BUFFALO - This month, the eyes of the classical music world will turn to Western New York, as Public Radio station WNED/WNJA and the Buffalo Philharmonic present the latest edition of the biennual JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Competition.
Since 2004, the competition, named for the Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, has been serving as a launching pad for young artists who perform on classical guitar.
If you especially enjoy guitar music, or even if you just enjoy good music, and want to feel that you are "au courant" with the state of the art, you are very welcome to participate in several areas of the coming competition.
Let me tell you the time schedule for those events, and then I'll share some information about the competition itself, and finally, I'll tell you what I learned from talking with three of the principal individuals who make this artistic event happen in our area, every other year.
This year's Falletta Competition had its opening round early in April. April 1 was the deadline, by which competitors had to have submitted a completed application, plus an unedited compact disc, on which they had performed their choice from a list of seven possible guitar concertos. The contestants might be accompanied by full orchestra or by piano on the disc.
The same concerto must be performed by the contestants at each level of the competition. No substitutions are allowed.
Acceptable works were the creations of internationally celebrated composers for the guitar, including Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Joaquin Rodrigo and Heitor Villa-Lobos. In performing a concerto, a performing artist is often allowed by the composer to perform a short passage of his or her own choosing within the composer's creation, which demonstrates the performer's special skills. These are called "cadenzas," and may be the creation of the performer, or may be created by someone else, and only performed by him. All cadenzas in the entire chosen work must be performed on the submitted disc.
The submitted disc must also include a performance of one required work: the third movement (allegro) from "Sonatina in A" by Federico Moreno-Torroba, as well as one work of approximately five minutes in length, which has been recorded from a live public performance. The final requirement is a free choice performance of another work or program of works which are five to eight minutes in length, which have not already been included in the previous requirements for the competition. There is a required application fee of $150.
This year 24 entries were received from all over the world, which were considered acceptable to the competition's rules.
The judges for the competition assembled over two days in early April at a state-of-the-art recording studio in Buffalo to listen to the anonymous recordings. They selected eight semi-finalists from the submitted applications, and notified the contestants on April 20.
HAPPENING THIS WEEK
The eight semi-finalists are now assembling in Buffalo. Each contestant will draw randomly, a number between one and eight. The number will determine the order in which they will compete in the semi-final round of competition.
Those with numbers between one and four will compete on Wednesday at the studios of radio station WNED. Those who have chosen numbers five through eight will perform on Thursday. Performances begin both evenings at 7:30. The general public is invited to attend. Admission cost is $12 for general admission seating. Tickets may be ordered by computer through the competition's website, www.fallettacompetition.org. The performances will be broadcast live on WNED/WNJA radio and on WNED-TV.
Each competitor will perform his selected concerto accompanied by piano. An accompanist and one rehearsal will be provided by the competition. If the competitors wish, they may bring their own accompanist with them at their own expense.
Each will also perform a free choice program of music which is not to exceed eight minutes in length.
At the end of the second evening of semi-finals, the judges will narrow the competition to three finalists.
Competition officials have decided that they can enrich the cultural lives of our area and make the trip to Buffalo more productive for the semi-finalists who do not progress to the final competition by creating a series of concerts which they call "Guitar Days."
This is a series of nine concerts at various sites around our area, each lasting about one hour and each involving at least one of the semi-finalists. These will take place on Friday.
The good news for our readers is that one of the Guitar Days concerts will take place at Fletcher Hall, on the grounds of Chautauqua Institution, Friday at 11 a.m. The public is invited. There is no charge for the concert, nor for parking, nor entry to the Chautauqua Grounds.
Enter Chautauqua through the Turner Elementary School Gate, and proceed straight ahead and slightly to the right to the parking lot for Fletcher Hall.
Other sites for Guitar Days concerts will include Orchard Park Middle School, the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, the Atrium of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of WNY, the Porter Street campus of D'Youville College, Women and Children's Hospital, Park Creek Senior Living, and Fox Run Orchard Park.
For specific information about the Guitar Days performances, visit the Falletta Competition website or contact the host sites for the concert of your choice.
While those artists are bringing music to our community, the finalists will be rehearsing at least once with the full orchestra on Friday or during the day on Saturday.
One week from tonight, at 7:30 p.m., the three finalists will gather at Kleinhans Music Hall, in Buffalo, for the climax of the competition.
Each of the finalists will perform his selected concerto, accompanied by the full majesty of the Buffalo Philharmonic, conducted by JoAnn Falletta. The opportunity to perform in public with a full symphony orchestra is rare for any but the most established of soloists, and that opportunity is the attraction which draws so many competitors to participate in the Falletta Competition.
In addition to the judges' decision, an award will be given based on the votes of the audience, and another based on the votes of the orchestra musicians.
Tickets are sold in a range of prices between $39 and $72.
The winner of the competition will receive a crystal trophy and a $10,000 cash prize. He or she will also be hired for an additional concert appearance with the BPO, as well as the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and at the Round Top Music Festival in Texas.
The second prize winner will receive a trophy and $3,000. Third place will be a trophy and $1,500 in cash.
The artists who will be performing throughout our area in the coming week will be these -- in alphabetical order by family name:
Petrit Ceku, of Zagreb, Croatia.
Andra's Csa'ki, of Budapest, Hungary.
Mark Edwards, of Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.
Tariq Harb, of Toronto, Canada, who has joint citizenship in both Canada and Jordan.
Ekachai Jearakul, of Ubonsatchathani, Thailand.
Celil Refik Kaya, of Kadikoy, Turkey.
Nemanja Ostoich of Belgrade, Serbia.
And, Sanel Redzic, of Weimar, Germany.
Interestingly, especially in a competition named for one of the foremost women in professional music, all eight are men.
The competition honors JoAnn Falletta, and her name and reputation have elevated it to international celebrity, but its beginnings lie with someone else.
Don Boswell is president and CEO of Western New York Public Broadcasting, the parent organization of WNED and WNJA and other news and music radio outlets in our area.
He came to Buffalo from his previous home in Ft. Worth, Texas. There, he witnessed the long-established Van Cliburn Piano Competition, a competition held every four years as a launching pad for advanced amateur pianists. That competition honors Van Cliburn, the Texan who became a Cold War Hero, when he won the gold medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in the grim Moscow of the 1950s at a time when Soviet government pressure forbade almost any accomplishment to be acknowledged which has been achieved by non-Soviets in any walk of life.
"I noticed that the Van Cliburn Competition seemed to be a win-win-win situation," Boswell said, recently. "It provided a way for young musicians to get their names and their reputations out into the world of professional music. Winners have included Radu Lupu, Jeffrey Kahane, Christopher O'Riley, Barry Douglas, and a great many artists who were once unknowns, and who now have become familiar names.
"The competition was a big plus for the local arts scene, drawing people to performances who might not otherwise have come and inspiring many to donate and support the arts, relating to the competition.
"Finally, the competition also provided a big leap for the local economy. People came from around the world to hear the competitions; there were television broadcasts and newspaper and magazine articles about the area. Everybody seemed to gain from the competition," he said.
When Boswell moved to Buffalo for a 24-hour classical music radio station, he was soon working with the Buffalo Philharmonic and the orchestra's Music Director, JoAnn Falletta. "One of the things that classical music lovers used to discuss back then was whether there was any hope of keeping JoAnn in our community, and if she did leave, how we might keep her returning to conduct the orchestra and draw crowds to the concerts," he told us.
Learning that Ms. Falletta has an outstanding reputation as a performer of classical guitar, and an equally outstanding reputation as a conductor of concerts with guitar soloists, because the guitar is a relatively quiet instrument, so a conductor has to work very hard to make sure the orchestra's sound doesn't overwhelm the soloist.
He proposed a competition like the Cliburn Competition, and eventually the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Competition came into being, in 2004. The number of entrants have grown through the history of the competition, and the success of past winners has advertised the success of the competition all around the world.
"I've heard from near and far how much the entrants have enjoyed being in Buffalo, how friendly everyone has been to them, what good provisions have been made for the performances in the competition and so on," Boswell said.
Surely there are challenges. He laughs and admits, "Every time we do it, there is a period when we wonder if we will get enough financial support to do another competition, but so far we always have."
So the dollars are lined up for this year? He answered, "All our needed sponsorships are in place. What we still need to work on is the projected income from ticket sales, to meet expenses. We've gone out of our way to make it easy to buy tickets and to have competitors performing on three separate nights, so people who are busy on one night can still come another."
"Our experience is that someone who attends one night of the competition becomes a faithful fan of the whole event, from then on," Boswell said.
You can enjoy the competition on one or more nights in the coming week. I assure you, it will be a pleasure, in many ways.
It's one thing to decide we should put on an international competition. It's something considerably more to do the work of putting that competition together.
Someone needs to establish rules for competition. Should competitors pay their own way to Buffalo, or should the competition raise money to pay some or all of the cost? Is the competition open only to beginners, or are artists who have made multiple commercial recordings eligible? Can competitors play anything they want, or must they conform to selected requirements?
All these and thousands of more decisions must be made by someone. In the case of the Falletta Competition, those decisions are made by the Artistic Directors of the program. They are Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio, who are internationally known themselves, as the Castellani-Andriaccio Guitar Duo.
Ms. Castellani told us that the duo's connection to the competition began in 2004, when WNED was presenting a Guitar Festival Week, which involved all styles of guitar performance, including electronic, folk, ethnic and many other kinds of performance. Classical performance was only one element.
"Don Boswell had the idea of a competition, based on the Van Cliburn Competition. JoAnn Falletta thought it was a great idea, but she thought the competition should be a concerto competition, not an individual performance competition, like the Cliburn," she told us. "The opportunity to perform with a full orchestra is one which many young artists haven't experienced yet, and it encourages many to try to win the opportunity."
The two artistic directors have been performing together for many years since they met in college. Both are natives of Buffalo, and they have performed at the White House, they have won a fellowship to study with Andrew Segovia in Spain and have become major figures in the arts world themselves.
They have made seven commercial recordings as a duo, two of which were named Outstanding Recording of the Year by Fanfare magazine. Both have performed and recorded as individuals, as well.
Andriaccio said that one of their duties as artistic directors has been to choose judges for the competition. "It's important that the judges come from a variety of areas: performers, conductors, recording experts, educators, music journalists, and so on, and that they have attained the stature in the music profession so that their decision will deserve respect," he said.
* Both Ms. Castellani and Andriaccio will serve as judges.
* David Dusman, who is a recording engineer for Fleur de Son Recordings, and who has taught sound engineering at the Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, and teaches it currently at the State University of New York at Fredonia, and at Niagara County Community College, is on the panel.
* Uruguayan Eduardo Fernandes, one of the foremost guitarists in the world will join the judges. He has recorded, as a solo performer, as part of a duo, and with orchestras. He teaches at the University of Uruguay, where he also is an active composer, and he has written a number of books on guitar technique.
* Daniel Hart is Executive Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, and has served in that capacity with a number of other orchestras, including the Columbus Symphony, the Baton Rouge Symphony, and the Milwaukee Symphony.
* Adam Holzman is at the forefront of the American guitar scene, having performed with a great many symphony orchestras, having made numerous recordings, and having won a number of international guitar competitions. He founded the guitar department of the University of Texas at Austin.
* Cuban-born Ricardo Iznaola is chair of the guitar and harp department and head of the music conservatory at Denver University. He has made 17 commercial recordings, and won nine international prizes, as a performing artist and as a composer.
* Tony Morris is known by listeners all around the world as the host of the Classical Guitar Alive radio program on more than 250 radio stations. He has been selected as a cultural envoy for the U.S. Department of State, in 2010, and was invited as an adjudicator and a performer in Paraguay for the 125th anniversary of the birth of guitarist and composer Agustin Barrios Mangore.
* From New York City's Carnegie Hall to London's South Bank Concert Center, guitarist Berta Rojas is known and celebrated as a performing artist. Born in Paraguay, she has made a long list of recordings, both as a solo guitarist and with small and large musical ensembles. She is currently a professor of music at George Washington University, in our nation's capital.
Whether you attend the semi-finals of this exciting competition on Wednesday or Thursday evening at the studios of WNED, or the finals at Kleinhans Music Hall on Saturday evening, or one of the free concerts throughout the day on Friday, including at Fletcher Hall, at Chautauqua Institution, I hope you'll join in the opportunity to be a part of the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Competition.
Not to do so puts you into the company of the people who live in Niagara Falls, and who never manage to notice the water.