The cellist won the €10,000 first prize at the 2014 Pacem in Terris competition in Bayreuth, Germany, and was a prizewinner at the 2015 Emanuel Feuermann Competition. He shares his success strategies
One of the main reasons why I go in for competitions is that I know the intense preparation will improve my playing, along with the need to perform under pressure. Since I started going in for them I think I’ve become much more self-confident and free as a musician.When I select the repertoire for the competition, I try to choose a wide-ranging and multifaceted programme of pieces where I feel I can show all my strengths as a player. It’s important to keep in mind what everybody else is likely to play, and consider whether it is better for me to avoid those works, or select them in order to compete with them.I make a plan in my mind for practising the different stages of the competition, and I try to arrange concerts to fit that plan.
Between one and three months before the competition I mostly play pieces from the first and second rounds, depending on the competition. About two or three weeks before it starts I’ll play a concert with the repertoire of the final rounds, and in the last week I focus again on the first round. Two weeks before the competition I often feel tired and as though I’m trying too hard.
Very frequently I will find myself thinking that I can’t possibly compete, but my teacher Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt is always very relaxed: his last words for me are always implausibly positive and calming. ‘You know exactly how to play,’ he will say. ‘Relax and don’t do too much next week.’ I don’t believe him but somehow it helps – and I always seem to take a great leap forward in those last two weeks.If I play for an audience right before a competition, the feedback I get is less technical and more general: it tends to be much more positive and motivational for me. It’s also valuable for me to have an overview of the whole work, after practising for so long on the details.
Up to two weeks before the competition, if I need to relax I prefer to play chamber music than solo repertoire. Despite all the stress of an approaching final, I always enjoy playing and rehearsing with my string quartet. But the most important thing to me is to sleep a lot before and during that week, because competitions can be exhausting.
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How to prepare for a competition: Valentino Worlitzsch, Pacem in Terris Competition