Which country has produced more Malko winners than any other? That’s right: the USA. The first, Winston Dan Vogel, was back in 1971. The most recent was just three years ago, Ryan Bancroft. Another, Mei-Ann Chen, is on this year’s jury.
Will another American prove victorious in 2021? It could happen – there are two promising candidates from the USA. But with three each from Russia and Korea, those countries would seem statistically in front.
Thankfully, Malko isn’t about statistics. It probably isn’t much about nationality either. Conducting styles used to be divided into certain national traits: fiery Russians, meticulous Germans and passionate Italians. If Malko teaches us anything, it’s that the modern conductor can demonstrate all three characteristics irrespective of where they come from – or where they live now.
The welcome influx of female conductors has also widened the scope of what conducting can be in matters ranging from technique to interpretation to dress. 6 female conductors are among the contestants from 15 different countries, from Austria to Australia, who will compete in Copenhagen next week.
But once again, Malko isn’t about gender. It’s all about finding the conductor who can get the most and the best out of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. In reality, only when each of our 24 conductors steps onto stage to lead the Danish National Symphony Orchestra for the first time will we have an idea of what they offer.
This year, though, we can get a foretaste of their personalities – both musical and more general. Many candidates have already submitted self-made videos, explaining a little bit about themselves, their background and their motivation.
It’s a great way of getting to know the candidates, who can pass by in a blur in the opening rounds. But it also gives weight to the idea that conductors are born, not made.
Each of them, in their different ways, seems entirely consumed by music. ‘Conducting opened up a magical door for me,’ says Andrei Feher from Romania (via Canada). ‘Conducting is a never ending journey of learning,’ says Anton Holmer from Sweden. ‘I feel like some kind of energy-controller,’ says Bar Avni-Pallentin from Israel, before showing us her farm full of animals near Bremen.
We see all 24 of our conductors at home, through the cameras of their phones and computers. It’s all very 2021.
It almost seems like a miracle, that they will soon all be here in Copenhagen – having travelled from their homes in China, Korea, America, Russia and even from close by in Sweden and Norway.
The jury will have their favourite – so will the audience, who will decide the winner of the Audience Prize. Take a look, and you might just find your Malko favourite. Just be prepared to change your mind, once the music starts on Monday…