Fodor is a 24-year-old American who plays the violin. He has just shared
top honors with two Soviet musicians in the Tchaikovsky Violin
Competition, thus becoming the first person from the Western world to
prove to the Russians that their young violinists no longer reign supreme.
The judges declined to award a first prize
—a gold medal—and instead gave second prizes—silver medals—to
Fodor along with Ruben Agaranyan and Rusudan Gvasaliya. The Soviet news
agency Tass said that no first prize was awarded because none of the
finalists succeeded in performing evenly at all stages of the difficult
(no relation to the prolific travel writer) has a different tale to tell.
Eleven of the 19 judges were Russians. The two Soviet winners were
students of David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan, who both served on the jury.
It takes courage and confidence for a non-Russian to even enter the
competition, for, since it started in 1958, few ‘outsiders” have even
been placed in the violin section. Not to be placed in the world’s top
competitive event can do positive harm to the career of a young musician.
Fodor does not lack confidence. ‘Did I think I would win? Yeah, I guess
so. Let’s put it this way: I knew that if I felt well and if I played my
best there would be no problem with placing
the first moment of the first eliminating round he knew he felt well and
was playing at his best. “First I had to play one of three Bach
unaccompanied sonatas, and I chose C Minor. The audience response to that
came over pretty strongly. Then I had to play the first movement of one of
Mozart’s five concertos. I chose the last. The audience response to that
was, well, nice. It has appeal, that piece. It is terribly difficult to
I had to play two of Paganini’s 24 Caprices, and I chose the two most
difficult: No. 17 because it has a finger octave section in rapid tempo
and No. 24 because it
summing up of all the pyrotechnics of the previous 237
he had finished No. 17 the rhythmic hand-clapping started; after No. 24
the audience response was “unbelievable, so unbelievable it was
funny;’ Fodor says. “My pianist walked on to accompany me with
Tchaikovsky’s Valse-Scherzo, and the audience would not stop clapping.
She sat thee looking terribly serious and the judges sat there looking
At the end of the Valse-Scherzo, lgor Oistrakh, David’s son, left his
seat in the audience and followed him to his dressing room. ‘He said to
me in a thick Russian accent, ‘It was perfect:” Some 50 other people
also left their seats and rushed backstage to congratulate him. The rest
of the audience had to sit and wait until the fuss died down before
competitor number 12, the Russian woman who was eventually to share the
top award with him, could have her go.
At the second round, one of the pieces was Slonimsky’s
Introduction and Toccata. “I received the Slonimsky two months before
the competition. It was handwritten so I assumed it had been written
specially for the competition. It was not until after the competition that
I realized that it had been published some time before.
The finals were held over six evenings-two performers each night. But
then there were 3 finalists so one night there had to be three performers.
Fodor was the third performer, and the Moscow metro closes down at 12:30.
Anyone who misses it is stranded until 6 a.m. -taxis being what they are
in Moscow. Fodor took the stage a~ 11:30, fearing that half the audience
would have to leave after his first piece in order to get home. He chose
to play the Tchaikovsky violin concerto first because it was, after all, a
Tchaikovsky competition. The audience, to a man, stayed to hear his
rendering of the Sibelius concerto.
He had to wait several days for the results. He went shopping and
sight-seeing and had a date or two. “I had the television on in my room
as I was getting dressed to go to hear the results. I don’t understand a
word of Russian, I just had it on.. then I heard my name mentioned. I
couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I thought.. well, I must
have won something."
A reporter told him as he arrived at the hall.
One lady went to his dressing room with an armful of roses and an
English-Russian dictionary. She looked up “chairman;’ “judges;’
“czar”: the worst insult that can he hurled at a Russian. And then she
cried and cried and cried. She thought he ought to have been the outright
winner. She thought he ought to have been awarded the gold metal. “It
depressed me to see her in such a state. was happy. You can’t always get
everything you want:’