Cellist István Várdai has just finished serving on the jury of the Tchaikovsky Competition in St Petersburg. As the winner of many international contests, including the prestigious 2014 ARD Competition, he has some useful advice for young musicians
“Entering competitions and preparing the required repertoire in a limited time can be very helpful for performers. The key is that no one should ever take competition results too seriously. Whether they win or fall out in the first round, it doesn’t matter.
I entered many competitions as a useful way of getting performance experience, because ultimately, performing in public is how you develop your decisions and your own way of playing. You learn how to deal with pressure and stress, so it’s helpful.
It’s basic to come to a competition well prepared, but it takes some experience to be able to let go on stage and not to think about it being a competition. It’s a chance to show your best. This doesn’t mean using the biggest vibrato, playing as loud as you can or doing extreme things, but rather, showing what you love in the music, what moves you, and believing that it will move the audience, too.
It’s doesn’t always feel comfortable performing in competitions, but this clear approach helped me not to try to prove everything or overdo it. Simply play as you would for friends.”