The International Chopin Competition in Warsaw is steaming on towards its finals this week. The contest puts out a daily newspaper in Polish and English, in collaboration with Gramophone and English-language editor and blogger Emma Baker, which you can catch up with via the busy website here. The only external reports I've seen so far have, of course, grumbled about decision-making being political rather than musical, and some of us have been crossing fingers hard that juror Martha Argerich will indeed find it possible to fit in a flying visit to London today to join in ex-husband Stephen Kovacevich's big 70th birthday bash at the Wigmore Hall this evening, before the contest recommences tomorrow. The super-keen can follow the competition's progress with its online broadcasting facility here.
But the most fun I've been having has come from the Appropriate Names Department. For in the list of 10 pianists selected to go through to the finals after the third round, we find one Mr GENIUSAS from Lithuania as well as Herr WUNDER from Germany, and a Mr TRIFONOV from Russia who, last time I checked, was a character from The Cherry Orchard. Will they pick the genius, the miracle or the Chekhov? Or one of the other seven candidates: one Austrian, two French, a Bulgarian, three more Russians and a solitary Pole named Pawel Wakarecy: will he, being a Pole on home turf, Wakarecy everyone up?[UPDATE: I am reliably informed that the Bulgarian candidate Mr Bozhanov's name virtually means "Mr God", so the joy continues...]
I once invented a spoof piano competition for some article, with entrants named along the lines of Victor Ieludesmi, Anna Thabasher and Ivana Getoutahir, but sometimes reality is stranger and much better than fiction. Good luck to them all! Meanwhile I'm off to Stephen's Wigmore for a bit of Brahms and Liszt.
Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.
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