James David Christie (the USA), Professor, Conservatoire in Oberlin, International Competititons' prize winner, performing organist:
Of Kaliningrad Competititon I have learned from Prof. Martin Haselboeck, a dear friend, organist and Art Director of Vienna Academy Orchestra. He acarried the best of impressions of the last Competition attended by him and pressed me to go to Kaliningrad refering to Vera Tariverdieva as a "woman possessed by music".
Having overcome - with the help of indomitable Vera - all visa hurdles I arrived at Kaliningrad. To day I am sure that the long journey was not in vain. This young Competition is confidently joining the world organ tradition. The program was sensible and beautifully balanced. Moreover, there was that thing, which is actually the reson for all competitions and festivals - daily association of colleagues, lively, interested and vibrant. And the main hallmark - all participants conformed to high musical criteria, while some of them I thought to be definiutely outstanding musicians. I am happy that I discovered for myself the music of Mikael Tariverdiev; his Organ Concert N1 Cassandra and Chernobyl Symphony really shook me. Now the first thing I am going to do after my return is to include these pieces in my concert programs. I felt that Tariverdiev music was distinctively original. While listening to it I could visualize scenes, action, and even his heroes, so I thought that that music of this kind could be produced only by someone who loves and understands films. I was not at all surprised to find out that Tariverdiev has authored a lot of film music.
Marie-Louise Langlais (France), Professor, Conservatoire National de Region (Paris), Scola Cantorum, Doctor of Musicology (Sorbonne), performing organist:
A few years back my compatriot, an outstanding organist and composer? Professor Naji Hakim who took over from Olivier Messiaen his position at the Trinity Curch in Paris, suggested that I prepare some of my students for Kaliningrad Competititon od which I never heard. I did it. Having received invitation to joint the Jury of this Competition I thought - and why not? My classes don't start before mid-September!
I am deeply moved by the brilliant idea of organizing an organ competition in Russia which is an Orthodox Christian country where the organ is a a secular instrument whereas for us, Protestants or Roman Catholics organ is primarily a church instrument. Recently I was much impressed by Russian organists participating in French competitions. They seemed to be powerful musicians, with fine technic and a lot of temperament, so I agreed with a colleague who said that the Russian performers have a great future. Probably it is the freedom of church traditions that liberates their performance making it more open, emotional, fresh in style and new in understanding. I would compare the Russian organists to that Russian female tennis team that so powerfully changed the world ratings. Incidentally, the international organ contests I witnessed were attended mostly by females of Russia.
James Christie and me attended a number of international contests, so we are in a position to compare them to the one of Kaliningrad that really amazed us. We even decided to write a big article of our impressions for a magazine in America. This Competition deserves to be known in all continents. I shall certainly advise my students to attend it. And one thing more - I found here a lot of human warmth and felt the affinity of my destiny and Vera Tariverdieva's: I was married to Jean Langlais, a wellknown and remarkable composer, we both lost our husbands but inherited their music.
Wolfgang Zerer (Germany), Professor, High School of Music in Hamburg, International competitions' prize winner, performing organist:
Out of 19 persons of various countries that participated in the first round in Hamburg we selected eight for the second round. It was easier for many contestants to attend the first round in Hamburg which is closer: besides, the priceless experience of playing a 19 century organ in a hall of unique church acoustics is certainly useful even for the musicians who did not make to the finish. This experience is unique since they deal with individuality of a historical instrument. I think it is important too - although it doesn't have a direct impact on their performance at the Competition - that the contestants lived in German families thus being exposed to the rythms of private life of my country and to its everyday culture. Who could dispute the fact tat a competition is a chance to gain knowledge? Kaliningrad soil has provided atmosphere of free communication that has no room for arrogance and ambitions. The Competition is as important and even necessary for Russia as music of Tariverdiev representing the cultural value of the second half of the last century.
Ai Yoshida (Japan), International competitions' prize winner, the Head organist of Morioka Concert Hall, performing organist:
Both for Russia as well as for my country organ is not a religious instrument, although organ concerts are well loved in Japan and every teaching music institution has an organ section. As a child I like many Japanese children regarded organ as a piano or a violin; it was much later that I realized its religious origins.
As an organist I sense both aspects of organ, the secular and the religious. Playing this "king of all instruments" I realized the necessity to know and to feel both its images: its historical rarity and its modernity. In Kaliningrad I was interested to note how differently could sound same pieces played on the same instrument. Of course, I was more used to organs in modern halls so I was truly shaken by the sound of organ in a church space with sort of guides or corrects the temperament of performance.
Gidon Kremer, violinist, Art director of Kremerata Baltica:
It is for the first time that we are invited to perform at the Opening of Organ Competition. It is a pleasure to watch the institution of a good tradition. It is a good idea - to open something not with speeches, but with music. I am in sympathy with keenness of Vera Tariverdieva who selflessly organizes these organ events. Besides, I am fond of Kaliningrad which I visited as a young musician more than three decades back when being on a tour along with Tatyana Grindenko. Our orchestra is dealing with organists though not very often. This summer we had the pleasure to cooperate with the Latvian organist miss Iveta Apkalna, the winner of the last year Competition of Kaliningrad. Now we even hope that this cooperation might lead to a joint tour. She impressed us by her skill giving us another proof of the high level of this music contest.
Vera Tariverdieva, Art-director of Competition:
During the preparation period I have more than once asked myself - why did we take this complicated and unusual way: conducting the Competition in three cities? But finally the scheme proved to be effective. The scope of Competition was expanded, since there were musicians of 15 countries participating in it; the level of the performance simply soared.
At the closing press-conference Professor James David Christie, our famous Jury member from the USA said that were he a contestant he would have gotten the second prize, thus stressing both the level of participation and the talent of the first prize winner - Istvan Matyas. So our efforts were not in vain. It is a wonderful feeling when a long and difficult process yields results that surpass expectations. I am asked - would we continue in the newly selected manner? My reply is - the gained positions are not surrendered.
Talivaldis Deksnis (Latvia), Professor, Music Academy of Latvia, Chair of Organ:
Organ has more than one voice so it is rightfully compared to an orchestra. This Competition demonstrated how popular organ is in Russia. I particularly liked the young girls- organists from Kazakhstan who demonstrated god style and excellent understanding of music. It was a revelation for me.
Tariverdiev’s organ music is well known to me, I have included his Organ Concerto N1 Cassandra in my repertory. Tariverdiev’s music is rather special. Technically it might seem to be simple. At any rate, les complicated than Bach’s sonatas, say. But it can be performed only by an organist who is co-authoring the composer. The music is highly dramatic and expressive – it is not incidental that it often reflects the “painful” events of history. This music cannot be rendered by faithful following of the score. The composer left minimal indications rather in the nature of suggestions as if he were addressing his scores to like-minded musicians to fill them with their own experiences and emotions.
Leonid Desyatnikov (Russia), Composer:
I derive great pleasure out of this Competition. To me it is a sort of festival and holiday. For ten days I am away from my work, listening to organ which happens so rarely in the life’s routine, imbibing a lot of fresh impressions. I am nostalgic for my young days when I played organ a little. The atmosphere is conducive to free communication while the element of sport, of competition is not accentuated. I am sure that this element – same as prestige and ambitions – is not good for music. An organ competition is not to be regarded as simply a contest – it is primarily a possibility to play and to learn.
Irina Tigranova-Terteryan (Armenia), Musicologist, Professor, Conservatoire of Yerevan:
It is the first time that I listen to Kaliningrad organ and it is a convincing experience. The Competition has once again proved that this age-tested instrument should not be treated as a museum piece, a memory of times bygone. This old instrument is very much a part of our present life.
Mikael Tariverdiev organ music in many aspects is a surprise to me. On the one hand the composer recreates the features typical for old music while on the other hand he permeates it with modern sensibilities. The intensity and the wavelike forcing of melodies are suggestive of present day dynamics.
At the Competition I noted two tendencies: many young organists try to introduce objectivism in their renderings. In romantic music it produces an unexpected result, a sort of reserved nobility. The second, and very encouraging tendency – the individuality of approach which is the main thing in art.
Martin Haselboeck (Austria), Organist, conductor and art-director of Vienna Academy Chamber Orchestra:
I could not attend the first two competitions because of my teaching engagements but I watched its progress. I feel this competition is important for the artistic development of organ music, so what Vera Tariverdieva has managed to achieve cannot be expressed by simple words. The brilliant idea implemented by her is going to yield increasingly significant results with every passing year. I’d say that selection of the concert hall for the competition was a stroke of luck. I mean the fact that formerly it was a church – comparing this hall to various halls of Europe you come to realize how important for organ is the church acoustics. In a common hall organ always sounds purposeful and aggressive. It is different here in Kaliningrad because besides music there is something else in the space which humans should not judge.
Most of all I enjoy listening to the Russian organists performing. Your organ school has reached a high and stable level. And I wish that contacts between Russian and European organists be wider and stronger.
Exchange of music ideas is the most valuable part of the Competition. Recently held competitions, and the one of Kaliningrad particularly, changed the set notion of an organist. Instead of sturdy men organ is played by girls, frail and delicate like ballerinas. And what they manage with their elegant hands and small feet is amazing.
Mikael Tariverdiev’s pieces attract me by their emotionality and melodiousness, although I feel that such expressive music is better suited for concert rendering than for a competition.
Alexandre Fiveisky (Russia), Professor, Gnesins’ Music Academy of Russia:
The Competition is excellently organized. It has already gained popularity: 26 contestants from Russia and other countries is quite a lot by any standard. And the level off professionalism is sufficiently high too.
When I started coaching some of my students for the Competition I decided to have a class concert of Mikael Tariverdiev music. Since I was not very familiar with his organ pieces and my students did not know it at all we split the scores among the concert participants. The result was that all my students got immersed into Tariverdiev’s organ world and we discovered in his music what could not be revealed by simply studying two-three obligatory fragments.
Lionel Rogg (Switzerland), Organist, composer:
As a musician I am amazed by skill of young Russian organists. I had no clue that the Russian organ school could be that interesting. So this was the biggest and the pleasantest surprise of the Competition. I thought there were two peculiarities of this school: first, its high emotionalism. Could it be the reason why there are so many representatives of the fair sex among the Russian organists? My explanation is – for a woman art is a means of exposing her individuality. Secondly, all Russian organists are excellent pianists. They play piano well.
Jean-Pierre Steijvers (the Netherlands), Organist, first prize winner of Mikael Tariverdiev First International Organ Competition:
Four years back I have discovered this beautiful city and beautiful composer. I play a lot of his music. I have played it in concert halls of many countries – Germany, Belgium, Holland. It speaks with heart and therefore is understood by all. As for the Competition – it became my "window to Russia". a country that proved to be so hospitable and full of talent.