Winners / Archives
After the press conference to announce the winners, a reception was held for the winner and honorable mentions. Although the party was not long, the content was substantial: following a toast led by Mr. Yoshinobu Takeda, a director at our sponsor, Asahi Breweries, Ltd., past winners gave their congratulations, and review committee members presented messages. Then the winner and honorable mentions were congratulated individually, and an open discussion was conducted with the review committee members.
Mikhail Leontyev (Third place/Russia)
Congratulations on your win.
Could you give us your thoughts on the competition, now that it's over?
This was only the second competition I'd ever participated in. And I think it was a very difficult competition. What surprised me was that there were only six contestants remaining after the qualifying round, where there would usually be about 30. The fewer contestants there are, the greater the pressure.
Are you the type that performs better under great pressure than under normal conditions?
I don't really know why, but during the first and second preliminary rounds, I couldn't sleep at all. I did sleep well the night before the finals, though. The greater the pressure, the better I'm able to concentrate, but by the time I'd finished rehearsing with the orchestra, I was incredibly tired after concentrating with everything I had. I suddenly felt completely drained.
Julien Leroy (Honorable mention/France)
It was a wonderful performance; very colorful.
It was a terrific competition. It was incredibly hard to perform just one part of a symphony in the short period of time we had, but when I was backstage, I visualized the parts we wouldn't be performing, too.
Did you sleep well last night?
I went out for a drink with Mr. Leontyev and Mr. Matsui, and then I slept.
Keita Matsui (Honorable mention/Japan)
How did you feel just after your performance as the finals ended?
Filled with gratitude! It's such a rare thing to be able to have a professional orchestra perform a piece for me, and they played very cooperatively. I was really happy ... So the strongest thing I felt was gratitude.
Tell us about the pressure of making it into the finals.
I couldn't sleep during the first or second rounds, to the point that I felt sick to my stomach. After the Finals, I thought there was nothing left to do but my best, so although I still wasn't able to sleep well, I was calm. During the first and second rounds, there was the risk of being eliminated. That created pressure, and I was really on edge, but when I stood on the conductor's rostrum, I thought about how there were people here with me, friends who'd help me make music, and then I calmed down. When I was by the stage, I was nervous.
How was it competing against Mr. Leontyev and Mr. Leroy?
Once we were all in the finals, we were all equally tense, so it felt like we were comrades in arms more than anything. It was a bonding experience, then.
Photographic panels with images of past conducting competitions were displayed in the competition lobby, and these same images were shown on-screen during the social talk. Photos were shown of the Panel of Judges members Otaka and Hirokami in their younger days, and the atmosphere at the reception was tranquil.
Yuri Nitta (Second place, 9th competition, 1991)
My name is Yuri Nitta. During the competition, I was known as Yuri Nakamura. The 15th Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting was splendid. Mr. Leontyev, my sincere congratulations on winning third place. And to the members of the Panel of Judges, thank you for all your hard work. Once again, congratulations.
I took second place in the 9th competition, in 1991. There were three winners in that competition: Olivier Grangean won first place, and Daniel Kleiner and I tied for second. It's been nearly 20 years since then; time is a very scary thing. I currently teach orchestra and wind instruments at a university, and I'm also studying the music of Northern Europe in depth. I go back and forth between Finland and Japan, and I sometimes perform with Finnish orchestras and artists. I think this competition played an important part in making my career what it is today.
Thank you very much for coming, and again, congratulations.
Kentaro Kawase (Second place, 14th competition, 2006. No first place awarded)
It's so nerve-wracking for someone like me to stand here and talk to you. I took part in the last competition and was fortunate enough to place. The fact that the competition following mine just ended yesterday has brought home to me that time really does fly.
To tell you the truth, up until an hour ago, I was in a rehearsal with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra at Opera City; the fact that I'm gradually able to work with professional orchestras like this is all thanks to this competition. I'm very honored. The members of the orchestra and conductors who've been at this longer than I have give me advice; sometimes it's kind, and sometimes it's stern, but to me, it's all irreplaceable.
Before a rehearsal, I'm so nervous I could break down and cry, but through rehearsals and performances, I'm able to immerse myself in works composers have bequeathed to us, and that makes me very happy. Thanks to this competition, I'm slowly becoming an active conductor, and I hope you'll all continue to watch over me from here on out. Thank you all very much. And congratulations.
Ken Takaseki (Member of the Panel of Judges)
I was eliminated from the 1976 Min-On conducting competition. My elimination happened in the second round, but I used it to spur myself on and continued to study with everything I had. As one of our panelists said just now at the press conference, I am one of those who took part in many competitions; I was lucky enough to win one (1984, the Hans Swarowsky Conducting Competition), and was given the opportunity to perform a concert with an orchestra. This is my first time on a Panel of Judges, and as one whose life was changed by participating in a competition, I was very nervous when I cast my votes. I was also worried that I might have voted at odds with the other members of the Panel of Judges, but fortunately, our votes were very consistent.
When I judged, I thought it would be nice if I could be of some use to these young people. The administration for the competition was truly splendid, the orchestra gave wonderful performances, the people around me did all sorts of things for me, and it was a great experience.
Mr. Leontyev, who won third place, the two honorable mentions, and the three contestants who didn't make it into the finals: I want you to know that I remember all of you, and I sincerely hope that you'll continue your studies and become wonderful conductors. Thank you very much.
In closing, Mr. Seiji Ozawa, a member of the competition's Executive Committee, sent a video message from Florence, which was shown on the venue's screen. He said that this conducting competition was the great master Hideo Saito's long-cherished wish, and he was very moved that the people of Min-On agreed to launch it. He also stated that he hadn't been able to participate in the judging lately due to his schedule, but would like to continue to help out in any way he could. Today was, he said, the starting point for the conductors who had won, and that it was particularly vital for them to study languages. On this moving note, the party came to a close.