‘Bringing a work to life’: Camac harps at the ARD competition
September 13, 2023
Organised by Bavarian Radio (Bayerischer Rundfunk) and held once a year in Munich, The ARD International Music Competition (Internationaler Musikwettbewerb der ARD) has become one of the most prestigious competitions of its kind, and is globally recognised. The competition has many instrumental categories. The resulting rotation means an ARD contest involving the harp is an extremely rare event, laden with the rewards of important concert opportunities in Germany (as well as cash prizes).
It has been our pleasure to make our instruments available to participants at this year’s competition, and we were delighted that both Marcel Cara and Alexandra Bidi (both playing Camac Harps) were semifinalists, with Mlle. Bidi advancing to the final. After an exceptional final round, Alexandra was declared joint second prize. We managed to catch up with her, despite the fact that winners’ concerts and other events are still very much ongoing!
We are full of admiration for Alexandra, and all the competitors who prepared this formidable programme, but how is it to prepare such an intense programme, comprised of four stages?
“To get really comfortable with my program, I started (quietly) putting together a few pieces as soon as the competition was announced (i.e. in November 2022). Then, in January, with my teacher, we set up a work schedule leading up to the competition, taking into account what I had (or hadn’t) been working on. It was really nice to have a framework: I knew that if I stuck to it, I’d be ready.”
It would seem that not only must one organise one’s work, but also one’s down-time:
“During August, I just concentrated on resting. The more I rested, the more energy and inspiration I’d have for the competition! It was especially during the semi-final and final that I realized how precious this time of rest had been. The pressure was mounting, and rehearsals were coming thick and fast: we had less time to work, and we were starting to feel tired from the previous rounds.”
Alexandra’s electrifying performance resulted in her winning a special prize for the best performance of the commissioned work ( En pointe sèche by Édith Canat de Chizy) ; we asked Alexandra about the importance of studying and playing new works: “For me, performing contemporary music is at least as important as performing the rest of the repertoire. In fact, it’s a very complementary job. In general, we’re less familiar with the language of contemporary composers […] So we find other ways of analysing and embodying a work. In returning to the classical repertoire, you then have new tools with which to approach it, and you grow as a performer.”
Speaking of classical repertoire, it is sadly not uncommon for some to be reticent about our harp concerti, but when one hears the Boïledieu played by an exceptional soloist, and one of the world’s finest orchestras (That is, the orchestra of Bavarian Radio), one certainly hears them with fresh ears!
Having undergone the rigours of the previous three stages, arrival at the final stage and the opportunity to collaborate with such an orchestra was very gratifying: “Pure joy. I was able to share a real rapport with the orchestra and the conductor. Every time I had a new musical idea, the conductor and all the musicians were with me, and vice versa. All without effort. In fact, I felt I was giving as much energy as I was receiving back.”
This natural ebullience was evident to all who witnessed Alexandra’s performance.
It was an honour to put a fine Camac harp at Alexandra’s disposal throughout the competition, and it accompanied her through all four ferocious stages: I was able to explore a magnificent [Camac] Art Nouveau. It’s a model I know because we have an Art Nouveau at the Conservatoire. I even had the chance to record my CD with this instrument. When I tried out the competition harp, I was immediately struck by its sensitivity. I could change the colour of the sound with great ease […] it was a real pleasure for me to see through the competition with this harp.”
And what next for the young artist?
“Sleep, of course! All joking aside, I’m looking forward to starting my Master’s degree at the Conservatoire and my dissertation, as well as going back to university (for a L3 in applied mathematics)!”
We congratulate you, Alexandra on your exceptional artistry, and look forward to hearing even more from you!
Note: It is totally appropriate to mention the other fantastic prize winners: Tjasha Gafner (1st prize and audience prize) and Lea Maria Löffler (joint 2nd prize).