We have now arrived at six finalists for the piano trio competition in Graz. Each group has to play a contemporary work, plus one of Schubert’s late, great trios in the Final on Tuesday. This will be the first time I have ever had to sit and listen to six consecutive performances of Schubert’s late trios, each of which lasts around 45 minutes. Wonderful as the music is, I am not sure how our brains are going to cope with the task. Perhaps it will help that we have to take notes throughout, so that we can give detailed feedback to the competitors afterwards if they want it.
Last night we gave feedback to those who didn’t make it to the Final. I am often struck by how robustly they take these setbacks. When I was a student, there were far fewer competitions and far less financial help available to go in for them. Entering an international competition was a huge thing, something you might only consider doing once. Today, however, there is practically a competition circuit, and many young musicians are used to meeting one another regularly at competitions around the world. When you tell them you are sorry they didn’t make it to the next round, they often shrug and say that you win some, lose some. It could be, of course, that they are putting a brave face on disappointment, but it seems to me that many of them are very pragmatic about it. Indeed, they often say that the repertoire they had to learn will come in useful in the next competition, where a different jury may turn out to be more disposed in their favour. Is this a good thing? Well, perhaps it is better than in my student days when competitions were much rarer, and failure could be crushing.