After World War II, financing had been provided largely by an important bank — Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) —
considered to be the world's most ancient. Things turned sour a few years ago as MPS
finances were saddled with bad non-performing loans. Now, in order to rescue MPS, seventy per
cent of its capital is held by the Italian Treasury. The Chigiana Academy has been
gradually transformed over the last two years. It holds a two month
International Festival and Music Academy with concerts — sixty this summer — given by both the world famous instructors
and by the trainees. It is worth recalling that among others, the Prize was awarded to Gidon Kremer, Peter Serkin, Evgeny Kissin, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andreas Schiff and many other famous names.
Quite a few of them consider it as the stepping stone to their careers,
and gratefully return to Siena in the summer, on a no fee basis, as instructors to younger
musicians, and to provide them with advice and references.
This year, thanks to a
generous grant by Tuscany Rotary Club, the International Chigiana Prize
had been re-established, but with new modalities: an international jury,
wide publicity, auditions held in New York, Brussels and Moscow, and a final concert with the two finalists on 7 July 2017 at the elegant Teatro dei Rinnovati in Siena. In the pit, Orchestra Toscana was conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer. I was in the audience.
The selection of the
concert's content was with its final purpose in mind: the award. In the
first Prokofiev piece, the pianist and the cellist confronted each other.
In the two central pieces, the confrontation was respectively between
pianist and orchestra and between cellist and orchestra. Finally,
Prokofiev's Classical Symphony gave the panel discussion time in one of the theatre's rooms, to vote and decide on the awards.
Both soloists are top notch, as well as Alexander Malofeev,
piano and Miriam Prandi, cello, who had gained third and fourth places.
Ella van Poucke was awarded the golden star, Arseny Tarasevisch-Nikolaev
the silver star. Right then and there, they were offered contracts for
concerts in Italy and abroad (including the Arab world).