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Lady Valerie Solti

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Frankfurter Opern- und Museumsorchester

Frankfurt Radio Symphony
2 nd  International  
Conductors’ Competition
Sir Georg Solti 2004

August 29 – September 19, 2004

Two first prizes, one second prize – More than 200 applicants from 45 countries

The initiators of the 2nd International Conductors’ Competition Sir Georg Solti were very satisfied: more than 200 young conductors from 45 countries have applied to participate in the musical competition scheduled to take place every two years. 24 participants were chosen during an initial selection procedure for the first two preliminary rounds (closed to the public) being held August 29 to September 1, 2004 with the State Philharmonic Orchestra Rhineland-Palatinate.

During the second round of the competition, in which 12 candidates participated, three finalists were determined. In a concluding concert on September 19, 2004 in the Alte Oper Frankfurt, the finalists were judged by a jury under the chairmanship of Christoph von Dohnányi, Chief Conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg, and former Musical Director of the Frankfurt Opera.


The American James Gaffigan (25) and the Bulgarian Ivo Venkov (35) both won first prizes in the 2nd International Conductors’ Competition Sir Georg Solti. Second prize was awarded to the Swede Johannes Gustavsson (29). At the final concert the three finalists conducted the Frankfurter Museumsorchester (orchestra of the Frankfurt Opera), performing the following pieces of music: James Gaffigan “Till Eulenspiegel” by Richard Strauss, Ivo Venkov “La Mer” by Claude Debussy and Johannes Gustavsson “Dance Suite” by Béla Bartók.

Whereas for the First International Conductors’ Competition Sir Georg Solti in 2002 there was no first prize winner, the jury this year decided to award two first prizes. In announcing the decision, the chairman of the jury Christoph von Dohnányi said the jury finds it difficult to look accurately into the future. Rather, it checks whether the candidates have achieved what they set out to do. “And here the two first prize winners are equal.” “All three,” according to von Dohnányi, “will have a good career and a lot of pleasure in music.”


Both 1st prize winners were awarded with € 15,000 in prize money and permitted to conduct a double concert with the Frankfurter Museumsorchester once again in the Alte Oper Frankfurt at a later date. The 2nd prize winner received € 10,000. The prize money has been donated by the Cultural Foundation of Deutsche Bank.


James Gaffigan (25) received his conductor’s training at the American Academy of Conducting, the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Tanglewood Music Center. Here, he was able to work together with conductors such as Kurt Masur and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos before he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in conducting from the New England Conservatory and Rice University in Houston. His debut with the Cleveland Orchestra was at the Blossom Music Festival, and a short time later, he was appointed its Assistant Conductor. Concurrently, he became the Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra. Gaffigan has already worked in assisting roles with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

Ivo Venkov (35), born in Bulgaria, now lives and works in Belgium. His musical education began at the age of four, at seven he gave his first concert. Already while studying at the State Academy of Music and the Performing Arts in Sofia, Venkov had an engagement as the First Concert Director at the Varna State Opera. Additional studies in conducting in Austria led to his numerous appearances with various orchestras in Europe and Asia before he was appointed Chief Conductor of the “Jeugd & Muziek van Antwerpen” (Youth and Music Orchestra of Antwerp). Only four months ago, Venkov won second prize in the first Bamberger Symphoniker Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition.

The Swedish conductor and violist Johannes Gustavsson (29) studied at the Norwegian State Academy of Music with Lars-Anders Tomter, Ole-Kristian Ruud and Olav-Anton Thomessen and attended masters’ classes with Simon Steatfeild and Jorma Panula. Besides his work as a conductor, Gustavsson is an orchestra musician with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. His previous engagements as conductor have included the symphony orchestras of Helsingborg and Norrköpping, the Oslo Philharmonic and the Norwegian Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 2003, Gustavsson won first place in the Swedish Conductors’ Competition.



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