29 May 2019

Five fab violinists - where are they now?

From Upbeat, 9:00 am on 29 May 2019

In less than two decades, the Michael Hill International Violin Competition has become one of the most sought after awards for ambitious virtuosos wanting to add another string to their bow. 

Starting this Friday 31 May, 16 of the world’s finest young violinists will compete here in New Zealand for a prize package valued at over $100,000.

We checked in on some Michael Hill winners from the past to see how the top prize has launched their careers.


2003 Natalia Lomeiko (Russia/NZ)

Violinist Natalia Lomeiko

Violinist Natalia Lomeiko Photo: MHIVC

The Russian-born, New Zealand resident Natalia Lomeiko won in 2003.

Since then she has toured extensively performing with a glittering array of world-famous orchestras and musicians including Gidon Kremer, Yuri Bashmet, the late Boris Pergamenschikov and Schlomo Mintz.

Natalia has collaborated with such distinguished conductors as the late Lord Menuhin, Lionel Bringuier, Werner Andreas Albert, Matthias Bamert and Vladimir Ashkenazy.

In 2010, she was appointed Professor of Violin at the Royal College of Music in London and at Eton College in 2017.


2005 Ning Feng (China)

Violinist Ning Feng

Violinist Ning Feng Photo: MHIVC

Ning Feng maintains a busy touring schedule around the world, sometimes performing up to 60 concerts a year.

Highlights of his 2018/19 season include debuts with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Simone Young, the National Symphony Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop in Brazil and on tour to the Far East, the Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Giancarlo Guerrero, the Hallé Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.

This year he returns to New Zealand as a member of the adjudication panel and he will give a masterclass during the Auckland segment of the competition.

He has just released an album of violin concertos by Elgar and Finzi on the Channel Classics label.


2007 Bella Hristova (Bulgaria)

Violinist Bella Hristova

Violinist Bella Hristova Photo: MHIVC

Bella Hristova is a graduate of the Curtis Institute and student of Jamie Laredo as well as a past recipient of a much sought-after Avery Fisher Career Grant.

She has been described as possessing 'a sumptuous sound, unwavering power, technical skill and a full heart'. 

Hristova thinks of New Zealand as a second home and in 2017 toured the county performing Beethoven's Sonatas with New Zealand's pre-eminent pianist Michael Houstoun.

Her 2018/19 season sees a busy schedule that has her touring through the US and Asia. 

Listen to Bella Hristova and Michael Houstoun

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.


2013 Nikki Chooi (Canada)

Violinist Nikki Chooi

Violinist Nikki Chooi Photo: MHIVC

Nikki Chooi returned to New Zealand earlier this year to perform at the Adam Chamber Music Festival in Nelson. Since his win at the "Michael Hill" in 2013, he has served as Concertmaster of New York's MET Orchestra in 2016/2017 which had him working closely with singers and conductors including Renée Fleming, Elīna Garanča, Eric Owens, Fabio Luisi, and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

He has also appeared as Guest Concertmaster with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Houston Symphony, and Sydney Symphony.

Nikki's younger brother Timothy Chooi (a bronze medal winner at the Michael Hill in 2015) was runner up at the recent Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. Nikki and Timothy perform together as "The Chooi Brothers".

Listen to Nikki Chooi in 2013 

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.


2017 Ioana Cristina Goicea (Romania)

Violinist Ioana Cristina Goicea with Christine and Michael Hill

Violinist Ioana Cristina Goicea with Christine and Michael Hill Photo: MHIVC

The most recent winner of the MHIVC took out 6th prize at the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels last week.

Competitions come thick and fast for Goicea. She was the winner of the German Music Competition in Bonn last year, was awarded first prize and the audience prize at the International Johannes Brahms Violin Competition as well as first prize at the Concorso Internationale Andrea Postacchini in Italy and is laureate of the Fritz Kreisler Violin Competition in Vienna.

After the gruelling Queen Elisabeth competition, Goicea is due to perform Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto with the Staatskapelle Halle in Germany.

Listen to Ioana Cristina Goicea's prizewinning performance in 2017

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.