Concours International d'Execution Musicale Genève (CIEM) 50th Anniversary - International Competition For Musical Performers Geneva (CIEM) 50th Anniversary

International Competition For Musical Performers Geneva (CIEM) 50th Anniversary - Lyric Art Competition 1989 swissmusic

On occasion of the CIEM's 50th anniversary in 1989, its organizers devoted that year's edition exclusively to operatic work. The 1st CD - part of the 3 CD Anniversary Box, spotlights the 1989 Lyric Art Competition, along with highlights from other vocal competition winners since the existence of the CIEM Geneva. Featured on this 1st CD are works by Othmar Schoeck, Ernest Bloch, W.A. Mozart, Richard Strauss, Verdi, Puccini, Nicolai, Cui, Gounod and Borodin.

This content was published on January 28, 2008 - 13:56

The International Competition for Musical Performers in Geneva CIEM celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1989. Over the past half century, this prestigious event has achieved increasing worldwide renown and has launched many unknown but highly talented performers on their way to brillant international careers. Since 1982, the Transcription Service of Swiss Radio International has issued an annual album in its Musica Helvetica series, featuring highlights from competition perfomances by prizewinners in Geneva. Besides these albums also present to a wider listening public the music of Swiss composers prominently featured in the Geneva competition.

This anniversary edition comprises three recordings with highlights from the Geneva competition since it was first held in 1939. The 1st recording presents the 50th anniversary edition "Lyrical Art Competition on operatic work", along with archive excerpts by prizewinning vocal performances since 1939. The 2nd and 3rd editions are throughoughly archive recordings (from 1939-1959 and from 1962-1989 respectively) by prizewinning instrumental performers.

The Lyric Art Competition 1989

Geneva's 50th Competiton for Musical Performers was devoted exclusively to operatic work. This anniversary edition, entitled "Lyric Art Competition", owed its success to personal initiative of the competition's Secretary General Franco Fisch. The 1989 competition resulted in the discovery of several truly outstanding performers. The jury was enlarged to 28 eminent members. They included internationally renowned opera directors, who judged candidates not only on their musical ability but on their stage presence as well. Pre-selections were held in New York, Cologne, Tokyo and Geneva. Candidates had to demonstrate their perfection in three major operatic roles in a minimum of two languages and were required to perform at the Grand Théâtre in Geneva. The jury pre-selected six winners of the "Prix Chant d'Opéra". Of these, three were chosen to compete for the "Grand Prix d'Art Lyrique" (equal to the former 1st Prize) by performing in full a role from their repertoire. This supreme award included a performance of this role on a major European stage.

The CIEM Geneva Story

In 1939 Swiss composer Henri Gagnebin and Frédéric Liebstoeckl founded the International Competition for Musical Performers in Geneva. After Second World war it soon became one of the world's most prestigious competitions. The inaugural competition included seven categories (bassoon, voice, clarinet, flute, oboe, piano and violin) and was carried through in two stages. The final concert was broadcast by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation and by the National Broadcasting Corporation in New York.

The Geneva competition has contunially profited from a close co-operation with leading musicians and orchestras. Eminent Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet (along with the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande) was an ardent advocate of the competition, often appearing on the rostrum himself to accompany young performers.

The collaboration with outstanding musicians also extends to the jury. Over fifty highly respected specialists are involved in the evaluation process each year. They make a major contribution to the outstanding international reputation of the CIEM.

The promotion of Swiss music has also always been one of the primary goals of the Geneva competition. The set selection of pieces from which candidates choose always includes music by Swiss composers (specially commissioned in co-operation with the Swiss Musician's Association). Over 150 new works have been composed specifically for the competition (including Frank Martin, Heinz holliger, Willy Burkhard etc.).

The city and canton of Geneva and the Swiss Federal government have supported the Geneva competition since its inception. Additional support of eminence was provided by major companies.

1st Prizes at the Lyric Art Competition 1989 - Reinhard Hagen

Reinhard Hagen won following prizes at the 1989 CIEM: Grand Prix d'Art Lyrique, Prix Chant d'Opéra and the Prix Suisse. Born in Bremen (Germany) in 1961, Bass singer Reinhard Hagen sang first as chorus member before studiying at the State Academy for Music at Karlsruhe. He already was a prizewinner before the 1989 CIEM (in the National Competition by the Associaition of German Music Academies and at the 1988 Mendelssohn Competition in Berlin. Since winning the CIEM's "Prix Chant d'Opéra" he has received many international engagements for major roles.

This magnificient work "Ravenna" by Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck exalts the spiritual values of the poem of the same nam by Hermann Hesse. Schoeck subtly links the world of poetic impulses with musical form, mirroring Hesse's journey through this Italian city.

Mozart's aria "In diesen heil'gen Hallen" (from "The Magic Flute") is symbolic of the allegoric sorcerer Sarastro, incorporating the elements of his parabolic and priestly wisdom. Hagen's clear interpretation reflects the ambiguity of the myth through light opposing the obscur forces of the night.

In Verdi's aria "Il laceraro Spirito" (from "Simone Boccanegra") the unloved Fiesco, a patrician is mourning his daughter, whom he believes to be death. Hagen exploits admirably the dramatic logic of the situation, which Verdi always reveals with immediacy and emphasis.

Prize-Winner at the Lyric Art Competition - Cynthia Jacoby

Cynthia Jacoby was awarded the "Geneva Musicians' Association" Prize at the 1989 CIEM. Born in Philadelphia (USA) in 1962, Sopranist Jacoby studied first at the San Francisco Opera Center. She then took advanced studies at South Florida University and at the Manhattan School of Music (where she started to perform several roles). She won First Prize at the San Francisco Opera Center Auditions, and was awarded a scholarship which enabled her to for extensive auditions in Europe.

The aria "O voi ministri del mal", sung by Cynthia Jacoby is from Ernest Bloch opera "Lady Macbeth". It was first produced at the Opéra Comique in Paris in 1910, and drawed major influences from Wagner, Mussorgsky (Boris Godunov) and slight touches of Debussy. Bloch's musical maturity is very much in evidence in "Lady Macbeth". As demonstrated by frequent changes of tonality, tempo and measure, the use of perfect and augmented fourth etc. In general his works were mainly inspired by his own poetic and philosophic ideas, and always saw melody and emotion as centerpoints. Bloch was born in Geneva in 1880. He studied violin in Geneva. Further studies in composition followed abroad. After Second World War, Bloch settled in the United States. Besides his career as acomposer he there was appointed Professor of Music at the University of California at Berkeley. He died in in Portland, Oregon in 1959.

1st Prizes at the Lyric Art Competition - Michèle Crider

At the 1989 CIEM Sopranist Michèle Crider was awarded the Grand Prix d'Art Lyrique and Prix Chant d'Opéra. Born at Quincy (USA) in 1959, Michèle Crider studied at the University of Iowa. She completed her vocal studies in Europe in Austria and Zurich. She was a finalist at the San Francisco Opera Studio and at the Luciano Pavarotti Competition.

Aridne's aria "Esgibt ein Reich", Michèle Crider chose of Strauss' "Ariadne on Naxos". This work was composed on a text by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and is one of the formidable masterpieces of formal and harmonic boldness which Strauss created early this century. Michèle Criders conveys all the emotional anguish and despair of a woman in deep distress, but also the joy and ecstasy of eternal peace that death will bring.

Crider here gives on Puccini's "Un bel dì vedrem" (from "Madame Butterfly") an impressive portrayal of a fragile figure submerged by passion, a role that combines the graceful with the tragic.

Prize-Winner at the Lyric Art Competition - Roberto Sacca

Tenor singer Roberto Sacca won a Prix Chant d'Opéra at the 1989 CIEM. The Italian musician was born at Sendenhorst (Germany) in 1961. He was aboy singer with the Stuttgarter Hymnuschorknaben, and studied further on at the Stuttgart Music Academy. He completed his studies at the Opera and Music Academy of Karlsruhe. At the time of the CIEM contest Sacca already had experience in opera houses in Brazil and Germany.

Roberto Sacca performs Otto Nicolai's "Horch, die Lerche singt im Hain" from "The Merry Wives of Windsor". Named after the comedy by Shakespeare, this is Nicolai's most popular opera and was premiered only two months before his death. Among the suitors serenading Anna is the young Fenton (sung by Sacca), who introduces a romantic touch into the atmosphere of light hearted merrymaking and amusing misunderstandings which pervade this work.

1st Prize at the Lyric Art Competition in 1980 - New York Art Vocal Ensemble

This Vocal Quartet from the US consists of Lila Deis (Soprano), Patrick Romano (Tenor), Shirley Close (Contralto), Kevin Deas (Bass) and artistic director Raymond Begle. This exceptional quartet is a permanent ensemble which has been performing for years with great success. The ensemble enjoys particular renown in the United States and has made several fine recordings. Its impressive repertoire embraces the Renaissance, the Romantic, negro spirituals, and contemporary compositions.

Music critic and composer César Antonovich Cui belonged to the Russian "Group of Five" (along with Mussorgsky, Balakiref, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin). These three charming melodies "Three vocal quartets, op. 59", as performed by the New York Art Vocal Ensemble, were written in Russian. But they owe nothing to the inspiration of folklore.

1st Prize at the Lyric Art Competition in 1964 - José Van Dam

Born in Brussels (Belgium) in 1940, Bass-baritonist José van Dam studied at the city's Conservatory while already performing minor roles at the Paris Opera. After winning the CIEM in 1964 he embarked on an international career. Geneva, Salzburg, Vienna, the Scala Milan, San Francisco, the Metropolitan Opera in New York became further stations of engagement. Van Dam's repertoire spans from Mozart to Olivier Messiaen.

In Giuseppe Verdi's "Don Carlos" van Dam performs the role of King Philipp. Here he expresses suberbly all the solitude of a king betrayed by his son Don Carlos.

1st Prize at the Lyric Art Competition in 1958 - Elly Ameling

Born in Rotterdam (Netherlands) in 1934 Sopranist Elly Ameling studied under Jo Bollekamp and Jacoba Dresden-Dohnt. Before the CIEM in 1958 she already won at the Hertogenbosch Competition two years earlier. She completed studies under Bernac in Paris before embarking on a outstanding concert career across Europe and overseas. An eminent performer of Bach she has also excelled with the works of Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, in Lieder (Schubert, Brahms and Schumann) and French compositions.

Charles Gounod's aria, The Jewel Song (from "Faust"), is one of the most beautiful from the coloratura soprano's repertoire.

1st Prize at the Lyric Art Competition in 1954 - Dusan Popovic

Born in Prilep (Yugoslavia) in 1927, Bass-baritonist Dusan Popovic studied at the Belgrade Music Academy. After he won the CIEM he became one of the most eminent operatic performers in his native country. His internatioanl career took him to Vienna, Berlin, Munich, the Bolshoi Theatre and Leningrad, and also to Paris, the Scala Milan and to America.

Alexander Borodin composed "Prince Igor" on a text of his own. This work typifies the epic grand opera , lavish with lyricism exalting Russian feeling and the exotic splendour of the Polovots. In the imprisoned prince's aria, he is regretting his past while dreaming of a freedom which would give him the glory and honour of protecting his people.

1st Prize at the Lyric Art Competition in 1953 - Consuelo Rubio

Spanish Sopranist Consuelo Rubio was born in Madrid 1927. She studied at her native's Conservatory. Her career started with the win at the CIEM in 1953 and took her a.o. places to Buenos Aires, Paris, Vienna and the Aix-en-Provence Festival. She won acclaim for performances of Wagnerian roles and Verdi heroines. Consuelo Rubio also excelled in Lider and the Iberian repertoire. She died in 1981. Many excellent recordings preserve her vocal art.

Amorous intrigues, mistaken identities are the essence of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro". Consuelo Rubio shines in the role of Susanna, with the pure vocal line reflecting a kind-hearted nature and uprightness.

1st Prize at the Lyric Art Competition in 1939 - Maria Stader

Swiss Sopranist Maria Stader was born in Budapest (Hungary) in 1911. She studied under Hans Keller in Karlsruhe and Ilona Durigo in Zurich, and with Therese Schnabel-Behr in New York. Her international career started after she won the CIEM in 1939. She soon achieved most distinction as a concert and recital performer. Besides she won acclaim being considered one of the finest performers of Mozart.

Mozart composed "Abendempfindung, an Laura" on 24 June 1787, mourning his father's and two close friend's death. In this Lied he expresses the melancholy of the falling night, without pathos, but affording a glimpse of the approaching obscurity that is the abyss.

Production information

1939-1989. 50th Anniversary. International Competition For Musical Performers Geneva. Lyric Art Competition. Musica Helvetica MH CD 73.2. Produced by Patrick Linder and Andreas Lüthi.

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