10 Jun 2019

Blog: Michael Hill International Violin Competition 2019

From Upbeat, 12:02 am on 10 June 2019

RNZ Concert Music Alive presenter Clarissa Dunn takes you behind the scenes at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition 2019.

Anna Im from South Korea has won the 2019 Michael Hill International Violin Competition

South Korean violinist Do Gyung (Anna) Im has won the 2019 Michael Hill International Violin Competition. She played Sibelius's Violin Concerto in D minor in the Grand Final.

The three finalists – Anna, Eric Tsai from the USA and Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis of Latvia – each performed a concerto with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Giordano Bellincampi. Enjoy videos of all the performances on the MMHIVC Youtube channel.

Do Gyung (Anna) Im, Winner of the Michael Hill Competition 2019 with Sir Michael and Christine Lady Hill

Do Gyung (Anna) Im, Winner of the Michael Hill Competition 2019 with Sir Michael and Christine Lady Hill Photo: Andi Crown

As the winner of the tenth biennial Michael Hill International Violin Competition, Anna receives:

  • NZ$40,000 in cash
  • A recording contract with the Atoll label
  • An intensive tour across New Zealand and Australia in 2020, presented in partnership with Chamber Music New Zealand, Musica Viva Australia and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
  • A Michael Hill International Spirits Bay pendant designed by Christine, Lady Hill
  • A personalised professional development programme
  • A gown by Kiri Nathan for her tour.

The full top prize list was:
 
First Prize:        Do Gyung (Anna) Im, South Korea
Second Prize:   Eric Tsai, USA ($10,000)
Third Prize:       Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis, Latvia ($5,000)
Fourth Prize:     Angela Sin Ying Chan, Hong Kong ($3,000)
Fifth Prize:        Hannah Cho, USA ($2,000)
Sixth Prize:       Victoria Wong, Australia ($1,000)

The tenth Competition introduced an exciting new award - the Arancio Prize, in partnership with Rare Violins of New York In Consortium. A special committe selected Lativan violinist Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis as the inaugural recipient of the Arancio Prize. He will gain the use of a rare violin, crafted by Nicolo Amati, for two years. Hear the Amati violin in this Insider's Guide Talk. 

Since the Quarter-finals kicked off in Queenstown on 31 May, voting for the Audience Prize has been open to the public, across the globe. People have been encouraged to vote for their favourite competitor and the Audience Prize was also awarded to Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis.

The prize for Best Performance of New Zealand Commissioned Work (Lyell Cresswell's 'Chatoyance') awarded earlier this week in Queenstown went to Harry Ward (Australia). He receives NZ$2,000, donated by Dame Jenny Gibbs.

Eric Tsai (USA) received the Chamber Music Prize of NZ$2,000, donated by Jenny Roberts and Chas Spence for his performance of Mozart's Quintet in G minor K516.

Diane Huh

Diane Huh Photo: Gisborne International Music Competition

Recently, the New Zealand Emerging Artist Prize, supported by Dr Bill & Rosie Sanderson, was announced. It was won by Diane Huh and included attendance at the 2019 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, both in Queenstown and Auckland, a two-year loan of a Riccardo Bergonzi violin. Diane also receives airfares to attend the Rome Chamber Music Festival in 2020.

Congratulations to all of the contestants!

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Grand Final - Michael Hill International Violin Competition 2019

The three finalists played violin concertos of their choice with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Giordano Bellincampi.

Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis (Latvia) - Shostakovich: Concerto in A minor Op 99

(video currently unavailable)

Do Gyung (Anna) Im (South Korea) - Sibelius: Concerto in D minor

Eric Tsai (USA) - Shostakovich: Concerto in A minor Op 99

Followed by announcement of the winner of the 2109 Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

Live broadcast and live video from the Town Hall, Auckland (RNZ)

 

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The Michael Hill International Violin Competition Finalists have been announced

On Saturday 8th June three sizzling-hot young violinists will play a concerto of their choice with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Join us for the live broadcast from 7:30pm on air and streaming on our Facebook page and website.

The three finalists for 2019 are...

Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis 

The 23-year-old Latvian violinist has chosen Shostakovich's Concerto in A minor Op 99.

Jevgēnijs is also a talented violist. During the quarter-final rounds Jevgēnijs he showed his versatility performing the hypnotic Nigun from Baal Shem on viola.

Do Gyung (Anna) Im

This 21-year-old violinist from South Korea has chosen Sibelius' Concerto in D minor as her concerto.

In the quarter-finals she captivated audiences with her thrilling performance of Grieg's Sonata No 3 Op 45.

Eric Tsai

A semifinalist in the Menuhin Competition 2018, Eric Tsai from the USA will play Shostakovich's Concerto in A minor Op 99 in the final round of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition 2019.

In the quarter-finals Eric played Paganini's dazzling Caprice No 5 from the Caprices Op 1

Join us on Saturday night at 7:30pm to see who will win the top prize. 

Tune in earlier (from 7pm) to hear luthier Richard Panting debating the pros and cons of old versus new violins with Bruno Price and Ziv Arazi from Rare Violins of New York.

During the talk, Michael Hill Competition Emerging Artist Diane Huh will play six different instruments including one Richard Panting made, adjudicator Ning Feng's new violin, Sir Michael Hill's 18th century Guadagnini, a Stradivarius from 1712 and the "ex Christian Ferras" Amati (1645), which will be loaned to the winner of the Arancio Prize, announced on Saturday night. Apparently it sounds like dark chocolate!

Semi-final Round III – Wednesday 5th June & Thursday 6th June – Melancholic Mozart and Rare Violins

Judges at the Michael Hill Violin Competition 2019

Judges at the Michael Hill Violin Competition 2019 Photo: Andi Crown

The Michael Hill Competition entourage has hit the ground running in Auckland. There have been visits to schools and masterclasses with members of the adjudication panel including Grammy Award-winning James Ehnes, Professor Mauricio Fuks and child prodigy turned elegant super-star, Clara-Jumi Kang.

With more than twenty thousand followers on Instagram, Clara-Jumi is very popular with young violinists, some of whom were thrilled to get her autograph during the quarter-finals.

Violinist Clara-Jumi Kang

Violinist Clara-Jumi Kang Photo: Supplied MHIVC 2019

My hotel room is right next door to Clara-Jumi’s and when she’s not out teaching aspiring violinists or adjudicating then she’s busy practising. Lucky for me she’s a brilliant violinist and considerately uses her mute after 10pm.

We’re in the thick of the chamber music round where the six semi-finalists have 90 minutes to rehearse a Mozart string quintet of their choosing before performing it that night. It’s a chamber music pressure cooker!

The contestant takes the first violin part and they are partnered by some of NZ’s leading musicians: violinist Andrew Beer, violists Julia Joyce and Gillian Ansell and cellist Ashley Brown.

Out of Mozart’s four final quintets most of the competitors have opted to play the melancholic Quintet in G minor K 516. This is widely recognized as his most emotionally charged, written when the composer was worried about his seriously ill father.

The Michael Hill International Violin Competition has created an exciting new prize for the 2019 competition, the Arancio Prize. One lucky semi-finalist will receive a two-year loan of a rare instrument crafted by Nicolo Amati, one of the triumverate of lauded Cremonese violin-makers (Amati, Guarnerius, Stradivarius).

This particular instrument, dating from 1645, is known as the “Ex Christian Ferras”, in recognition of the fabulous twentieth-century French violinist who played it. Here he is getting stuck into the devilish Hora Staccato.

One of the challenges facing many young violinists today is gaining access to a suitable instrument, most of which are so expensive they are owned by investors rather than artists. That’s where Rare Violins of New York In Consortium comes in. The Consortium works to link benefactors and their instruments with deserving musicians, and with their support one lucky semi-finalist will walk away with the “Ex Christian Ferras” Amati violin.

Ziv Arazi and Bruno Price from Rare Violins of New York with Music Alive host Clarissa Dunn

Ziv Arazi and Bruno Price from Rare Violins of New York with Music Alive host Clarissa Dunn Photo: Geoffrey John Davies

Ziv Arazi and Bruno Price from Rare Violins of New York have arrived in the country. As well as listening to all the talent they’re also set to debate with luthier Dick Panting on the subject of ‘Are Older Violins Better?’.

You can hear that talk at 7pm on Saturday night, just before the Final round of the Michael Hill contest at 7:30 - on air and streaming online from our website and Facebook page.

Join us!

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Monday 3rd June: Quarter-final Round II (sessions 7 and 8) - Judges name 6 semi-finalists

Semi-finalists, Michael Hill Violin Competition 2019. L- R: Victoria Wong (Australia), Eric Tsai (USA), Angela Sin Ying Chan (Hong Kong), Hannah Cho (USA), Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis (Latvia), Do Gyung (Anna) Im (South Korea).

Semi-finalists, Michael Hill Violin Competition 2019. L- R: Victoria Wong (Australia), Eric Tsai (USA), Angela Sin Ying Chan (Hong Kong), Hannah Cho (USA), Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis (Latvia), Do Gyung (Anna) Im (South Korea). Photo: Andi Crown

After four intense days competing in the quarter-final rounds six semi-finalists have been selected from sixteen international contestants. They are: Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis(Latvia), Hannah Cho (USA), Do Gyung (Anna) Im (South Korea), Eric Tsai (USA), Victoria Wong (Australia), Angela Sin Ying Chan (Hong Kong). Congratulations and see you all in Auckland for the semi-final rounds!

Composer Lyell Cresswell with violinist Harry Ward, winner of Best Performance of the Commissioned work, 'Chatoyance'

Composer Lyell Cresswell with violinist Harry Ward, winner of Best Performance of the Commissioned work, 'Chatoyance' Photo: Andi Crown

The award for best performance of the commissioned piece ('Chatoyance' by Lyell Cresswell) went to Harry Ward (Australia). Lyell thanked the Michael Hill competition on behalf of all New Zealand composers for making a New Zealand work an essential part of the competition, saying "It's an unique opportunity for us, and for the nurturing and creation of New Zealand music - we appreciate this deeply".

He also thanked all the performers for putting so much work into learning his piece. He knew it was a difficult piece but remarked that the contestants now know the piece better than he does. Despite such precise and difficult notation Lyell was amazed by the 16 very different interpretations and admitted being "very moved" by hearing them.

Listen to 'Chatoyance' by Lyell Cresswell here.

Sunday 2nd June: Quarter-final Round I (sessions 5 and 6) – Chatoyance or ‘Cat’s Eye’

Today we heard the first group of quarter-finalists perform a stunning selection of sonatas, a brand-new commission by New Zealand composer Lyell Cresswell and virtuosic showpieces.

Lyell Cresswell is one of New Zealand’s distinguished composers. He grew up in a musical family with a strong connection to Salvation Army brass bands. While he’s never played a string instrument that’s not stopped him from composing for them.

“A novelist has to put himself in the position of all kinds of people who have nothing to do with his or her own background. It’s the same for composers. I put myself in the position of all the instruments of the orchestra. I listen, I talk to players. I think I know quite well the capabilities of all the instruments.”

Composer Lyell Cresswell and his wife Catherine

Composer Lyell Cresswell and his wife Catherine Photo: RNZ / Clarissa Dunn

 

Lyell’s starting point for this solo violin piece is a jewellery term: Chatoyance. It indicates an optical phenomenon in which a band of reflected light, known as a "cat's-eye" moves just beneath the surface of certain gemstones.

Lyell gave the audience a tip during his Insider’s Guide talk.

“The trick when listening to this piece is to imagine you are in a room with a piece of jewellery (Michael Hill jewellery that is). Perhaps hanging from the ceiling or on the table, nothing else in the room and light coming in through the window, shifting light coming in. And you spend just five minutes walking round admiring the light - the different reflections. Sometimes it will be scintillating, sometimes it will be calm, sometimes it will be dramatic – sometimes nothing much will happen and just imagine walking round and taking in all these different aspects of the light as you hear the piece.”

‘Chatoyance’ tests the performer’s ability to play pizzicato or with plucked strings. The music begins with three As, a slight pause and a B. These four notes are crucial and are like the jewel itself. The pizzicato grows, it becomes embellished. For a while, when the player uses the bow, it becomes very calm before it returns to more embellished and dramatic music.

Dene Olding, who is a violinist and the Artistic Advisor  of the competition vetted the piece. He collaborated with Lyell, just as a performer might. At first the extensive use of pizzicato alarmed him. It’s one of those techniques that violinists often neglect, and fast pizzicato is very difficult. He encouraged Lyell to make it more virtuosic. Lyell relished the chance to do so because normally he is asked to make pieces simpler.

Dene Olding speaks with composer Lyell Cresswell

Dene Olding speaks with composer Lyell Cresswell Photo: Andi Crown

Lyell will hear his piece performed 16 times – it’s a set piece for the quarter-final contestants. Today he heard 8 contestants and tomorrow he’ll listen to the rest.

Composer Lyell Cresswell and his vintage stopwatch

Composer Lyell Cresswell and his vintage stopwatch Photo: RNZ / Clarissa Dunn

He finds the experience intriguing and has even brought along his vintage stopwatch to time the performances. The piece is supposed to be 5 minutes long, but the longest so far has stretched to over 6 minutes.

Tomorrow the remaining quarter-finalists will perform and that evening the judges will announce the New Zealand Commissioned Work Prize and the 6 semi-finalists. I wonder if Lyell’s preferred performance will match the judge’s?

 

Saturday 1 June: Quarter-final Round I (Sessions 3 and 4) – The Personal Touch

 

Today I spent time talking to some of the spectators. Peter Wilson has strong memories of the first competition in 2001. When an afternoon session at The Memorial Centre was disturbed by the clatter of rugby boot sprigs on concrete, Peter was tasked with going downstairs and diplomatically asking the rugby team to take their warmup outside.

Peter Wilson and Gerda McGechan sponsor German competitor Matthias Well. Matthias performed today for the first time and surprised audiences by inviting blind Queenstown musician Mark Wilson to play Russian folk songs with him in the ‘Ad Libitum’ / Own Choice category. Their performance oozed joy and many spectators left the room with huge smiles on their faces.

In the ‘Ad Libitum’ category competitors are asked to introduce themselves to the audience and speak about their piece. This is a popular category with the audience, and it allows the judges to see how well the performer can communicate verbally with their audience. It must be nerve-wracking - English isn’t the first language of many of these violinists.

Today, Angela Sin Ying Chan from China spoke emotionally about her selection of a Chopin Nocturne, which she played in memory of her late grandmother - a flutist and a loving and supportive presence in Angela’s life. This was one of her grandmother's favourite pieces.

Her next choice was a complete contrast. Angela chose it because it reminds her of nature and New Zealand – the sun rising, the wind blowing and leaves falling from the trees. Angela also imagines animals playfully chasing one another. She laughed recalling the chickens at her host family’s home fighting for food.

Robin Wilson, violinist and teacher in Queenstown

Robin Wilson, violinist and teacher in Queenstown Photo: RNZ / Clarissa Dunn

I spied New Zealand-born violinist Robin Wilson among the audience today. Robin lives in Australia where he has developed an extraordinary passion for teaching. He is Head of Violin at the Australian National Academy of Music and is nurturing a new generation of talented young violinists. Last year his 10-year-old student Christian Li won the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin Competition, Junior division. Robin is in Queenstown to support his student Harry Ward through his first big international competition experience.

Australian violinist Harry Ward

Australian violinist Harry Ward Photo: Andi Crown

In Harry's introduction to Penderecki's Solo Cadenza, he greeted everyone with a big “gidday” (all the Kiwis giggled) before launching into a compelling story about his enthusiastic brother who opened his eyes to this piece, which isn't one of the standard classics.

“I had no idea what this music was saying”, Harry remembered. His brother convinced him to give it another listen...

“I want you to listen to it in the same way as you might listen to the sounds around you as you go for a walk, whether that be through the beauty of nature or the bustling streets of the city. You listen to those sounds - there’s many different sounds - with no expectations, no preconceived ideas.”

With this simple analogy Harry encouraged the audience to listen and find out what the Penderecki meant to them.

Tomorrow the first round of quarter-finalists perform soaring sonatas, a brand-new jewellery-inspired commission by New Zealand composer Lyell Cresswell and virtuosic show pieces.

Join the livestream on RNZ Concert’s Facebook page, or on the RNZ Concert website. From 9:30am Lyell will talk about his piece ‘Chatoyance’ before the first session of the day, which starts at 10am.

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Friday 31 May: Quarter-final Round I – the stage is set!

Snow on The Remarkables in Queenstown

Snow on The Remarkables in Queenstown Photo: Christopher Hines

 

We woke up to snow on the mountains this morning – a dramatic backdrop for the start of the quarter-final rounds in Queenstown’s Memorial Centre.

While paragliders soar on thermal updrafts right outside the auditorium, eight of the sixteen contestants glide their way through sublime solo Bach works, fiendishly difficult Paganini Caprices, charming salon pieces and the popular Ad Libitum – a work of their own choosing.

Emmalena Huning performing in the quarter-finals

Emmalena Huning performing in the quarter-finals Photo: Andi Crown

The youngest competitor, 19-year-old Emmalena Huning performed today. Emmalena was an ‘alternate’ and was only invited a week and a half ago after some quarter-finalists withdrew to compete in the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. She traveled from Perth to take up the last-minute challenge. The Australian violinist was in New Zealand just last month to perform Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with Taranaki Symphony Orchestra.

Emerging Artist Diane Huh performs at Wakatipu High School

Emerging Artist Diane Huh performs at Wakatipu High School Photo: Sheena Haywood Photography

New Zealand violinist Diane Huh is the competition’s Emerging Artist. Yesterday she performed for Wakatipu High School students at an informal Q & A. Today, she’s all ears – listening to the contestants performing for the international judges and local audience. Diane is looking forward to working with one of the world's finest violin pedagogues -  Professor Mauricio Fuks, who is a member of the the adjudication panel.

Tomorrow the remaining quarter-finalists perform after Martin Riseley's Insider’s Guide: Paganini: What was he thinking! Martin uncovers the organised mayhem of the Caprices with a sampling of some of the devilish difficulties.

Today's Insider's Guide talk 'Fiendish Fugues' featured Martin Riseley. He asks why Bach's music is so important in violin competitions.

Join the livestream on RNZ Concert Facebook page from 9:30am for the Insider's Guide talk and 10am for Quarter-final Round II.

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Thursday 30 May: A homely welcome with hongi

A traditional Maori welcome at Michael Hill International Violin Competition

A traditional Maori welcome at Michael Hill International Violin Competition Photo: Sheena Haywood Photography

Despite the icy weather, all the contestants and their Kiwi host families were given the warmest of welcomes at Sir Michael Hill’s Arrowtown home. They’ve flown to Queenstown from as far away as Russia, Lativa, Germany, South Korea and the USA.

A traditional Maori pōwhiri (welcome) was led by tangata whenua with impressive performances from Arrowtown Primary School kapa haka group. The contestants responded to the welcome by singing the waiata ‘Te Aroha’ and greeting their hosts with the hongi (ceremonial pressing of noses).

 'Te Aroha' sung by a contestant at the powhiri / welcome ceremony.

'Te Aroha' sung by a contestant at the powhiri / welcome ceremony. Photo: Sheena Haywood Photography

Sir Michael Hill with the quarter-finalists in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition 2019

Sir Michael Hill with the quarter-finalists in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition 2019 Photo: Sheena Haywood Photography

This whanau-focused competition has the reputation of being one of the friendliest in the world. While it is ultimately a competition, judge Dene Olding prefers to call it a violin challenge. The experience of participating in this competition is life-changing and violin enthusiast Michael Hill takes a personal interest in all the contestant’s careers, saying “you’ll be my friend for life”.

Former winners maintain a close connection with the competition and with New Zealand. Find out what the past five winners are up to now.