The State of the Competition
The Final Round October 14th
The final round for the 18th Tokyo International Competition for Conducting took place on Sunday, 14th October 2018 at Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. There were four contestants - three Japanese and one Canadian - selected for the finals. A required piece, Mendelssohn’s overture from “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage” Op. 27 and a composition of choice chosen by the Organizing Committee from the three pieces submitted by the contestants in advance were performed in a concert style by each of the finalists.
The four finalists rehearsed on October 12th and 13th with the New Japan Philharmonic who performed for the finals instead of Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra who performed for the first and second preliminary rounds. The seats on first floor of the venue were pretty much full, and the second floor seats became gradually occupied with the enthusiastic audiences.
The first finalist on stage was Mr Earl Lee. He used his sturdy body to conduct the required piece dynamically as if to inspire the orchestra. The composition of choice was the first movement from “Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74” by Tchaikovsky. He obviously knew the piece well and created a music that was delightful to the audiences’ ears.
The second on stage was Ms Nodoka Okisawa in a tuxedo. She is petite but looked bigger once she started conducting and with her vigor and liveliness, she made the orchestra come alive. The composition of choice was a symphonic poem “Don Juan, Op. 20” by R. Strauss. She made the orchestra ample their sound and expressed the glorious and dramatic life of Don Juan.
The third one up was Mr Masaru Kumakura. At the beginning of the required piece, his conducting seemed suppressed and nervous but the latter half transformed into a larger scale. The composition of choice was the first and fourth movement from “Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70” by Dvorak. He freely conducted with big movements from the beginning for this piece and his resoluteness in the fourth movement left an impression.
Mr Kanade Yokoyama was the last one up on stage and showed what seemed to be an intellectual and imposing style of conducting. Even the joyful last phrase of the required piece seemed down to earth. His composition of choice was Elgar’s “Enigma Variations Variation IX” from “Nimrod” to the end. The piece that is filled with love and respect to people close by seemed to match his calm conducting style well.
As a result of the judgment, the first prize went to Ms Nodoka Okisawa, second prize to Mr Kanade Yokoyama, and third prize to Mr Masaru Kumakura. The Hideo Saito Award was won by Ms Okisawa and the Audience Award went to Mr Yokoyama.
The Second Preliminary Round October 10th-11th
Two days of the second preliminary round of Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting in 2018 took place on Wednesday, October 10th and Thursday 11th at Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. 8 out of 18 contestants of the first preliminary round were selected to take part in the second preliminary round where 4 contestants were assessed each day.
The 3 required pieces for the second preliminary round were: Toru Takemitsu’s “Requiem for Strings”, Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra Movements 1 & 4” and Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3 D minor Op.30”. More seats in the hall appeared to be filled by the audience than the first preliminary round and following to their contribution in the first preliminary round, the second preliminary round was performed by Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The judging procedure was split into 2 sessions. In the first session, all 8 contestants conducted in the order of Takemitsu and then Bartok. As they conducted, they gave various instructions to the orchestra such as, “Play as if you are dancing here” or “Please start from a little warmer note”, and so on.
For the Rachmaninoff in the second session, the contestants had to conduct alongside the smooth piano performance from the soloist, Mr. Yukio Yokohama, whilst they intently listened to the notes played by the orchestra. Among some of the contestants, few could not capture the fast and slow rhythm from the piano and caused some lag between the orchestra and the piano. However, some did manage to capture the piano and even gave detailed instructions to the orchestra and uncovered their high potential as a conductor.
As a result, 4 finalists were selected to perform in the Finals which will be held on Sunday, October 14th from 1 pm at Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. In the Finals, the contestants are asked to perform 1 required piece which is Mendelssohn’s Overture from “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Op. 27” and another piece that has been chosen by the Organizing Committee from the 3 pieces submitted by the contestants.
The First Preliminary Round October 8th-9th
Two days of the first preliminary round of Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting were held on Monday, October 8th and Tuesday 9th at Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. Amongst the 238 applicants who submitted to the documents and footage screenings, 18 contestants from a diverse range of countries including Japan, China, Korea, Uzbekistan, U.S.A., Canada, Russia and Belarus took part in this first preliminary round which started from 1 pm on October 8th. The queue to enter the concert hall before the door opened deemed the level of interest by the public.
The contestants were given 20 minutes to conduct Haydn's “Symphony No. 82 in C major, Hob. I:82”. The music in both the first and second preliminary rounds are performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. The audience can only catch the sight of the conductors’ back but the camera setting from the orchestra’s point of view was screened on the monitor inside the concert hall to capture the conductors’ expressions whilst conducting.
The contestants on stage expressed their interpretation of music through conducting and instructions. However, to convey their intentions to perfect their individual musical expressions in just 20 minutes is not long enough. Nevertheless, the warm round of applause from the audience proved that their passionate challenging spirit was imparted to them.
The result of the first preliminary round was announced at 6 pm on October 9th where 8 contestants went through to the second preliminary round taking place on Wednesday, October 10th and Thursday 11th. The contestants will be conducting “Requiem for Strings” by Toru Takemitsu, “Piano Concerto No. 3 D minor Op.30” by Rachmaninoff and “Concerto for Orchestra Movements 1 & 4” by Bartok.