In June, with the generous support of the Walter Bergmann Fund, I was able to compete in the International Schmelzer Competition at Stift Melk (Melk Abbey) in Austria. After a 6am flight to Vienna, and a few trains later, I arrived in Melk itself, a beautiful historic town nestled in the Austrian hillside. It turned out that I had been selected (by audio recording) from over 50 applications across Europe to compete in the last two live rounds of the competition. There were only around 16 soloists and ensembles selected, so I already felt delighted to have reached this stage. Thanks to the financial support of the Walter Bergmann fund, (run by the Society of Recorder Players) my harpsichordist and duo partner Thomas was able to come with me to accompany me, and we were able to stay in a small guest house nearby the abbey.
We were given substantial rehearsal time in the beautiful Melk Abbey (Stift Melk), and had a 20 minute audition the day after our arrival, in which I was asked to perform around 15 minutes of repertoire from a 40-minute programme I had submitted. The audition, which took place in a splendidly beautiful small Baroque concert hall, went very well, and I felt that I was able to perform to the best of my ability. It was such a wonderful opportunity to perform to a jury of international experts: the chair of the jury was Dorothee Oberlinger, whom I very much admire, and whom I hadn't had the opportunity to play to before. Although we did not reach the final (only 4 musicians were selected), we were each given 10 minutes of private discussion with the jury for feedback following our audition. This was incredibly useful for me, and very encouraging. The jury emphasised that the contest had been very tight, and that they had very much enjoyed our playing - one commented that they could have listened all day, as our communication with each other was so compelling. 'fell in love with my sound', which was particularly rewarding to hear. The jury also gave some constructive criticism, which focused on communicating the hexachord through more varied treatment of different intervals - all food for thought (and practice!)
Overall, the feedback has given me a great deal of confidence in my playing, and it was absolutely fascinating to learn what an international jury are looking for in terms of repertoire and emphasis on the high Baroque. Overall, the entire experience was incredibly worthwhile for my career, and I look forward to competing in similar competitions in future!
To learn more about the Walter Bergmann Fund, an excellent source of support for young musicians, head to: