The summer of 2023 sees the 29th anniversary of the International Johannes Brahms Competition in Pörtschach. The reputation of our music competition is built on the high standard of musicians – pianists; violin, viola and cello players; chamber musicians and singers¹ – we attract.
Each year, more than 400 musicians from over 40 nations compete. We attract entrants from most European countries, from Finland in the north to Greece in the south. A truly international feel is provided by competitors from Australia, China, South Africa, Japan and the USA. Just under a tenth of those who register come from Austria.
So what makes our Brahms competition so appealing to musicians the world over? A difference between the Pörtschach event and those elsewhere is the transparency in the marking. Rather than using a committee that is out of sight, our jurors each have to give their marks immediately after the performance and in full view of the audience. This helps the understanding of both competitor and spectator, and also eliminates the unnecessary wait for the results that mars other events. Furthermore, it offers the chance for the audience to compare their judgments with the artistic and technical merit scores announced.
Our format may strike you as unusual, but this way of marking has shown itself to be much appreciated by our entrants, who see that each juror cannot influence his or her colleagues. The musicians are entitled to discuss their marks with individual jurors, should they wish to.
The competition in each discipline comprises three rounds. In the first round musicians must perform pieces from a given list. The emphasis is on demonstrating a mastery of the instrument in question. As this stage serves to reduce the field of candidates to a manageable number the points from round one are not carried forward, thus everyone begins the second round on an equal footing. It is here that power of expression, personal style and artistry come to the fore. Since the scores for the second round and third round are added, victory goes to the candidate who consistently performs very well, rather than a musician who produces an isolated display of excellence.
In my experience the public get caught up in the drama of the Pörtschach Brahms Competition, they choose their favourites and ride the rollercoaster of emotions with them. Where else can you watch such high-calibre musicians in exciting competition for free?
Have a good time,
Mag. Waltraud Arnold
President, Johannes Brahms Society Pörtschach
¹ The voice, viola and chamber musician competitions are not on offer in 2023.