Joost Willemze takes home top prize at Suoni d’Arpa competition

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Dutch harpist Joost Willemze won the top prize at the 8th “Suoni d’Arpa” International Harp Contest in Italy. “I am extremely happy to have won the competition,” Willemze says. “I’m looking forward to recording my album with TACTUS and performing the concerts that have been arranged, especially at the harp center in Hong Kong, as I have not yet been.” Held in the Fondazione Scuola di Alto Perfezionamento Musicale in Saluzzo, Italy, the competition took place Aug. 31–Sept. 5 and offered four distinct categories—three solo harp divisions and one division for harpists performing in a chamber duo. The competition included 76 participants from 23 countries.

Says Willemze of his experience,

“I participated in category C, for pedal harp soloists up to age 30. Of the 24 competitors, 13 proceeded to the second (and final) stage. In the first round, harpists were required to pick one movement from Virgilio Mortari’s ‘Study Galanti.’ I decided to play the sarabanda, because I thought it was musically the most interesting of the three. Technically, it was not very difficult to play, but phrasing it beautifully and observing all of Mortari’s dynamic indications was challenging. After the sarabanda, I played Rhapsodie by Marcel Grandjany—I really love that piece! In just seven minutes, so many aspects of the harp are explored. Moreover, the piece offers a lot of freedom for interpretation; I love the extreme contrasts which can be created. The second stage was a freely chosen program not to exceed 12 minutes. I chose Godefroid’s Carnaval de Venise. I have been working on that piece for a long time, and while there were technical passages that initially seemed impossible, I finally managed to play it with a lot of patience and practice. Paradoxically, this very difficult piece should sound like it’s the easiest thing to play. Only when it sounds effortless and joyful can the carnaval–like effect be achieved. The many cadenza–like passages make the piece slightly different in every performance. It’s such a joy to play! After the Godefroid, I played Grandjany’s The Colorado Trail. While it’s not as popular as his rhapsodie or the Fantaisie sur un thème de Haydn, I highly recommend it for all harpists—it’s such a beautiful piece!”

During jury deliberation, the contestants were invited to tour the Salvi factory in Piasco, Italy, which also provided instruments for the competitors. “We were given insight into the different stages of the production process. It was extremely interesting, and everyone enjoyed it very much,” says Willemze. Afterwards, competitors were given the opportunity to talk to jury members and receive feedback regarding their performances. The judges included Gabriella Bosio, Viktor Hartobanu, Alessandra Magrini, Catherine Michel, Lorenzo Montenz, Edith Pun, Natalia Shameyeva, and Ivano Scavino. President of the Italian Harp Association, Emanuela Degli Esposti, served as jury president and artistic director of the competition.

Category A: lever and pedal harp (up to age 15)

First Prize: Joséphine Plagnol (France)
Second Prize: Giedra Juljia Tutkute (Lithuania)
Third Prize: Jekaterina Solohova (Latvia)
Honorable Mentions: Margherita Spicci, Jernej Misic, Sofia Moskaleva, Janshi Wong

Category B: pedal harp (up to age 20)

First Prize: not awarded
Second Prize: Clara Busemann (Germany)
Third Prize: Marija Basta (Serbia)
Special Prize “Mirella Vita:” Sofia Moskaleva (Russia)

Category C: pedal harp (up to age 30)

First Prize: Joost Willemze (Holland)
Second Prize ex aequo: Marina Chudakova (Russia), Héloise De Jenlis (France)
Third Prize ex aequo: Merve Kocabeyler (Turkey), Veronika Grabovskaya (Russia)

Category D: duo with harp (no age limits)

First Prize: Noemi Hanczyk & Aleksander Pankowski (Poland)
Second Prize ex aequo: Aran & Nora Spignoli Soria (Italy-Spain) / Jekaterina Solohova & Aleksejs Suvorov (Latvia)
Third Prize ex aequo: Darta Tisenkopfa & Giulia Arnaboldi (Latvia-Italy) / Katryn Sloat & Christina Brier (USA)

For more information about the competition, please visit http://www.associazioneitalianarpa.it/internationalharpcontest2018/ and for more photos, click here.

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