biography repretorie recordings reviews music contact writings Secret Life



Funny stuff...

In 1996, while still playing as the pianist of my beloved Trio di Venezia, we were invited to participate in a chamber music competition in Asia, whose location will remain unknown. The organization was simply spectacular: tape auditions, twenty or so groups selected, the most expensive plane tickets with Lufthansa, including a seat for the cello, accommodation at a five-star hotel, single rooms, etc. We were even given a generous daily allowance to spend as we liked (quickly wiped off by modest but outrageously expensive meals at small local restaurants, where we were asked to leave most of the time because we looked American). The competition invested huge sums to guarantee the success of the event. We were treated like royalty. People were exceedingly nice to us, always finding a way to make us feel comfortable.

Upon our arrival, we had to attend a general meeting with the director of the competition, who gave a long spiel about how wonderful it was to have us there, and how privileged they were that a major violinist (who will also remain nameless) became the patron of the competition. He was the guy who was offering the daily stipend to all the contestants, and from his own pocket!

The pleasant introduction was instantly spoiled by an unexpected request: we were asked to pay a $30 admission fee, and declining to pay would have incurred in the automatic disqualification of the group! We were speechless. The organization spent no less than $2,000 for the sumptuous food offered at the reception the night before, a total of probably $60,000 on airfares to fly all of us there, stellar hotel, breakfast included (I'm sure they got package deals, but still...), and they are asking us to cover admission fees that most likely totaled 600 bucks??? Quite surreal. We pull out our wallets and submit. I guess it became for them a matter of honor, a manifestation of commitment.

The whole experience is great. We get into the semifinals and are quite satisfied with our performance. The concert hall is possibly one of the best in the world (at least one of the best stages I got to step on) and the audience very receptive and enthusiastic. We are amazed at the perfection of the system, where everything is minutely calculated, and most of the time obnoxiously so.

Meanwhile, we get to talk to other contestants, who are excellent players and very nice people. The sense of camaraderie is of the highest level: no dirty looks, no unfriendly behavior. However, we soon notice that our return flights are scheduled for the day after the end of the semifinal round, even though they are open tickets. We just assume it was done randomly, but by chance, one day we start a conversation about it with some of the remaining contestants. Some of them have our same flight schedule, some of them are scheduled to leave after the end of the competition.

The next day, the results are announced: five groups get into the finals, and we are not one of them. We quickly come to the realization that the finalists were those people who had their flights scheduled a couple of days after the end of the event. We are in disbelief: how is it possible that they thought we wouldn't notice? In a way, I remained optimistic for a few days, trusting that it was done in good faith and that it was just a coincidence. But it remains so only until I take a look at the brochure of the competition, which included each group's profile, teachers, programs: all the groups that made the finals were students at a music academy in Europe (also to remain nameless), which coincidentally... is named after the guy who became the generous patron of the competition and gave us the opportunity to have a glimpse at the lack of hospitality of people who thought we were businessmen from the new continent.