Johannes Dickbauer and Youenn Rohaut were both awarded Second Prize in the 4th Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition. There was no First Prize winner. This year the competition was held online, 8-10 July 2020. Mary James reports:
The full list of prizes awarded is as follows:
The Jury did not award a First Prize
Johannes Dickbauer (Austria) 2nd Prize (Ex aequo)
Youenn Rohaut (France) 2nd Prize (Ex aequo)
Omer Ashano (Israel) 3rd Prize (Ex aequo)
Clément Janinet (France) 3rd Prize (Ex aequo)
Kristijan Krajnčan (Slovenia) Special award from Zbigniew Seifert Foundation
Greg Byers (USA) International Journalists’ Award
Gabriel Vieira (Brazil) Audience award
Dawid Czernik (Poland) 2 special awards
Note: All artists were violinists except Greg Byers and Kristijan Krajnčan who play cello.
Two months ago, you would have been forgiven for assuming that the 4th edition of the Seifert Competition would not go ahead. It must have been agonising for the organisers listening to the submitted music and wondering if anyone would be able to fly to Poland. They took a leap of faith and ran it 100% online – and it was a triumph.
The prizes are only part of the competition. What’s perhaps as important is making the name and revolutionary music of Zbigniew Seifert more widely known, aided by the work of the Seifert Foundation, and inspiring young musicians to take up strings and play jazz.
Each year the format is expanded and the bar is raised. There were a few young entrants this year but most were already accomplished professional musicians, entering the competition to raise their profile and in the case of this “Pandemic Edition”, to give themselves creative focus during lockdown. It is perhaps not surprising that the Jury could not decide on an outright winner, so high was the standard at each audition, and the permutations of live/recorded sets made for difficult comparison.
During the first semi-final one viewer wrote on YouTube: “This online format really helps bring out the extra potential/talent/quality of each musician, testing their capacity for creativity in a limited situation. Love it.” That sums it up. Each participant had to play live (solo or accompanied) and could also stream a pre-recorded piece. Some brave souls chose to play all their pieces live, others used videos of the highest production quality to support their livestreams.
The competition was hosted by Piotr Metz, a genial presence, calm and supportive whilst under what may have been considerable technical stress joining multiple people for live performances across time zones and continents, coupled with the vagaries of the internet and performance anxieties. There were nice touches such as “real applause” after a performance, taken from an actual concert in 2018 at the last competition. And all musicians had previously taken part in extended and deep online chats with Ian Patterson so the audience got to know them, and they got to know each other in the same way they would have done in person in Poland. It was these touches which did a lot to mitigate the potentially lonely online aspects of the event for performers and audience alike.
Johannes Dickbauer gave us classical chamber jazz of the highest quality; ECM-worthy, his tone is refined and soft, his presence commanding but not dominant of the others in his band. His composition Breeze of Broken Reflections was delicate and moving, as if the instruments were made of glass. His band featured Sebastian Schneider on piano, a sensitive and expressive accompanist.
Youenn Rohaut’s playing is impressionistic, visual and dreamy; his Song for Christopher a particularly good choice for his light touch. Omer Ashano’s solo performance of Chinatown by Seifert was impressive in its disorientating swirling soundscape and his Tigrinya Lullaby highlighted his extremely good guitarist Yoav Eshed. Clément Janinet upped his game in the finals with a different support band and played homage to Seifert with his flute-sounding opening reminiscent of Seifert’s Confessions, and his ensemble of violin, cello and clarinet was refined and unusual. His Kilimanjaro was West African in sound, and his own compositions sounded melancholy and full of longing.
Mention must be made of Dawid Czernik, who caught the eye of the journalists’ panel with his authentic and humble performance of Seifert’s Concert Jazzowy. And Gabriel Viera, who was the online audience favourite, was also noteworthy. The warmth of his samba-infused music and his emotional interpretation of Seifert’s City of Spring was appreciated.
The International Journalists’ panel (on which Mary James represented LJN) based their decision on the semi finals, narrowing down 14 artists to just four and then one. It was not an easy task! In the end, they selected Greg Byers, who showcased his multi-instrumental virtuosity in his extremely slick and enjoyable videos (one featuring 5 clones of himself performing against the Minneapolis skyline, an arresting image). His lyrical jazz-pop own composition Springin’ it Back, performed on electric cello, transcended the limitations of the small screen and the ether by virtue of its warmth and joy. His mature and profound live solo performance of Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love by Charles Mingus was a highlight of the competition, poignant in the context of Black Lives Matter in his home city of Minneapolis and he gave credit to this movement in shaping his preparations for the competition.
LINK: Watch the event back on the Seifert Competition YouTube channel