> Queen Elisabeth competition 1951-2001 CYP9612 [HC]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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CYPRES CYP 9612 [12 CDs – ca. 15 hours]



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In 1937 a dream, long-cherished by Queen Elisabeth of Belgium and Eugène Ysaye, came true: the Concours Eugène Ysaye was born. It saw the emergence of a Russian violinist who was to dominate the musical scene for many decades: David Oistrakh. In 1938 the winner of the piano finals was another Russian artist: Emil Gilels. (The second finalist was the British pianist Mary Johnstone as Moura Lympany was then known and Arthur Bliss was a member of the jury.) The war brought this enterprising and generous venture to a stop that many thought definitive. However, the Queen’s determination was such that the competition was eventually resumed in 1951 under its present name. It soon became a highly popular event in Belgium’s musical life and progressively acquired an enviable international status. After fifty years, and in spite of numerous re-orientations (though the basic principles laid down by Ysaye in 1937 remained unchanged), the Queen Elisabeth Competition is still doing well, and its fiftieth anniversary provided the impetus for this 12-CD box. The Competition’s archives, as well as those of Belgian Radio, had much to offer and thus allowed for a fairly comprehensive, though far from exhaustive, survey of the Competition’s history, even if many difficult decisions had to be taken as to what should be included.

Reading through the annual lists of finalists is a fascinating experience. It is a roll-call of many brilliant performing careers: Leonid Kogan in 1951, Leon Fleisher in 1952 (CD 2 – Brahms’ First Piano Concerto), the young Vladimir Askenazy in 1956 (CD 2 – Liszt’s First Piano Concerto), Jaime Laredo in 1959 (CD 1 – Milhaud’s Concert Royal Op.373 of which more later), Malcolm Frager in 1960 (CD 2 – Marcel Poot’s Piano Concerto), Gidon Kremer in 1967 playing Elgar’s Violin Concerto during the Finals (CD 4 – Schumann’s Fantasie), Miriam Fried in 1971 (CD 9 – Sibelius’s Violin Concerto which she recorded again for FINLANDIA some years later), Abdel Rahman El-Bacha in 1978 who impressed jury and audience with his superlative performance of Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto (on CD 6), Yuzuko Horigome in 1980 who also played Sibelius’s Violin Concerto (CD 7 – Brahms’s First Violin Sonata), Nai Yuan-Hu in 1985 (CD 9 – Jean- Marie Simonis’s beautifully lyrical Cantilène Op.39 about which more later), Vadim Repin in 1989 (CD 11 – Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto) and Nikolaj Znaider in 1997 (CD 9 – Ysaye’s Violin Sonata Op.27/2).

However, some finalists such as Berl Senofsky in 1988 (CD 1 – Debussy’s Violin Sonata) made a name for themselves as celebrated teachers whereas other promising finalists had their careers cut short either by ill health or accident : Philippe Hirschhorn in 1967 who later settled in Belgium until his untimely death in 1996 (CD 4 – Ravel’s Tzigane), Yuri Egorov in 1975 (CD 5 – a beautiful performance of Schumann’s Carnaval Op.9) and Edith Volckaert who died in 1992 (CD 7 – a fine performance of Bartok’s Second Violin Concerto with Michael Gielen conducting).

Others still had rather erratic careers or simply vanished from the musical scene : Evgeny Moguilevsky in 1964 (CD 3 – a very fine performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto), Nikolai Petrov also in 1964, who impressed by a superb reading of Bartok’s Second Piano Concerto but who is not featured here), Ekaterina Novitskaya in 1968 (CD 5 – Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition) who settled in Belgium some time later where she vainly tried to launch a music school and who now lives a rather difficult life.

Finally, some personalities impressed both by their musicality and their somewhat eccentric behaviour: Valery Afanassiev in 1972 (CD 10 – Schumann’s Piano Sonata Op.120) who always seemed on the verge of collapsing while playing but at the same time exuded a remarkable strength (he now lives in France and divides his activities between playing music and writing novels), Pierre-Alain Volondat in 1983 (CD 8 – Brahms’ Four Ballads Op.10) whose musical qualities were never in doubt but who literally seemed to breathe air from another planet, carrying an aura of mystery which puzzled many (he now composes, mainly organ music).

Quite apart from all this, Alexei Michlin, a pupil of David Oistrakh won the First Prize in 1963 with an impassioned account of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto (CD 4 – with André Cluytens) that brought tears in the eyes of all present that night. He never appeared in the West after the competition. To the best of my knowledge I never saw his name on a record sleeve. Actually, he is supposed to have spent his whole career in Russia. [see footnote]

In 1988, the directors of the Q.E.C. launched the Song Award. This was done on an experimental basis, but the general response was such that it is now a permanent component of the Q.E.C. The last CD is entirely devoted to the four (so far) Song Awards, including one of the test pieces written for the semi-finals: Philippe Boesmans’ Seasons Dream (sung by Ana Camelia Stefanescu).

An important characteristic of the Q.E.C. is its emphasis on Belgian contemporary music which was materialized in the test pieces for the semi-finals and the finals. In fact, from 1938 to 1983, the unpublished concerto played by all twelve finalists was by a Belgian composer. The first of these was composed by Jean Absil for the 1938 Concours Eugène Ysaye. Some of the later ones are featured here such as Marcel Poot’s Piano Concerto of 1960 (Malcolm Frager – CD 2), Léon Jongen’s Violin Concerto of 1963 (Charles Castleman [5th Prize] on CD 4), Frederik van Rossum’s First Violin Concerto Op.37 (CD 4 , played by Paul Zazofsky who later commissioned van Rossum’s Second Violin Concerto Op.45 in 1985 and who recorded both much later still [CYPRES CYP 5615]), Frederik Devreese’s Fourth Piano Concerto of 1983 (on CD 10, played by Daniel Blumenthal who recorded it some years later for MARCO POLO [8.223505], Jean-Marie Simonis’ beautiful Cantilène Op.39 in 1985 (on CD 9, played by Nai Yuan-Hu).

In 1959 however, the test piece for the finals was written by Darius Milhaud. His Concert Royal Op.373 (on CD 1, played by Jaime Laredo) was the object of some heated controversy. Indeed it may not be one of his finest pieces but sounds quite satisfactorily when played by Laredo.

Since 1991 the test piece for the finals has been chosen through a composition competition which earlier was part of the Q.E.C. but held more irregularly (the winner of the last Composition Award was the British composer John Weeks with his beautiful Five Litanies for Orchestra. In 1995 his Requiescat for piano and orchestra was the test piece for the Finals.) Composition finalists over the last years include the young Finnish composer Eljas Vojto Pulkkis (Tears of Ludovico for piano and orchestra), the South-African born Hendrik Hofmeyer (Raptus for violin and orchestra in 1997) and the young Danish-German composer Nils Sǿren Eichberg (Qillatersorneq for violin and orchestra in 2001.

So, this generously filled box may be more of a memento of what has happened over the last fifty years of the Q.E.C.’s history, but it nevertheless contains many fine performances of well-known "war horses" as well as of some of the test pieces written for the finals, some of which have never been played since then, though some of them are really fine works. The sound of these live performances is globally quite satisfying though some recordings show their age.

The story goes on and the 2001 Violin Award brought forth two names worth watching for in the future : the First prize winner, the young Lithuanian violinist Baiba Skribe, and the composer Nils Sǿren Eichberg.

Hubert CULOT


CD 1
Leonid Kogan, USSR (°Dniepropetrovsk 1924, †Moscow 1982 – 1st Prize violin 1951)
Niccolò Paganini • Violin Concerto n. 1

1. Cadenza 3’22
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 23.05.51
Berl Senofsky, USA (°Philadelphia 1925 – 1st Prize violin 1955)
Claude Debussy • Violin Sonata

2. Allegro vivo 4’13
3. Intermède 3’43
4. Finale 3’55
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 26.05.55. Eugène De Canck
Julian Sitkovetsky, USSR (°Kiev 1925, † Moscow 1958 – 2nd Prize violin 1955)
5. Eugène Ysaÿe • Violin Sonata op.27/6 6’31

Palais des Beaux-Arts, laureates concert, 08.06.55.
Jaime Laredo, Bolivia (°Cochabamba 1941 – 1st Prize violin 1959)
Darius Milhaud • Concert royal for violin and orchestra op.373

6. Vif 7’13
7. Lent 10’56
8. Animé 6’56
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 28.05.59. Belgian National Orchestra, Franz André
Charles Castleman, USA (°Quincy 1941– 5th Prize violin 1963)
Léon Jongen • Concerto en ré for violin and orchestra

9. Quieto – Allegro robusto 7’18
10. Quasi improvisata 5’20
11. Preludio – Cadenza – Allegro rustico 4’40
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 23.05.63. Belgian National Orchestra, Franz André
total time 65’16
CD 2
Leon Fleisher, USA (°San Francisco 1928 – 1st Prize piano 1952)
Johannes Brahms • Piano Concerto n. 1 op.15

1. Maestoso 20’25
2. Adagio 14’55
3. Rondo – Allegro non troppo 10’37
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 26.05.52. Belgian National Orchestra, Franz André
Lazar Berman, USSR (°Leningrad 1930 – 5th Prize piano 1956)
4. Sergei Prokofiev • Toccata for piano op.11 4’03

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 29.05.56
Malcolm Frager, USA (°St Louis 1935, †Lennox 1991 – 1st Prize piano 1960)
Marcel Poot • Piano Concerto

5. Allegro vivace e con brio 7’04
6. Andante funerale 8’07
7. Allegro scherzando 8’39
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 25.05.60. Belgian National Orchestra, Franz André
total time 74’24
Vladimir Ashkenazy, USSR (°Gorki 1937 – 1st Prize piano 1956)
1. Franz Liszt • Piano Concerto n.1 16’17

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 01.06.56. Belgian National Orchestra, Franz André
Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden, Belgium (°Brussels 1947 – 3rd Prize piano 1964)
2. Robert Schumann • Symphonic Etudes 20’48

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 25.05.64.
Evgeny Moguilevsky, USSR (°Odessa 1945 – 1st Prize piano 1964)
Sergei Rachmaninov • Piano Concerto n.3 op.30

3. Allegro ma non tanto 18’02
4. Intermezzo • Adagio 10’25
5. Finale • Alla breve 14’36
Palais des Beaux-Arts, gala, 12.06.64. Symphony Orchestra of the RTB/BRT, Daniel Sternefeld
total time 80’37
Alexei Michlin, USSR (°Minsk 1938 – 1st Prize violin 1963)
Dmitry Shostakovich • Violin Concerto n.1 op.77

1. Nocturne 10’25
2. Scherzo 6’13
3. Passacaglia 12’03
4. Burlesque 4’35
Palais des Beaux-Arts, gala, 13.06.63. Belgian National Orchestra, André Cluytens
Philippe Hirshhorn, USSR (°Riga 1946, †Brussels 1996 – 1st Prize violin 1967)
5. Maurice Ravel • Tzigane for violin and orchestra 8’59

Palais des Beaux-Arts, gala, 09.06.67. Belgian National Orchestra, René Defossez
Gidon Kremer, USSR (°Riga 1947 – 3rd Prize violin 1967)
6. Robert Schumann • Fantaisie for violin and piano 14’11

Palais des Beaux-Arts, Finals, 25.05.67. Marina Bondarenko, piano
Peter Zazofsky, USA (°Boston 1954 – 2nd Prize violin 1980)
7. Frederic van Rossum • Violin Concerto n.1 18’02

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 27.05.80. Belgian National Orchestra, Georges Octors
total time 75’14
André De Groote, Belgium (°Brussels 1940 – 5th Prize piano 1968)
1. Sergei Rachmaninov, Paganini Variations op.43 23’13

Palais des Beaux-Arts, laureates concert, 05.06.68. Belgian National Orchestra, René Defossez
Ekaterina Novitskaja, USSR (°Vechniaki 1951 – 1st Prize piano 1968)
2. Modest Moussorgsky, Pictures of an Exhibition 31’53

Palais des Beaux Arts, first laureates recital, 31.05.68
Yuri Egorov, USSR (°Kazan 1954, †Amsterdam 1988 – 3rd Prize piano 1975)
3. Robert Schumann, Carnaval 24’35

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 27.05.75
total time 79’59
Mitsuko Uchida, Japan (°Tokyo 1948 – 10th Prize piano 1968)
Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Concerto n. 3 op.37

1. Allegro con brio 16’48
2. Largo 9’37
3. Rondo (allegro) 9’46
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 21.05.68. Symphony Orchestra of the RTB/BRT, Daniel Sternefeld
Abdel-Rahman El-Bacha, Liban (°Beyrouth 1958 – 1st Prize piano 1978)
Sergei Prokofiev, Piano Concerto n. 2 op.16

4. Andantino 11’20
5. Scherzo 2’30
6. Intermezzo (allegro moderato) 6’24
7. Finale (allegro tempestoso) 10’55
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 31.05.78. Belgian National Orchestra, Georges Octors
Andrei Nikolsky, stateless (°Moscow 1959 – 1st Prize piano 1987)
8. Frédéric Chopin, Barcarolle for piano 8’28

Brussels Royal Conservatory, semi-finals, 13.05.87
total time 76’38
Edith Volckaert, Belgium (°Ghent 1949, †Brussels 1992 – 5th Prize violin 1971)
Bela Bartók, Violin Concerto n. 2

1. Allegro ma non troppo 16’46
2. Andante tranquillo 9’43
3. Allegro molto 11’56
Palais des Beaux-Arts, laureates concert, 02.06.71. Belgian National Orchestra, Michael Gielen
Yuzuko Horigome, Japan (°Tokyo 1957 – 1st Prize violin 1980)
Johannes Brahms, Violin Sonata n. 1 op.78

4. Vivace ma non troppo 11’07
5. Adagio 7’55
6. Allegro molto moderato 8’59
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 30.05.80. Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden
Mikhaïl Bezverkhny, USSR (°Leningrad 1947 – 1st Prize violin 1976)
7. Dmitry Shostakovich/Dmitry Tzyganov, Four preludes for violin and piano op.34 6’31

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 29.05.76. Bella Rakova
total time 73’31
Mikhaïl Faerman, USSR (°Beltzy 1955 – 1st Prize piano 1975)
Piotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto n.1 op.35

1. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso 19’16
2. Andantino semplice 6’24
3. Allegro con fuoco 6’38
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 31.05.75. Symphony Orchestra of the BRT, Irwin Hoffmann
Pierre-Alain Volondat, France (°Vouzon 1962 – 1st Prize piano 1983)
4. Johannes Brahms, Four Ballades for piano op.10 23’15

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 27.05.83
Johan Schmidt, Belgique (°Uccle 1964 – 4th Prize piano 1987)
5. Igor Stravinsky, Petrouchka for piano

(Danse russe - Chez Petrouchka - La Semaine Grasse) 15’49
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 27.05.87
total time 71’47
Miriam Fried, Israël (°Satu-Mare 1946 – 1st Prize violin 1971)
Jean Sibelius, Violin Concerto op.47

1. Allegro moderato 15’41
2. Adagio di molto 7’30
3. Finale (allegro ma non tanto) 7’44
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 17.05.71. Symphony Orchestra of the RTB/BRT, René Defossez
Nai Yuan Hu, Korea (°Taiwan 1961 – 1st Prize violin 1985)
4. Jean-Marie Simonis, Cantilène for violin and orchestra 16’13

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finales, 1985. National Orchestra of Belgium, Georges Octors
Yayoi Toda, Japan (°Fukui 1968 – 1st Prize violin 1993)
Leos Janácek, Violin Sonata

5. Con Moto 4’40
6. Ballada 4’27
7. Allegretto 2’30
8. Finale 4’38
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 04.06.93. Dana Protopopescu
Nikolaj Znaider, Denmark (°Copenhagen 1975 – 1st Prize violin 1997)
Eugène Ysaÿe, Violin Sonata op.27/2

9. Obsession • Prélude (Poco vivace) 2’23
10. Malinconia (Poco lento) 2’31
11. Danse des ombres • Sarabande (Lento) 3’57
12. Les furies (Allegro furioso) 3’31
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 03.06.95
total time 76’44
Valery Afanassiev, USSR (°Moscow 1947 – 1st Prize piano 1972)
Franz Schubert, Piano Sonata op.120 (D664)

1. Allegro moderato 5’09
2. Andante 5’39
3. Allegro 4’44
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 01.06.72
Daniel Blumenthal, USA (°Landstuhl 1952 – 4th Prize piano 1983)
Frederic Devreese, Piano Concerto n. 4

4. Introduzione con Variazione 13’17
5. Finale 7’07
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 23.05.83. Belgian National Orchestra, Georges Octors
Frank Braley, France (°Corbeil 1968 – 1st Prize piano 1991)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Piano Sonata K332

6. Allegro 4’30
7. Adagio 4’06
8. Assai allegro 5’15
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 31.05.91
Frank Braley, Stephen Prutsman, USA, Brian Ganz, USA (1st, 2nd & 3rd Prize piano 1991)
9. Sergei Rachmaninov, Romance for 6 hands 4’49

Palais des Beaux-Arts, gala, 18.06.91
Markus Groh, Germany (°Waiblingen 1970 – 1st Prize piano 1995)
Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonata op.110

10. Moderato cantabile – molto espressivo 6’07
11. Allegro molto 2’13
12. Adagio ma non troppo – Allegro ma non troppo (fuga) 10’28
Brussels Royal Conservatory, semi-finals, 13.05.95
total time 74’16
Vadim Repin, USSR (°Novosibirsk 1971 – 1st Prize violin 1989)
Piotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto

1. Allegro moderato 18’50
2. Canzonetta (andante) 6’36
3. Finale (allegro vivacissimo) 10’18
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 29.05.89. Belgian National Orchestra, Georges Octors
Vitaly Samoshko, Russia (°Kharkov 1973 – 1st Prize piano 1999)
4. Frédéric Chopin, Ballade for piano n. 4 10’52

Brussels Royal Conservatory, semi-finals, 15.05.99.
Alexandre Ghindin, Russia (°Moscow 1977 – 2nd Prize piano 1999)
5. Franz Liszt, Piano Sonata 29’14

Brussels Royal Conservatory, semi-finals, 13.05.99
total time 76’16
Aga Winska, Poland (°Warsaw 1964 – 1st Prize singing 1988)
1. Giuseppe Verdi, "é strano" (La Traviata) 8’35

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 28.05.88. Monnaie Symphony Orchestra, Sylvain Cambreling
Thierry Félix, France (°Paris 1965 – 1st Prize singing 1992)
2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, "Tutto è disposto"

(Le Nozze di Figaro) 4’11
Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 24.05.92. Monnaie Symphony Orchestra, Marc Soustrot
Stephen Salters, USA (°New Haven 1970 – 1st Prize singing 1996)
3. Ottorino Respighi, Notte (Negri) 3’06

Brussels Royal Conservatory, semi-finals, 15.05.96. Jozef De Beenhouwer
Ana Camelia Stefanescu, Romania (°Bucarest 1974 – 2nd Prize singing 1996)
4. Philippe Boesmans, Seasons’ Dream 5’23

Brussels Royal Conservatory, semi-finals, 16.05.96. Andreiana Rosca-Geamana
Eleni Matos, USA (°Watertown 1966 – 3rd Prize singing 1996)
5. Gustav Mahler, "Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer"

(Rückert-Lieder) 2’58
Brussels Royal Conservatory, semi-finals, 16.05.96. Daniel Blumenthal
Olga Pasichnyk, Russia (°Rivne 1968 – 3rd Prize singing 2000)
6. Claudio Monteverdi, "Dal mio Permesso amato" (L’Orfeo) 5’11

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 17.05.00. The Academy of Ancient Music, Paul Goodwin
Marius Brenciu, Romania (°Brasou 1973 – 2nd Prize singing 2000)
7. Giuseppe Verdi, "O figli" (Macbeth) 3’45

Palais des Beaux-Arts, finals, 25.05.00. Monnaie Symphony Orchestra, Marc Soustrot
Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Canada (°Dolbeau-Mistassini 1975 – 1st Prize singing 2000)
8. Gioacchino Rossini, "Cruda sorte – Qual chi vuol’"

(L’Italiana in Algeri) 4’53
Palais des Beaux-Arts, semi-finals, 20.05.00. Monnaie Symphony Orchestra, Marc Soustrot
9. Ernest Chausson, Le temps des lilas (Bouchor) 4’05

Brussels Royal Conservatory, semi-finals, 19.05.00. Daniel Blumenthal

total time 43’02

Footnote - information received

50 years of the Queen Elizabeth competition
Posted by Alexei Mijlin on March 4, 2003, 6:14 pm

Dear Editor,

In your Classical Music web page, Hubert Culot reviewing the 12 CD set (which the competition organisers have already sent me!) containing the recordings of the 50 years of the Queen Elizabeth competition includes the following paragraph:

Quite apart from all this, Alexei Michlin, a pupil of David Oistrakh won the First Prize in 1963 with an impassioned account of Shostakovich¨ˆs First Violin Concerto (CD 4 ¡Ì with Andr¨¦ Cluytens) that brought tears in the eyes of all present that night. He never appeared in the West after the competition. To the best of my knowledge I never saw his name on a record sleeve. Actually, he is supposed to have spent his whole career in Russia

I would like to point out that not only have I returned to the West but I live in the West and- to be precise- in Spain and I work in the Superior Conservatory of Oviedo in Asturias, and have done so since 1990 and I still play concerts. And after the 1963 competition I have played a few times since in Brussels and I have made many recordings but on the Melodia label (which perhaps is not as well known in the West.) Unfortunately, these days, as I live in Spain, I am not in contact with the Philarmonic Society of Brussels even though the competition organisers have my address. Nonetheless, I have fond memories of my Belgian days and I would look forward to fresh encounters.

Kind Regards,

Alexei Michlin (in Spanish- Mijlin)

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