The 2007 NFA Young Artist Competition saw many changes, improving upon both the format and the prize offerings. In the past, six flutists were chosen from the tape round as semi-finalists. This year, 25 competitors were chosen from the tapes to compete in a live preliminary round in Albuquerque. Six semi-finalists were then selected from this preliminary round, and each performed two movements from J.S. Bach’s Sonata in E Major, two movements from Prokofiev’s Sonata, and the commissioned work, “Lied” for flute and piano by Toshio Hosokawa. From this group of six, three outstanding finalists where chosen: Hye Sung Choe, Rachel Taratoot Ciraldo, and Gregory Milliren.
First to perform in the final round was Gregory Milliren, with Diane Frazer at the piano. Milliren performed the Sonatine by Dutilleux, Aria by Dohnanyi, Zoom Tube by Ian Clarke, and the third movement of Carl Vine’s Sonata for flute and piano, titled “Very Fast.” It was indeed very fast! This was an excellent choice in programming, as it showcased both Milliren’s lyrical and technical capabilities. A highlight of his program was his performance of Zoom Tube, a difficult work packed with contemporary techniques. One could have been listening to Ian Clarke himself!
Rachel Taratoot Ciraldo, finalist number two, began her program with selections from Les Folies d’Espagne by Marin Mariais, a masterpiece of the baroque repertoire. She continued with the Grand Polonaise of Theobald Boehm, which highlighted her ability to make stylistic variation and nuance. To close, she and pianist Bryan Pezzone played the buckle-your-seat-belts fourth movement of Sonata No. 3 by Mike Mower,titled “Scree.” Their energy and style were perfectly matched, and it was a perfect ender to the program.
The last finalist to perform was Hye Sung Choe, who began her program with Nocturne and Allegro Scherzando by Philippe Gaubert. With a crystal clear and classically French sound, Choe sailed through the piece with ease. Choe also chose to perform selections from the Marin Marais Les Foiles d’Espagne. Delivering another beautiful performance, her confidence was evident. Choe and pianist Collette Valentine finished their program with competition favorite Chant de Linos by Andre Jolivet. Tenacity, focus, and technically mastery are three ways of easily describing this performance. A small detail to mention is that Choe performed the entire program from memory, including the Jolivet, which is a highly non-trivial feat for any flutist.
The overall level of this year’s competition was quite high. If one had to make one small criticism of the finalists, it would have to be their treatments of the baroque. One finalist chose not to include a piece from this era, and the two others, although they played very beautifully, could have had more variance in style, tone color, and vibrato for the Marais. With that said, I’m sure everyone would agree that it was a pleasure to hear all three finalists, whom no doubt will continue to have vibrant flute careers.
Choe, the audience favorite, was the first prize winner. Millern placed second, and Taratoot Ciraldo took third. Ciraldo also won the prize for the best performance of the commissioned work from the semi-final round.
Congratulations go to all winners, finalists, and contestants for their participation in this rigorous, four-round competition.