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Funny stuff...

A couple of years ago, I was a contestant in a major international competition where two of the three European judges really disliked my playing. Apparently, their decision prevented me from reaching the finals. They found my performance too ‘original’, and they also detected that same problem in my programming. One of them was extremely rude and arrogant, while the other more willing to have a conversation. When the latter questioned why I chose to open the semifinal round with the Andante from the Mozart Sonata I had programmed, I replied that I was given forty minutes to play solo repertoire chosen among the pieces I was presenting, and that I thought a slow movement was a good way of opening and balancing an otherwise heavy program. Also, the Andante was written the same year as Don Giovanni, the Chopin Fantasy was written in 1841, and so was Liszt’s Don Juan Fantasy, which ended the program. I thought it was a nice grouping. The judge dryly stated that tradition expects that one play the first movement of a Classical Sonata, if a choice has to be made. ‘It has to be the first! Who would ever start with a second movement?’, she said concernedly. When she mentioned that my program was bizarre, she added that I should play the same pieces that everybody else plays in competitions, otherwise – in her own words - ‘we don’t know how to judge and compare performances’. This in my mind is the epitome of European thinking.