I was privileged enough (once again) to be invited to the Ibla Grand Prize held in the beautiful Villa Criscione in Ragusa, Sicily. The reception attracts visitors not only from all over Sicily, but also the USA as well as the countries whose musicians are represented.
The competition is for musicians of every genre and with age bands but no age limits and is very different from the traditional format one might be generally accustomed to, because it is structured as a sequence of concerts and recitals, where contestants are never judged against each other but the evaluation is made against a standard of excellence.
This year, sponsored by the Malta Arts Fund, Maltese pianist Gabi Sultana of slight build and a mammoth talent, silenced the chattering crowd with her rendition of Frederic Rzewski’s Winnsboro Cotton-Mill Blues; a selection from Makrokosmos Vols. 1&2 by George Crumb; and Iannis Xenakis’ Evryali. She seemed possessed by the music, lost in the storm she alone was creating with the intensity, volume and contra tempo. It seemed as if more than one person was playing, the complexity of the pieces seemingly impossible to master with just two hands.
Gabi started piano lessons at the age of 5 under the guidance of Fransina Abela Brincat. At the age of 17 she moved to The Hague, Netherlands, and obtained my Bachelor Degree under the guidance of Marcel Baudet; and in Ghent, Belgium (where she is currently based) obtained her Master’s and Post-Master’s Degrees under the guidance of Daan Vandewall and can now add Winner of the Contemporary Music 2013 Ibla Grand Prize to her CV.
Other musicians from Poland, Russia, France, Germany and the USA performed a variety of styles with guitar, accordion, piano and the harp featuring throughout the evening.
Ibla winners are invited to present concerts in prestigious institutions such as Carnagie Recital Hall in New York among other venues.