Opening concert of the 59th Markneukirchen International Instrumental Competition on May 3, 2024

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(gd) - It was an eventful, enjoyable evening that will probably resonate in the audience for a long time to come. The joint performance of the Markneukirchen Symphony Orchestra and the Telemark Symfonieorkester Skien from Norway was a revelation in itself! The sound quality and homogeneity that the two orchestras "conjured up" on stage after only a short period of rehearsing together under the confident direction of Tanja Carita Ikonen and Matthias Spindler was admirable!
Traditionally, this concert was opened with the competition fanfare. Our mayor Toni Meinel then welcomed the partner orchestra from Norway, the patron of the 59th IIW and Vice President of the German Bundestag, Ms. Yvonne Magwas, the Prime Minister of the Free State of Saxony and patron of the IIW, Michael Kretschmer, the competition participants, jurors and répétiteurs as well as the numerous guests. He expressed his delight at the joint Norwegian-German orchestral project, which is very fitting for the opening of an international instrumental competition.

The IIW is also characterized by the motto "Artists meet craftsmen", i.e. the exchange of experience between musicians and instrument makers can result in great mutual benefits. In many respects, it differs pleasantly from other competitions in the world, because "our region lives from and for music"! Finally, he thanked all the supporters and sponsors, the staff in the town hall and all the helpers who guarantee the success of this competition year after year.
Minister President Michael Kretschmer, who has already visited the Vogtland region several times, also took the opportunity to say a few words about Markneukirchen and the Musikwinkel. The conclusion of his visits to Markneukirchen: It is "a place in Saxony that has a very special aura, the people, the nature, the landscape - anyone who comes here feels welcome... the dedication that you need as an instrument maker, because there is a soul in the making of musical instruments, and that does something to the people, that does something to the climate in this place...!"

The Musikwinkel is a special gemstone, it sparkles and shines, but also needs a lot of attention and commitment from all the people of Saxony and therefore, of course, the Vogtland. And so Michael Kretschmer promises the Vogtland cultural region further support so that this globally recognized international instrumental competition can live on. As a small thank you to all employees and visitors, so to speak, he invited everyone to a reception after the concert where they could talk to each other.

And then the music finally had its say! The "English Folk Song Suite" (1923), one of the most famous works by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), was played. With many folk song-like elements in the three movements, it tells little stories about the love between a soldier and a girl, about the rich man and Lazarus and about unanswered passion.
Under the confident leadership of Norwegian conductor Tanja Carita Ikonen, the orchestra succeeded in wonderfully recreating these various elements of English folk poetry. The solo performances by the oboe and clarinet were also remarkable!
The performance by Czech cellist Vilem Vlcek, who many concertgoers will remember fondly as the winner of the Markneukirchen 2023 International Instrumental Competition, was eagerly awaited. He demonstrated his great musicality with the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 1 in C major (HobVII:1) by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). Its 3rd movement is probably one of the most difficult that the cello literature has to offer. With impressive virtuosity, soulful passion and dreamlike assurance in all three movements, supported by the small orchestra conducted very sensitively by Tanja Carita Ikonen, he swept the audience away and challenged them to a long round of applause.
After this musical feast for the ears, Ms. Yvonne Magwas, this year's patron of the Markneukirchen International Instrumental Competition, had her say. For her, too, the concert so far had been a revelation, "a real treat for the ears". In the spirit of Richard Wagner, we can also look forward to "truly artistic revelations" in the coming days; every participant will emerge from the competition as a winner, because interesting experiences, encounters and intellectual exchange are priceless! "Let us ... celebrate a great festival of music, and from here, from the center of Europe ... send a sign of peaceful coexistence and understanding across all borders into the world with the unifying power of music."
Prof. Christian Lampert, President of the IIW for Wind Instruments and expert insider, once again summarized the most important thoughts about this musical competition:  As every year, the international music world looks increasingly to Markneukirchen, to the beautiful and challenging competition, a competition of international standing; it brings "as always, diversity, international flair and musical excellence to the town" and shows the participants from all over the world how hospitable the people here are. Prof. Lampert promised that it would be a smooth and fair competition that everyone would remember fondly. A competition like this is important for young musicians because the long period of preparation shapes their personal development.

Consistent practising, engaging with the music, rehearsing with the répétiteurs, but also physical and mental training - everything is easier when there is one goal in mind - "finally the young artists can present themselves in a top-class competition, with an extremely demanding program in front of an outstanding jury and an international field of participants. They can share in the excitement with others, even if they are alone on stage during their own performance. They can make new friends and cheer on the success of others, even if they themselves may be disappointed about being eliminated. All of this is a fundamental part of a competition and of life."

The united orchestras from Skien and Markneukirchen - this time under the direction of Matthias Spindler - concluded this opening concert 2024 with the 1st Symphony in D major op. 4 (1865-66) by the Norwegian composer Johan Severin Svendsen (1840-1911). It was once again a great challenge for all the musicians to keep their concentration high in order to musically master this demanding work from the late Romantic period. And they succeeded with flying colors! One can only conclude with appreciation that such a joint performance by both orchestras demands to be repeated!
Thanks to all the musicians from both orchestras and to Tanja Carita Ikonen and Matthias Spindler for this impressive musical experience!