Clifford Curzon said that there is no greater or more touching pleasure than giving a young and beautiful talent a little lift in the direction of the stars and the Wigmore Hall / Kohn Foundations International Song Competition does just that, in the most supportive and collaborative way imaginable.
Some music lovers may think of competitions as belonging to opera Tannhuser und der Sngerkrieg auf Wartburg springs to mind, or maybe Walthers impassioned gilt es als Meister euch zu ersingen hell go through the torture of a singing competition to become a Mastersinger, just to win her or perhaps one thinks of Cardiffs Singer of the World. The last has a sort of consolatory Song Prize, but for the real congoscenti, the echt Song competition is held every two years at the Wigmore Hall.
Oh dear yes, I can see that Ive used lots of so-called elitist terms there! No apologies, however; the great joy of the Wigmore is that it is unashamedly elitist in the best sense, and this competition is a wonderful example of that. On Tuesday 6th you can spend all afternoon and evening hearing some of todays most promising singers, for just 15 (12 if you are eligible for concessions) and on Thursday 8th, you can attend the Final and Prizegiving, with seats from 12.
Of course the most entertaining aspect of these sorts of competitions is the disagreements not just amongst the competitors or judges of course but amongst the critics and the audience. I dont think Ive ever agreed entirely with the final decisions, but Ive had a lot of fun its worth remembering that when you come to this hall, you are joining what one very well known singer has called dem besten, verstandigesten, snobistischen Publikum der Welt in other words, we take our Song seriously here.
So, what can we expect this time? First of all, young singers of definite promise: for example, the 2009 runner up, Benedict Nelson, appears in the opening show of ENOs new season, on September 15th hes singing Belcore in LElisir, no less. The 2009 winner, Marcus Farnsworth, also has a growing list of notable credits to his name, including Wigmore and ENO appearances.
This years judges are as distinguished a bunch as you could choose they include William Lyne, Thomas Quasthoff and Sarah Walker, before any of whom I would tremble to appear. So you can expect some spirited discussion, Im sure, as well as deeply thoughtful advice.
The competitions major remit in terms of repertoire is to honour the place of the Lied at the heart of the Song repertoire, and in particular the Shakespearean stature of Schubert in the genre. Theres more about all this on the Wigmores new online resource theartofsong
plus advice for singers on entering competitions, information for audiences on how judges arrive at their decisions, and some excellent interviews by Iain Burnside Andrew Kennedy and Christopher Maltman are especially illuminating. Enjoy see you on Thursday!