A gateway to success for young conductors, the Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting has been held every three years since its inception in 1967. This year marks its 16th anniversary. In this time, it has become known as a valuable competition for conducting around the world.
Three young women made it to the finals held at Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall on November 4: Yuko Tanaka (Japan), Maja Metelska (Poland), and Mayana Ishizaki (Japan). The audience anxiously awaited the batons of our finalists, who conducted the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. An all-female lineup of finalists is unprecedented in the competition's history.
The required piece for the first half was the Overture from Weber's Euryanthe (Breitkopf edition).
First up was Yuko Tanaka. Her small frame seemed somewhat larger once she took to the conductor's podium. Though slightly nervous, she paid close attention to soft sounds and gave an enthusiastic performance in the latter half, vigorously onward to the coda.
Next came the tall Maja Metelska. From the overture, her conducting stood out as dynamic and powerful, crisp and articulate throughout. Mayana Ishizaki, the third finalist, is also petite. She connects the pauses with great care. The subtlety of chamber music was apparent in piano parts, and the coda was conducted leisurely yet in a dignified manner.
The latter half was a composition of each finalist's choice. Tanaka chose the first and fourth movements of Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 in A minor (Op. 56), known as the Scottish (Breitkopf edition) and a signature piece of Romantic music. Metelska chose the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (Op. 55), also known as the Eroica (Bärenreiter edition). Ishizaki's choice was the first and fourth movements of Dvořák's Symphony No. 8 in G major (Op. 88) (Supraphon edition). Each of their choices were large-scale songs with complicated, unbending compositions. All three finalists conceived original approaches to their compositions and gave enthusiastic performances.
Unfortunately, the results of this year's competition did not yield a first, second, or third prize, but each finalist's passion and ambition towards conducting were unmistakable. Indeed, there were shining moments of their performances, and we are excited to see what kind of conductors they will become with further efforts. The audience also expressed their support as they sent our finalists off with warm applause.