging from E-flat clarinet down to B-flat contrabass, with everything in between) filled the church with that special sound that comes only from a really good clarinet choir, or as perhaps might be more apt in this case, a clarinet orchestra.
Our first soloist of the evening was Gábor Varga, principal clarinet of the Hungarian Radio Symphony and professor of clarinet at the Varga Tibor Faculty of Music Arts. He gave a performance of Introducción, Tema y Variaciones (arr. Michel Thévenom), by Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868).
Second on the program was a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1770-1827) Romanza en Fa (arr. Thierry Wartelle), given by Andrew Marriner, principal clarinet of the London Symphony Orchestra. Originally for violin, this piece was just as much a masterwork on the clarinet, especially in the more-than-capable hands of Marriner. The heartfelt and romantic melodies of Marriner’s playing rose up to the beautiful wooden ceiling. One can be sure Beethoven would have been more than happy to hear the piece given a new life through the clarinet.
Next, soloist Florian Tardy, principal clarinet of the National Orchestra of Toulouse, performed Fantasía de Concerto de Rigoletto de Verdi (1865) (arr. Lucite), by Luigi Bassi (1833-1871). Tardy moved effortlessly between the lovely operatic melodies and the virtuosic display that always seems to make its way into our repertoire’s opera fantasies!
The final work of the evening, and of the gala concerts at ClarinetFest 2015 Madrid, was Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) Concertstücke, Op. 114, No.1. This delightful performance was given by Varga and Marriner, who did a delightful job bringing out the musical conversations present in this duo, one of the great stalwarts of the clarinet repertoire. Although it may feel like it in the late afternoon when the heat encourages the city to take a siesta, time cannot be stopped. One thing leads to another, and in Mendelssohn’s great piece, the sweetly lyrical middle section can’t help but lead to the dramatic conclusion, and to a standing ovation for Marriner and Varga’s performance.
On Sunday morning the closing ceremony was held, at which I.C.A. President Maxine Ramey gave recognition to and thanked all those involved in making this year’s festival such a great success. The rest of the morning contained a few more recitals, before rounding everyone up for the closing concert, the Clarinete Ensemble del Congreso, always a grand final event for each year’s ClarinetFest.
Madrid is geographically centered in the middle of Spain, and from the center of the city, the iconic Puerto del Sol, the six major Spanish highways radiate outwards to the rest of this magical country. And, in the same way, most of those attending ClarinetFest will soon radiate out from Madrid to their homes all over the world, taking a little bit of Spain’s music, its way of life, and its spirit back with them. Thanks to everyone who helped make ClarinetFest 2015 in Madrid, Spain such a wonderful event. See you all next year in Lawrence, Kansas, for ClarinetFest 2016!
This review represents the author’s experience, and does not necessarily represent the views of the I.C.A.
Sam Davies recently completed his second year of DMA study with Dr. Guy Yehuda at Michigan State University. At MSU Davies can be heard performing with the Wind Symphony, Symphony Orchestra, chamber ensembles, and new student compositions. He served as a reporter for ClarinetFest 2014 in New Orleans.