The inaugural Dimitri Tiomkin competition in Kremenchug, Ukraine was a resounding and overwhelming success. The gala concert at the City Palace of Culture was packed and included special guests, such as local dignitaries and an official delegation from Kremenchug’s sister city, Bydgoszcz, Poland. Kremenchug city officials informed the audience about the piano improvisation competition named in honor of Dimitri Tiomkin that took place as part of the jazz festival, about a special prize from Olivia Tiomkin Douglas and Volta Music, and about support and attention from the Embassy of Ukraine in the United Kingdom.
At the opening day press conference Natalia Leschenko, chairman of the organizing committee, spoke of how the idea for this competition emanated from Tiomkin Days 2011, an evening in Kremenchug devoted to the memory of fellow countryman, pianist and composer Dimitri Tiomkin.
Thirteen of the eighteen contestants who applied for the competition arrived in Kremenchug for the second round of the contest held on May 16. The talent and level of skill of the competitors impressed the jury. Ten participants moved on to the third round of the contest. They were given the music for Tiomkin’s “The Fall of Love,” from the movie The Fall of the Roman Empire, to prepare for the following day. Not only was this the first chance for the musicians to see the music, it was also their first exposure to Tiomkin’s work.
On May 17 the third round of the contest was held and it included two stages. First came the improvisations on “The Fall of Love,” followed by each contestant’s interpretation and improvisation accompanying a nearly four-minute clip from High Noon.
At the end of the day the jury deliberated until late discussing the performances of competitors.
THE GALA CONCERT
The gala concert was held on May 18 in the Big Hall of the City Palace of Culture, Kremenchug. The competition jury was introduced and took the stage. The sides of the stage were adorned with large-scale images of Tiomkin that illustrated his career. As the music wafted from the stage the photos were bathed in ever-changing colored light.
The spectators, young pianists, and jury members listened with great interest to a filmed greeting from Hollywood, featuring a welcome from Olivia Tiomkin, greetings from Film Music Foundation president and symphonic orchestrator Patrick Russ, and a brief biographical introduction by archivist Warren Sherk placing Tiomkin in a jazz context: from his introduction to American jazz during his student days in St. Petersburg to his music for Albertina Rasch stage ballets that featured jazz forms and rhythms and became his first “film music” when used in early sound musicals at MGM. Viewed on a large screen on the stage, the video included Ukraine subtitles.
READ: Concert report by musicologist Anna Arkhipova [in Ukrainian]
Jury chairman Vladimir Solyanik announced the festival winners and awarding of diplomas to Dmitry Agnyannikov (audience), Ivan Mokhii (best embodiment of the competition idea), David Pasenko (“The Pride of Kremenchug”), Nikita Chernitsov (will to win), and Syskova Elena (romantic attitude towards music).
Andrey Pogrebnoy, first vice-mayor of Kremenchug, spoke of the events of the week dedicated to promoting the creative legacy of fellow countryman Dimitri Tiomkin. Vitaly Maletskiy, the Department of Culture deputy mayor, thanked Olivia Tiomkin on behalf of the city for her support of this festival and the preceding Tiomkin Days 2011.
The jury members then awarded diplomas and prize money to first-place winner Albert Saprykin (US$1,500) and second-place winner Alexei Bogolyubov (US$1,000). The jury, based on a long and spirited debate the previous evening, decided to divide third prize among the three competitors whom they determined to be of equal merit. Certificates for the third-place winners and prize money went to Andrei Rybalchenko, Andrei Denisov, and Paul Polonchuk (US$400 each).
Prizes were given in the national currency (UAH) net of tax, in accordance with the laws of Ukraine. The winners appreciated the money and were grateful for the support of their talent. The city leaders thanked the jury for their work. The winners then performed on stage.
Solyanik made special mention of blind musician Ivan Mokhii and presented him with a small white decorative piano. A performance by Ivan, not planned as part of the evening program, brought a standing ovation from the audience. Seen among the audience were musicians who participated in Tiomkin Days 2011, including classical musicians and members of the municipal brass band.
Natalia Leschenko closed out the Tiomkin portion of the program by entertaining the crowd with several songs by the composer which she sang beautifully, ably accompanied by jazz musicians on keyboards, bass, drums, and saxophone. Her set included “My Rifle, My Pony, and Me,” “Wild Is the Wind,” “Rawhide,” and “A Heart Must Learn to Cry.” The latter two songs featured an energetic tap dancer.
Performances by Apple Jam and other jazz bands ensued.
13 talented competitors participated in the competition.
9 Ukrainian cities were represented.
4 of the largest Ukraine cities (Kiev, Donetsk, Odessa, and Kryvyi Rih) were represented.
3 contestants hailed from Kremenchug.
2 countries, Ukraine and Russia, were represented.
1 winner, Albert Saprykin, took home the grand prize.
The competitors ranged in age from 17 to 31.
The festival presented Christopher Palmer’s book, “Dimitri Tiomkin: A Portrait,” to the participants, jury members, and the festival organizer. One copy will be given to the Kremenchug Museum. Volta Music and Olivia Tiomkin furnished the books which were shipped from London and Los Angeles to Kremenchug.
Dimitri Tiomkin was born in Kremenchug in 1894 and learned to play the piano there.
First prize: Albert Saprykin
Second prize: Alexei Bogolyubov
Third prize: Andrei Denisov, Paul Polonchuk, Andrei Rybalchenko
Nomination prizes: Dmitriy Agnyannikov, Nikita Chernitsov, Ivan Mokhii, Elena Syskova, David Pasenko
Dmitriy Agnyannikov (Odessa)
Alexei Bogolyubov (Kryvyi Rih / Krivoy Rog)
Nikita Chernitsov (Lugansk)
Andrei Denisov (Tula, Russia)
Boris Kuzmenko (Chernigov)
Ivan Mokhii (Alexandria)
David Pasenko (Kremenchug)
Pavel Polonchuk (Cherkasy)
Artem Rodionov (Kremenchug)
Albert Saprykin (Kiev)
Ievgenii Stadnik (Kremenchug)
Elena Syskova (Kiev)
Andrei Rybalchenko (Donetsk)
Compiled by Warren Sherk from video footage, correspondence, reports, and images sent by organizer Iryna Kats; Natalia Leschenko, chairman of the organizing committee; and Ihor Leschenko, co-organizer of International Jazz Festival and the Tiomkin competition. Thanks to the organizers, jury, and participants for making the festival a success.