Boulder International Chamber Music Competition presents duos from around the world

Live rounds and winners concert will be open to the public, Thursday–Sunday

By Peter Alexander Oct. 9 at 4:10 p.m.

Twenty classical music duos are arriving in Boulder this week from all over the world.

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Dairy Arts Center, location of the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition, “The Art of the Duo”

They are coming for the second Boulder International Chamber Music Competition, “The Art of the Duo,” which will unfold in the Gordon Gamm Theater of the Dairy Arts Center Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 11–14. The duos (listed here) include standard duo pairings, including violin and piano, cello and piano; other common pairings, including flute and piano, clarinet and piano, trumpet and piano; and one surprising pair, accordion and piano.

They are arriving from many parts of the globe. There are contestants from South Korea, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, France, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and Poland, as well as the U.S. and Canada.

All live portions of the competition are open to the public, with semi-final rounds Thursday and Friday, Oct. 11-12, the final round on Saturday, Oct. 13, and the winners’ concert Saturday, Oct. 14 (see schedule below). All performances will be in the Gordon Gamm Theater. Tickets for the four-day event, or for each individual day of the competition, are available through the Dairy Web page.

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Mina Gajić

The competition is the brainchild of its artistic director, pianist Mina Gajić, who put together the first competition in 2016. Like many music contests, it will be held every two years.

“With each new iteration of the competition we’ll be able to continue promoting this kind of competition [for duos], which is pretty rare in the classical music world,” Gajić says. “At the same time we’re promoting Boulder as an arts destination and bringing even more visibility to our cultural life that is already rich.”

Gajić has assembled a jury of three accomplished musicians to judge the live rounds, representing three different instrument families represented in the competition:

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    Jon Kimura Parker. Photo by Tara McMullen

    Pianist Jon Kimura Parker, an internationally recognized performer and director of the Honens International Piano Competition and Festival in Calgary;

  • Violinist Ani Kavafian, professor in the practice of violin at Yale University who has performed as soloist and chamber musician with leading ensembles around the world; and
  • Clarinetist Richie Hawley, who teaches at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, and appeared with the Boulder Bach Festival in Longmont in 2017.
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Ani Kavafian

“Our judges are some of my favorite musicians,” Gajić says. “They are world-class performers and teachers, equally as soloists and chamber musicians.”

The application process for the competition began last summer. The deadline was in July, after which a four-person panel—Gajić, Zachary Carrettin of the Boulder Bach Festival, plus the 2016 winning duo of cellist Julian Schwarz and pianist Marika Bournaki—heard to and watched more than 100 online application videos. After an intensive two-week period, the semi-finalists who would come to Boulder were announced Aug. 1.

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Richie Hawley

“I listened several times to all the videos,” Gajić says.“It’s a really big responsibility to be the one who says this duo can enter can enter, and this duo cannot, but that’s just the nature of a competition.”

Even narrowed down to the 20 semifinalists, two full days is a lot of music by duos. “Those are long days, but our audience is really devoted to this event,” Gajić says. “I was amazed how many people stayed the whole time in 2016. Audience members develop a relationship with the performers and want them to advance to the finals, to win a prize!”

As in 2016, the competition has commissioned a work to be performed by all contestants in the semifinal round. This year’s piece, “True Green,” is by Tomasz Golka, director of the Riverside (Calif.) Philharmonic and an accomplished violinist. It is an interesting challenge for the composer to write a piece that can be played by duos with differing instruments and sonic capabilities.

The challenge for the performers is to come up with their own interpretation of a piece they have never heard or seen before, and make it fit the individual character of their instrument. “It’s really great to hear the same piece performed 20 different ways, in 20 different instrumentations, 20 different interpretations,” Gajić says.

Like most musical organizations in U.S., the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition is supported by a combination of grants and individual gifts. “I have great support from the Boulder Bach Festival, who serves as the fiscal agent, so that is extremely helpful,” Gajić says. “And we get really great support from the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau, who have supported us in many different ways, because we bring valuable arts tourism to Boulder.

“We’re promoting the classical music scene here, and we’re also attracting contestants ages 18–35 who are discovering Boulder. This is an event where (young artists) can gain experience, see a beautiful town in the United States, win some substantial cash prizes, and get other performance opportunities.

“I would encourage anybody to come and experience this live, because it’s something really special, and it’s happening right her in Boulder.”

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The Art of Duo
Boulder International Chamber Music Competition

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Semifinal rounds:
2–5 and 6:30–9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11
3–5:30 and 6:30–9 p.m. Friday, Oc.t 12
See the full list of participating duos here.

Finalist rounds and announcement of winners
1–9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13

Final concert: Three prize-winning duos
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14

All performances in the Gordon Gamm Theater, Dairy ArtsCenter
Tickets available through the Dairy Arts Center Web page

 

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