The Villager

West Village, East Village, Soho, tribeca and Lower East Side

New York, NY


February 26,1997

A showcase for contest winners

By Robert Hicks

Nestled in the rolling hills and baroque architecture of Ragusa, Sicily, lies a convent known as the Teatro Comunale. Behind a protective barricade that hides them from site of the public, the nuns listen closely as music swells into the hot summer air of this seaside resort creating a festival atmosphere among competitors at the 1996 Ibla International Music Competition.

Its founder Salvatore Moltisanti has a chiseled look to his handsome face of 34 years. Gone are the introverted fears of a young performer fresh from Rome's Santa Cecilia Conservatory of Music who rose to heights of piano competitons in his Italian homeland as well as throughout Europe and abroad. Instead there is a confidence in his mien that holds knowledge of the classical canon of Chopin and BACH as well as a love for contemporary music of Olivier Messiaen, George Crumb and Justin Davidson.

"I went through the experience of competition while I was in the conservatory," says Moltisanti from his apartment in the East Village. "I was shy so I had to find out if the fear of the competition or the fear that someone would judge would effect my memory, but every time I passed a competition I gained strength not because of the results but because I had felt that my mind, my soul, my emotions had kept all together. When I was young in my teens, I could not play two notes without my back turned except in from of my teachers. I was a very introverted guy. The competition never provided anything negative for me; they were a tool to test my strength so what I would like to do now is transfer the same confidence to others."

Moltisanti, who teaches at New York University and at the Greenwich School of Music aims to celebrate the experience of IBLA and toward that end he provides performance opportunities each year in Europe and in the States for IBLA winners.

New York audiences will get a chance to hear some of the talent from Sunday March 2 through Friday March 7 at three locations.

The 1997 IBLA Festival of the Two Worlds will open at Greenwich House Music School, featuring IBLA Bellini Competition Winners, soprano Phillys Lewis of Mississippi and bass Serghei Maghera of the Ukraine. Pianist Hsaio-Lieng Liu of Taiwan and Yi Chou of China will perform in duo and IBLA GRAND PRIZE International competition winner, Susumi Aoyaghi will perform Rachmaninof Etude Tableaux op.33/6.

Performances will also be held at New York University Casa Italiana and at Steinway Hall. Tickets are $25 and all proceed will go to benefit the Greenwich House Music School Scholarship Fund.

While writing his doctoral dissertation on the aesthetics of performance at the University of Bologna, Moltisanti thought of the idea of creating a competition from the performers point of view. Most competition he points out, have rounds where each performer plays for ten minutes in direct combat with another musician. What Moltisanti envisioned was a festival atmosphere in which each performer would be allowed to play at least 50 minutes with each day's performer granted an evening concert in a more relaxed outdoor arena. At the end of the week 25 jurors, not all professional musicians - unlike the usual seven for international and three to five jurors for national competition - would evaluate the performances of all participants and thereby start the voting process to select the best performers.

Later during a stint as a Berti scholar at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston Salem, Moltisanti was encouraged by its Chancellor to realize his ideas of a competition. The IBLA International Festival begin then in 1992 as a part of Ragusa's Columbus Day celebrations and has continued annually with its piano, voice and composers competition, featuring nearly ninety participants from over thirty five countries every summer from June 25 through July 6.

The 1997 Festival of the Two Worlds from March 2 - 7 at three locations

Greenwich House Music school, 46 Barrow street, March 2, 7:30 PM;

New York University Casa Italiana, 24 west 12th street, March 3, 6 and 7, 7:30 PM;

Steinway Hall, 109 west 57th street, 7:30 PM; $25.