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Getting to Carnegie Competition

Young Spanish violinist wins international Getting to Carnegie competition

M. Duenas (© David Ausserhoffer)

A high school senior from Spain, who is also an up-and-coming international violinist, is the winner of the seventh annual Getting to Carnegie musical competition, it was announced January 14.

María Duenas won for her spirited performance of the last movement of a new violin sonata composed by competition founder Julian Gargiulo. Each of the four finalists was recorded playing a different movement of Gargiulo’s new work, a very attractive composition that reminded me of the music of film composer Rachel Portman for its soaring melodic lines and expressive energy.

As the winner, Duenas receives $5,000 and will play Gargiulo’s violin sonata at its world premiere in Carnegie Hall. The Alphadyne Foundation, a new organization supporting music and other pursuits during the pandemic, funded this year’s competition.

In this time of social distancing, the finalists’ entries were recorded in their homes around the world while Gargiulo provided piano accompaniment in a Steinway studio in Paris. The resulting duets were presented to an international audience online via The Violin Channel.

The judging was 50 percent by past winners of the competition and violinist Dmitri Berlinsky, and 50 percent by the online audience. According to competition sources, some 5,000 votes were cast digitally.

With zany humor and fast-paced sketches, Gargiulo, who divides his time between Paris and New York, uses social media to make classical music exciting and relevant to young people. Among many other activities, he is the host of a music history series on YouTube (“One Classical Minute”) with flickering images and wacky stunts designed to appeal to younger viewers. Known online as “The Pianist with the Hair,” Gargiulo provides valuable musical insights to viewers through his fun-filled escapades.

As contests go, Getting to Carnegie uses a wealth of technological and online tools to empower young musicians, some of whom have already established the foundations of successful careers. The contest focuses on a different instrument (violin, cello, and voice) each year.

There are always questions about contest details. Take the order of performance, for example. The organization affirms that the finalists performed in random order, deflecting potential observations that the winner performed the most exciting selection and did so at the very end. One could also question whether each finalist performed on an instrument of equal quality.

However, details aside, there is no doubt that a very talented musician was justly recognized for her achievement. For voters and other listeners alike, it was a pleasure to be part of music history in the making, especially during this time of seclusion and restriction. Congratulations to Ms. Duenas. We know we will be hearing much more from her on the international stage.

Getting to Carnegie Competition

Linda Holt



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