Evening Standard [London]
By Barry Millington

Some people may think the musical world has quite enough competitions already. Those who thought there was room for another top-level one for violinists certainly aimed high.
The jury for the Benjamin Britten International Violin Competition, established by the Goodenough College in Bloomsbury, included such distinguished players as Ida Haendel, Igor Oistrakh, Gyorgy Pauk and Maurice Hasson. The prize money (£15,000 for the winner and numerous other awards) was significant. And last night's Laureates' Gala Concert was hosted by the Barbican, with the London Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Davis.
Britten's Violin Concerto was a stipulated finals piece and the organisers further demonstrated their commitment to contemporary music by requiring performers to play a new piece by a British composer made available to them only 48 hours previously. Michael Berkeley's Persistent Memory was the work commissioned for the purpose this year.
The word from earlier rounds was that the Frenchman Matthieu Arama was strong favourite to win until tendonitis set in and compromised his performance. In the event he took fourth prize and, despite obvious discomfort, offered an intelligent reading of the slow movement of the Sibelius Concerto.
First prize went to the Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma, who opened (and closed) the Britten Concerto with a wonderfully honeyed tone, developing a more muscular, keenly articulated style for the piquant interventions later. In the Scherzo she generated a suitably demonic frenzy, with confident multiple stopping and generous tone in the finale. It was a prizewinning performance.
Second came Maxim Brylinsky from the Ukraine. His technique is also secure, but the finale of Brahms's Violin Concerto could have done with a touch of gypsy flair.
Third prize went to the German Andreas Janke, whose powerful bowing and supple phrasing were heard to good effect in the first movement of the Brahms.

(C) 2004 Evening Standard - London. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

 

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