The Winners of the Ibla Grand Prize International Music Competition at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, May 7, 2024

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May 30, 2024 by Admin

The Winners of the Ibla Grand Prize International Music Competition

Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, May 7, 2024

Honestly, Ibla Grand Prize concerts are a pleasure. Full of world-class musicians and musicianship and the inimitable presence of the competition’s founder, director and host for the event, Dr. Salvatore Moltisanti, this marvelous competition and its annual New York international showcase presentations of musical talent at the highest level have kept us surprised and delighted for many years – 33 to be exact.

33 years in the magical and beautiful Sicilian Baroque city of Ragusa-Ibla, from which the competition gets its name.

33 years of discovering and presenting an astonishingly high level of talent – musicians from around the world who gather there in Sicily each Summer to show how good they are by performing a variety of music in many, many different styles.

33 years of performers ranging from accordionists to whistlers, with saxophone quartets, electronic music composers, singers of every description, string and wind players, lots of pianists and many, many others along the way.

33 years of believing that the core principle of competition is not judging musicians against other musicians, but rather judging against the highest professional standards of the profession.

And on May 7, 2024, celebrating this all with a concert at New York City’s Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.

This year’s concert opened with Japanese pianist Yuichiro Takeda who performed an improvisational piece called Dream. A lovely idea, and a bit Debussyean, but it needs more dynamic range, given the instruments capabilities. This was more evident in the second selection by Albeniz. Yuichiro is a solid player who needs just a bit of rhythmic and dynamic refinement, but is certainly on the right path.

Next performer was Japanese cellist Yusuke Inada, with piano accompanist Watanabe, in an Impressionistic duet by Gaspar Casado. Strong playing on both ends, nicely balanced. A very good display piece and a good choice for New York.

Following her was Serbian piano duo Julija Bal and Maja Grujic. They presented, strong, committed Khatchaturian, yet subtle and nuanced with an expectedly fine contribution from Ibla veteran Bal, who also offered a marvelous and decidedly dark dance from Villa-Lobos. She gave the music a dramatic edge, through authoritative, precise and soulful playing.

Next up was Japanese soprano Midori Aito and piano accompanist, who presented a selection from Tales of Hoffman. Ms. Aito seems to understand how to present herself as well as the music, with a nice upper register and good coloratura. The audience reacted enthusiastically. I noted that her gown was obviously inspired by a Tiffany lamp…

10 year-old Italian pianist Alessandro Picciche was next and performed a somewhat jumbled bit of Chopin, probably not the right piece for his concert presentation. There were good elements, but not a clean whole. However, the audience seemed to love it, so there you are….

Then came the Japanese koto virtuoso Azusa Mori. Very attractive music, expertly and expressively presented – colorful and wonderfully enjoyable, with a nice use of what I assume to be extended techniques. One of the beauties of Ibla is that they welcome music and performances of this sort.

Next was Italian pianist/composer Albert Pizzo, performing After the Rain, a gentle and charming work, instantly likeable. He contrasted this with a Godfather suite, elegantly presented and ornamented with real style.

Japanese saxophonist Ryu Minemura was next, showcasing a lovely Andre Waignein Rhapsody. Fine, technically adept playing and wonderful music making. I’d like to hear more of Mr. Minamura.

Following him were South Koreans Joung-yun Son (soprano) and Soohyun Park (piano). Great gowns – lovely and colorful for the soprano and lovely and white for the accompanist, both of whom gave fine, nuanced performances, although sometimes Joung-yun could use a higher gear. Their physical and musical presences go very well together. The audience seems to love their presentation.

Then came the Japanese/Italian marimba with percussion duo of Rika Ikeuchi and Gabriele Ruggeri. They brought a very cool arrangement of Piazzolla’s Libertango. They’ve both obviously listened to and absorbed tango form and style, and were certainly helped by the propulsive and very effective arrangement.

I need to mention that throughout the evening, Dr. Moltisanti was an exceptionally genial, informative and eloquent host. It once more confirmed my belief in his genius as a musician, presenter, teacher and advocate for musicians from around the world.

Finally, to end things, Italian piano duo Francesco Bravi and Adriano Leonardo Scapicchi powered their way through Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. They captured the often wild spirit of the piece nicely, with strong teamwork and mastery of this masterwork’s propulsive and compulsive complexity, A powerful end to the evening.

As always, this was a strong showing of the talent that finds its way to Ragusa-Ibla.

…Meanwhile, around the world, performers were preparing for the Ibla Grand Prize 2024….

Jeffrey James



May 27, 2024

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