Violinists Gear Up for the Menuhin Competition in Austin

January 22, 2014, 3:34 PM · In less than a month, Austin, Texas will become a hub of violin activity, with the start of the 16th Menuhin Competition, which runs 10 days, Feb. 21 through March 2, at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas.

Menuhin logoIt's the first time that the biennial competition has been held in the United States, and that might explain why it drew a record number of applications, receiving 275 applications from 27 countries. (Seriously, it was a world record, verified by the World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva!) From those, 42 competitors were chosen by a pre-selection jury. Seventeen of the competitors (40 percent) are American.

The competitors are coming from 10 countries (United States, Russia, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Norway, Poland, Austria, Sweden and the United Kingdom), including seven U.S. states (Pennsylvania, California, New York, Texas, Ohio, Massachussetts and Washington).

Candidates will compete in two divisions, the senior (ages 16-21) and junior (under 16) sections for a number of prizes, top among them being the Senior First Prize, $10,000 US and a one-year loan of a fine old Italian violin by Christophe Landon Rare Violins; and the Junior First Prize, $7,000 US and a one-year loan of a fine old Italian violin by Florian Leonhard Fine Violins.

While the competition takes the spotlight, there is also a full schedule of concerts, lectures, master classes and other events to go along with it. A few highlights include an opening concert featuring violinists Ilya Gringolts, 2012 Junior First-Prize winner Kevin Zhu and others; master classes featuring Brian Lewis, Pamela Frank, Joji Hattori, Lu Siqing, Arabella Steinbacher, David Kim, Olivier Charlier and Ilya Gringolts; a lecture on violin careers by Joji Hattori; a lecture on the art of violin-making; chamber concerts featuring jury members (in one of them, Brian Lewis will play Michael McLean's "Elements"); and even a Texas-style "Fiddle Celebration" featuring Ruby Jane and Mary Hattersley's Blazing Bows.

Another highlight: the Cleveland Orchestra, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, will travel 1,378 miles south to appear at the Closing Gala Concert, which will also feature violinist Arabella Steinbacher playing Ravel's "Tzigane," as well as the Junior and Senior first prize winners of the 2014 competition. It's the first time the Cleveland Orchestra has appeared in Austin since 1976.

Brian LewisPamela FrankIlya GringoltsDavid Kim
Jury members Brian Lewis, Pamela Frank, Ilya Gingolts and David Kim

There are a few other uniquely American twists to this competition; the First Round requires competitors to play specially commissioned works by American composers: “The Cowboy and the Rattlesnake,” by Dan Welcher for the junior section, and “Black-Eyed Suzy” by Donald Grantham for the senior division. Also, there will be a 3-minute freestyle improvisation of an American folksong for the junior section.

The Menuhin Competition is held in a different city every two years and recent hosts have included the Royal Academy of Music in London, Royal Welsh College of Music in Cardiff, Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and most recently the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 2012. The 2016 Menuhin Competition will be held in London.

Previous winners include some impressive names, such as Julia Fischer, Ilya Gringolts, Tasmin Little, Nikolaj Znaider, Ray Chen and Chad Hoopes.

The international jury panel for 2014 includes soloists, educators and previous Menuhin Competition winners: Pamela Frank (Chair), Joji Hattori (Vice Chair), Olivier Charlier, Ilya Gringolts, David Kim, Brian Lewis, Lü Siqing, Anton Nel and Arabella Steinbacher.

The Menuhin Competition was founded in 1983 by the great violinist and humanitarian, Yehudi Menuhin.

Yehudi Menuhin


January 23, 2014 at 07:13 AM · "The competitors represent 10 countries (United States, Russia, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Norway, Poland, Austria, Sweden and the United Kingdom)"

Here is a breakdown of the competitors' nationalities:

Korean x 9

Canadian x 1

American x 15

Russian x 1

Polish x 2

Chinese x 2

Taiwanese x 1

American-Taiwanese x 1

Japanese x 5

American-Dutch x 1

Australian x 1

Norwegian x 1

Austrian x 1

Swedish x 1

So Canada, China, Netherlands and Taiwan are missing, and UK should not be on the list.

January 23, 2014 at 08:27 AM · Thanks Joyce, it's good to have your list!

I listed the countries where they live, based on a press release, and so the statistics in the story are accurate. But I can see that they are a bit different from the "nationality" listed on the Menuhin page. For example, Aaron Timothy Chooi lives in Philadelphia but is Canadian. Elvina Sung-Eun lives in the UK but is American. I imagine this happens a lot with college-age students and even younger students who leave their country of origin and live somewhere to study. A lot of them live in the United States!

I'm sure people can root the candidates based on their nationality, or the country where they are living and getting their musical training, or just based on whose playing you most enjoy!

January 23, 2014 at 03:48 PM · It's exciting to have the Menuhin Competition in my own back yard!

At times like this, I wish I had more vacation. Still, I am hoping to make some of the evening and weekend events.

Will other v.commies be attending? Maybe we could set up a social?

January 23, 2014 at 04:38 PM · I'll be there, arriving Feb. 25! Looking forward to seeing everyone who's there!

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