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Highlights from the 11th Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition | Dr John Bethell, OBE

This was the 11th celebration of the life of Lionel Tertis, the Father of the Viola which was held in the Erin Arts Centre in Port Erin, Isle of Man during the week 16 – 23 March 2013. Port Erin is a small fishing port in the south of the Island, itself only 227 square miles in area and some 40 miles off the North West coast of England.

A feature of the festival is the special postmark, which is franked on mail posted in Port Erin on the Wednesday to commemorate the Festival.

Previous winners of the Competition can be found here:

The Jury for the Competition consisted of seven eminent musicians. Brian Hawkes (Chairman) ( UK) , Betil Basegmezler (Turkey), Yuri Bashmet (Russia ,who has been President of the event since 1994, Sarah-Jane Bradley( UK) also a member of the Advisory Committee, Samuel Rhodes (USA), Jean Sulem (France) and Hong-Mei Xiao (China).

The competition was open to viola players up to the age of 30, the 2013 event accepted 38 entries from an initial 86 applications in 26 different countries. This was the first time since the first competition which was held in 1980 that the first round was judged in London from DVD’s by Sarah-Jane Bradley, Martin Outram, Simon Rowland Jones and acting as Chairman John Bethell  who is the Artistic Director of the Tertis and also the Barbirolli International  Oboe Festival and Competition  the next being held in April 2014.

On offer were prizes totalling £15,000 donated by the Tertis Foundation, which promotes the heritage of the first and greatest virtuoso of the instrument, who died in 1975. It had been Mrs Tertis’s “dearest wish” to see her husband’s name and achievements remembered in a practical way by viola players. In 2003 she set up a foundation with London based trustees, Margaret Lyons (Chairman), Jonathan Barritt, Cathy Connolly, Robert Lyons (Secretary) and Christopher Wellington  all of whom wish to see her work continued. Mrs Lillian Tertis died in November 2009, aged 94.

The event is also supported by the Isle of Man Arts Council.

In a message to competitors, Yuri Bashmet as President of the Tertis event said: “The main thing that will always be remembered is the atmosphere of cordiality and hospitality in Port Erin, which I refer to as Capital of the Viola World, your new friends, the joy of creative communication and of course, music.”

The festival was given a warm welcome on the first day by the Port Erin Commissioners which was a cocktail party held in the Cherry Orchard Hotel when the Chairman, Mr Ged Power said “I am astonished by the number of nationalities represented here tonight, but I should not really be surprised. The Erin Arts Centre is the artistic centre of the whole Island and I want to wish you all a wonderful and enjoyable week on our island and in particular in Port Erin and, to the competitors, the very best of luck and every success”. One of the original founder members of the Centre, Mrs Joyce Corlett continued the theme by saying “Welcome” in all the different languages spoken by the competitors and workshop members, and also in Manx Gaelic, a gesture that was much appreciated.

All competitors were required to play a specially commissioned set work by internationally renowned Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of The Queen’s Music, which he dedicated to John Bethell MBE.

“Six Sorano Variants takes its name and inspiration from the small Tuscan town of Sorano – a slow winding walk up from the River Lente, to the Fortezza  Orsini, high above and dominating everything with its two massive stone bastions. Each new bend brings ever more dramatic and fantastic views of piled-up medieval houses and surprise, almost hidden gem-like gardens, with an ever-increasing sense of other –worldly fable and fantasy ”

“I felt it would be counter-productive in this solo work to confine the creative fantasy of the interpreter inside rigid bar lines – the written irregular rhythms are curves on the surface of time intended to stimulate the player’s musical imagination. The six sections are played continuously, with no breaks.”

The work is published by Boosey and Hawkes.

Those attending  the competition were encouraged to view the exhibition by Partitura Verlag in the gallery at the Erin Arts Centre, especially as their scores carried a special discount of 10% and 20% for students with verification. Their full catalogue can be seen at www.partitura-verlag.com

The event also included workshops throughout the week for those viola players who wish to attend non-competitive master classes, other sessions and public concerts. As readers one will know that all craftsmen need a steady hand and eye and there may be none more versatile than the festival’s talented resident luthier David Hulme. Most days there was an ensemble class directed by much loved and well respected Dr Louise Lansdown, presently Head of Strings at the Birmingham Conservatoire . Two lectures were given by Tully Potter .Recitals were given by Martin Outram and Julian Rolton, Maxim Rysanov and Xenia Bashmet, Betil Basegmezler , Brian Hawkins and Caroline Dowdle, Yuri Bashmet with his daughter Xenia, Sarah –Jane Bradley and Julian Rolton, , Hong—Mei Xiao and Sophia Rahman, Jean Sulem and Caroline Dowdle and Samuel Rhodes and Sophia Rahman.  An excellent  concert was given on the Friday by the Viola Ensemble Class for all  those  attending the event  and also members of the public conducted by Nejat Basegmezler, John Bethell and the ensemble’s director Louise Lansdown.

The semi-finalists which took place on Thursday were Bo Li (China), Matthew Lipman (USA), Shuangshuang Liu (China), Wenhong Luo (China), Ziyu Shen (China) , Kei Tojo (Japan), Rosalind Ventris (UK) and Chieh-Fan Yiu (Taiwan). The Jury  had then to decide three finalist but on this occasion they  choose four.  In their ballot order which had been maintained from Stage 1 they chose Ziyu Shen, Matthew Lipman, Shuangshuang Liu and Kei Tojo. After the Finalist recital the Chairman of the Jury Brian Hawkins  announced the winners each of whom received their prize from the President of Tynwald  (The Isle of Man Government).

First prize: Ziyu Shen,  15, China.  The “ Lillian Tertis Memorial Prize”  of £7000 , A Wigmore Hall Recital on Sunday February  2nd at 7.30pm. A solo performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall with the  London Philharmonia Orchestra on Thursday 30th January  at 6.30pm.

Second Prize: Kei Tojo,  21, Japan. The “Ruth Fermoy Memorial Prize” of £5000

The Jury decided that the Third Prize should be shared between Shuangshuang Liu, 26, China and Matthew Lipman, 21, USA  the “Artur Rubinstein Memorial Prize” of £3000  (£1500 each)

The other 16 prizes were all awarded and these can be found on the erinartscentre website

Our loyal and distinguished accompanists Caroline Dowdle, Anthony Hewitt, Julian Rolton and Sophia Rahman gave each of the competitors their fullest support and also to those members of the Jury who gave public recitals during the week. The Support given to me as the Director by Gloria Balakrishna and Jackie Allibone over the many weeks prior to the competition was much appreciated by us all as was that given by members of the Erin Arts Centre Support Group providing essential  catering and backstage support with our two editors for “The Daily Bratsche” Geoff Pickles and David Norbury. Why “The Daily Bratsche” ? Our news-sheet. Simples, as the meerkat said – ‘Bratsche’is German for ‘viola’. (By the way, ‘viola’ in Manx Gaelic is ‘biol vooar’. Literally, ‘big violin’ – prosaic, but accurate, we think.)

Make a note in your 2016 diary for the week 19th – 26th and if you have not attended before – think on !