The Second International Harpsichord Performance Competition, held in conjunction with this year's Conclave of the Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society, culminated in a fine final round Sunday night at Baird Auditorium. Of the original 13 semifinalists, four young artists had survived, and each was required to play the overture from Bach's "French" Suite BWV 831, a Scarlatti sonata and any other pieces that would fill a program of about a half hour.
The variety of stylistic approaches to the music, especially to the Bach, was remarkable. Bradley Brookshire, a soloist and conductor from Michigan, lavished most of his attention on the details of ornamentation and 18th-century phrasing. Carole Cerasi, a Swedish harpsichordist, played with a brilliant tone, supple motion and a lyrical sense of line. Jillon Stopples Dupree, who teaches at Oberlin, had a rather literal approach to the music. And Peter Sykes, an organist, teacher and instrument builder from Boston and clearly the most assured performer of the four, played with a clear sense of large structures and of dramatic possibilities.
After several hours of consultation, the world-class group of six judges decided not to award a first prize at all. Instead, they elected to split the prize money, awarding two second prizes of $2,250 to Brookshire and Sykes and two third prizes of $1,250 to Cerasi and Dupree. An additional prize of $750 was awarded to Joel Thiffault of Quebec as a promising nonfinalist.