27.5. Half-way mark

By the end of the morning session we’re half way through the first round. Twenty have played and twenty remain. I notice that as yesterday proceeded the talk became more heated (on the web as well) – listeners are starting to have their own favourites and to seriously debate who will go through to round two. People usually feel sorry for the first contestant – the one whose name is drawn out of the hat has to face the fire at once. Yet in a way it’s harder on those down to play at the end of round one. They’ve been hanging round the office for many days; there’s nothing much for them to do apart from practising hard and reading their email, and in the worst case they have to keep their nerves in check for nearly a week before being able to perform. But for those who play towards the beginning the ordeal is fairly soon over and then they are just kept in suspense waiting to know if they have got through.

In the musical sense my attention has so far been drawn most of all to the modern works. The contestants can choose these freely, and they have indeed chosen right across the board. Many of the works are real rarities never heard in Finland before. I notice, too, that a lot of questions are asked about the composers. Almost every day Liisa Syrjälä, the announcer and I together debate how the names of some of the composers should be pronounced: just Bach and Mozart are not enough, because Liisa also has to get her tongue round Vine, Hamelin, Louie, Guinjoan, Muchinski, Rueda and others. Nothing for it but to Google them. Sometimes even that doesn’t help: we learn from Google that Vine is Australian, Hamelin and Louie Canadian, Guinjoan Spanish/Catalonian and Rueda Spanish, but in the case of Muchinski we had to ask the contestant, who informed us that Robert Muchinski is an American composer.

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