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The Maestro Oracle

img  Tobias

There's competitions, awards, festivals and subsidies for instrumentalists around the globe and even those playing the bassoon can surely battle it out with a few collegues of their trade in some remote corner of this world. It should therefore seem pretty odd that one of the most prestigous and even glamorous positions within the orchestra, namely that of conductor, should not have something along these lines as well. Great maestros somehow "seem to be there" but how they really got there, escapes popular notice.

Ten years ago, things changed for the better, when Esa-Pekka Salonen declared the International Sibelius Conductor's Competition opened - it turned out to be a great success and prompted the cry for a repetition. As the event only takes place every five years, 2005 is host only to the serie's third installment. And the necessity for a competition like this one quickly became apparent, as almost 200 applications, containing a ten minute video, were handed in - and this despite the rules' requirement that participants should not be older than 35 years. After a tedious selection process, 25 candidates (three of them women) were invited to Helsinki in a 4-round tournament.

While the first round concentrates on classical and romantic repertoire (plus a new work by Uljas Pulkkis), the semi-finale and final belong to the event's patron saint Sibelius (even thought there's a little Mozart in there as well). With the winner going home with 15.000 Euros and even third-prize recipients snatching up 10.000 in cash, this is truly an event that supports the conductor-youth.
Apart from the money, what makes this competition stand out are the integrity and high standards of the jury: In 1995, they refused to award a first-prize (which is always a risky thing to do publicity-whise) and the talents they did chose indeed made their way: 1995 Third-prize winner Jurjen Hempel has gone on to conduct the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recording with some of the greatest labels out there and First-Prize champion of 2000, Olari Elts, is considered one of the brightest stars on the scene. So whoever will be in this year's limelight can be sure to have a great future ahead of him (or her).

Homepage: International Sibelius Conductors' Competition

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