Professor Ingolf Turban on Managing Nerves While Competing
The Violin Channel recently caught up with Professor Ingolf Turban, chairman of the Stuttgart International Violin Competition, to discuss the topic
Presented by the Guadagnini Foundation, the second edition of the Stuttgart International Violin Competition will be held from February 19-24, 2024 in Germany — direct from the Concert Hall of the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst (HMDK) and the Beethoven Hall of the Liederhalle Stuttgart. The competition's applications are open until February 1, 2023.
Its jury will include violinist Ingolf Turban, chairman of the competition, who we were fortunate to talk to about his experience in judging competitions.
What is your best piece of advice for managing nerves while performing in a competition?
"The question of how to keep your nerves strong during performances within a competition is probably as old as the competitions themselves.
Of course, the first thing that matters is the inner attitude with which you enter the competition. I always advise getting rid of any competitive thoughts as much as possible. At first glance, this advice may seem paradoxical, since it is about the "concertare", the "competition", which logically would not be possible without "competitiveness."
But it is clear that the competition setting can dangerously narrow self-awareness as it becomes dependent on the overall environment.
Worst case scenario, every facial expression from the jury is interpreted, evaluated, and fairly consistently used against oneself in order to predict one's own failure and consequently to legitimize it... what nerves could endure such inner workings?
Looking back, I can say that the "winner" type always primarily focuses on their own actions, thus cultivating, living, and radiating their own personality. "Per sonare" – this idea of "sounding through" makes up the unique, indivisible, and individual charisma, which we can perceive in the sum of an artist's personality.
Such an individual does not primarily see the environment as a potential threat, but as people with whom he communicates. Yes, messages can be more important than individual mere evaluations.
Then, one surrenders oneself to the work of art in order to pass it on, to give it away in that moment. That way, each individual will be able to experience themselves as a "spontaneous observer," for example: "How does it sound in this room? How does the silence feel during the breaks? Am I giving the music enough time? Do I hit the given room acoustics with the right tone and vibrato? Do I risk a dynamic in the direction of pianissimo, which the work needs anyway, or am I still caught in the pressure and expectations of the so-called mainstream? What is my breath doing right now? Do I enjoy the slowness, the relaxedness of my position changes? What do I feel in my feet, in my stomach, on my chin rest?...."
There is so much to observe, in such fullness and fascination, that the thought of failure can no longer be given that much space.
For anyone who has already been able to perceive these moments of happiness that await us in observing the here and now, the door to happiness is open on the podium, and they will be able to radiate and share happiness.
Recognizing and appreciating this is certainly the primary attitude of the Stuttgart International Violin Competition."
Ingolf Turban has performed as a soloist in concert halls including the Berlin and Munich Philharmonic; the Kennedy Center, Avery Fisher Hall, Tonhalle, Goldenen Saal, and the Scala. He has worked with directors like Sergiu Celibidache, Charles Dutoit, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Yehudi Menuhin, Jun Märkl, Yutaka Sado, among others.
He has released over 40 albums, and in 2005, he founded the Chamber Orchestra "I Virtuosi di Paganini." For the past 11 previous, he served as professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts, in Stuttgart, Germany, then was called to the University for Music and Theater in Munich, Germany.
Ingolf Turban lives with his family in Munich.