VC INTERVIEW | Domenico Mason on the “Il Piccolo Violino Magico” International Competition for Young Violinists
The Violin Channel recently discussed the upcoming competition with Domenico Mason, head of the competition.
Can you tell us about the 2022 edition of the Il Piccolo Violino Magico Competition? How does it differ from previous editions?
Yes, I would say the next edition should be less challenging especially as far as safety and health care aspects are concerned. The 2021 edition was held successfully in person despite the pandemic. However, last year's competitors, in addition to the normal “competition stress,” also had to face a series of limiting safety measures!
This year, the novelty is the presence of the “Special Juror,” Aleksey Igudesman. He has composed a new piece for two violins and string orchestra. All candidates in the second round will perform this piece alongside Igudesman as second violin. I think we will see some exciting performances!
The competition is devoted to very young talented international violinists up to 13 years old. What do you feel is most important to develop and nurture during this age in order to start preparing for a potential professional career?
This is perhaps the most delicate age for the preparation of a future violinist, and more generally, of a future artist. The most important thing is to have a great teacher and a good school. In fact, it is not by chance that most of the candidates for the Piccolo Violino Magico come from the most internationally recognized institutions.
But there is a fundamental component to be taken into consideration: the students' experience. Our competition wants to provide one of their first important experiences, with the highest level of jury members and orchestral accompaniment.
How does the Il Piccolo Violino Magico Competition aim to contribute to such goals?
Performing in front of a jury of recognized artists and teachers is a testing ground that counts a lot at that age. Rather than establishing a "Judge vs. Competitor" relationship, we want our jury members and competitors to create an amicable dialogue about their artistic growth. This dialogue also takes place on the stage, where, in one of the rounds, Juror and Candidate perform together.
Another differentiating factor is our orchestra — I don’t know of any other international competitions where the competitor is accompanied in all the rounds. For some of the competitors, it represents their first experience accompanied by an orchestra. Last but not least, San Vito al Tagliamento is a small town in the Italian province that warmly welcomes its young artists every year, making them feel part of an important event.
You are offering prize money and a contemporary violin made by Italian maker Fabio Piagentini to this year’s first prize winner. Can you tell us more about the maker and why you feel it’s important to be able to offer this?
Since the candidates are very young, we consider the prizes we offer, thanks to some generous sponsors, as a sort of scholarship for the continuation of their studies. We shouldn’t forget that although the competitors are already very talented, they will face a few years of hard work and improvement ahead.
As for the violin, we thought it nice that the prizewinner had “his/her” own violin, which will accompany them for at least a part of their path. Italian luthier Fabio Piagentini, from Lucca, has generously offered his work. We Italians are lucky: we have Spaghetti, Pizza, and Violins…
This year’s opening round candidates, semi-finalists, and finalists will have the opportunity to perform with the Accademia d’Archi Arrigoni Orchestra and the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region Orchestra. How important do you feel this experience of performing with orchestras is to such young players?
As mentioned, for some of them, it is even their first experience — yet within a week, considering the many rehearsals and rounds of the competition, they get to perform with an orchestra every day! I would say that in addition to being an important international competition, it also serves as a great masterclass, learning the ins and outs of playing violin with an orchestra. It doesn’t happen so often to have an orchestra available for a week, does it?
What feedback have you received from previous year’s candidates and laureates about the unique experience?
One of the main pieces of feedback that we receive from the candidates, beyond the results they achieve during the competition, includes the support they get from the orchestras and conductors. I must also thank our “historic” conductor Maestro Giancarlo Guarino for his attitude towards the candidates, supporting them in all their needs. Additionally, several candidates, not only the prizewinner, come back as soloists to perform in our intense concert activity, thus creating a strong bond with the town and with our Accademia d'archi Arrigoni.
With your competitors, there are no doubt much different expectations placed on a 10-year-old compared to a 13-year-old. Do you feel the jury is ultimately searching for the strongest players currently or those showing the best potential?
This is a very difficult question. At this age, even a few months makes a difference and often, candidates reappear in subsequent editions. Deciding whether what you feel today is a real potential for tomorrow or if you have only imagined tomorrow’s potential today, is partly a gamble. In front of such young candidates, it is a really difficult choice but it is also the “Magic” of ”Il Piccolo Violino”…
As it continues to grow over the next coming years, what are your long term goals for the competition?
My long term goal is to create a true festival dedicated to these wonderful talents, that would continue immediately after the competition. It would ideally foster collaboration, unity, and the celebration of everyone's musical growth, even after competing against one another.
How can young musicians apply for the 2022 competition?
Young musicians can apply for the 2022 edition by going to the website www.ilpiccoloviolinomagico.it — where they can find the program and information.
The application deadline is April 15, 2022. For more information, click here.