&ldquoAs Alsop faced the cellos and drew from them the most tremendously shaped phrases with every inflection of her baton, you were aware of being in the presence of greatness.&rdquo
19th May 2015
Queen Elisabeth Competition blog

MA:  All of the hard work is paying off this week as the 12 finalists take to the stage to perform the “compulsory” new work and concerto of choice. As of Monday there have been two finalists a night, so very intense, but also very exciting. The orchestra is doing beautifully and we are all amazed at the technical ability of these kids. The atmosphere in the hall each night is electric: the audience is fantastic – even better than a football match! Of course, we can’t help but speculate on who the juries will select as prize winners but, regardless, they are all winners in our eyes! A couple of days to recover after the grand finale Saturday night and then next stop: London!











MA: Spent the day sequestered with the finalists, but we did have a brief moment for R&R! Violinists are usually very good at pool and ping pong!

It was another busy day, going through 8 concerti with the remaining finalists, the level is extremely high I really enjoy working with such talented young musicians and getting to know them.  Within 5 minutes I have a sense of who they are as people so today was special because I got to have lunch with them – a really nice group!

Unfortunately I’m missing a graduation ceremony today at Johns Hopkins University back home in Baltimore where I’ve been honored with an honorary doctorate degree.  I feel incredibly honored to be awarded this from such a prestigious institution – but sadly I can’t be in two places at once!












MA: I finished my last orchestra only rehearsal yesterday morning and then yesterday afternoon I finally met four of the twelve finalists. They are superb and the level is exceedingly high. There are performing 4 Brahms concerti, 3 Sibelius’; 2 Tchaikovskys; 2 Bartok #2s; and 1 Shostakovich #1!

Today I will go to the “Chapelle” where the other eight finalists are in isolation for 5 days, learning the compulsory new piece. It’s an amazing tradition: they have no access to phones or internet with only each other to rely on to learn the 7 minutes piece! For some of them it’s like going cold turkey and for others it’s a welcome relief from the everyday insanity. We begin their rehearsals with the orchestra on Friday with the first finalist performing on Monday.  Fasten those seat belts – here we go!!

Rehearsing with first finalist William Ching-Yi Wei











MONDAY MAY 18, 2015

MA: I arrived in Brussels a few days ago and am knee deep in rehearsals with the NOB (National Orchestra of Belgium). It’s great to see and work with the musicians – feels like we picked up right where we left off, like old friends!

Besides working on the standard concerti, we’ve spent time learning the “compulsory piece”, a newly commissioned work by a composer whom we must call Monsieur “X” to preserve his anonymity. Ilya Gringolts served as surrogate soloist brilliantly and we recorded the piece today with him for the jury to hear and then recorded just the orchestral part (like “music minus one”) for the finalists.

The 12 finalists will be secluded in rotating groups, with NO phones, NO internet, NO anything, outside of the city at a “Chapelle” where they will each have several days to learn the new piece in total isolation from the world.  I will spend a day there with them going over the piece and giving advice, but the beauty is watching them work together and help each other to learn and assimilate the new work.

The semi finals only ended Saturday night so we didn’t learn which concerti we’d be playing until Sunday morning.  It’s all very exciting and “edge of seat” feeling, which I love.

I will meet with each finalist for 45 minutes starting Wednesday afternoon, to rehearse their concerto and get to know them before they join the orchestra at the end of the week.

I am really eager to meet them and experience their talent and perspectives. While technical mastery is important, it is the personal and intimate narrative, the ability to touch our hearts with a compelling story, that will set the truly great artist apart.  Let’s see what happens….

QEC finalists