Monday, 12 January 2015


After countless years of hemming and hawing from the National Arts Council and whatever agencies in Singapore than can organise international competitions, the Singapore International Violin Competition has finally taken off. Organised by the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory (for whom the term "impossible" seems improbable), Singapore's first ever international event for the violin (there have been several for the piano) has gotten off to a cracking start.

With a bounty of USD 50,000 for the 1st Prize Winner, the SIVC has propelled itself into the Ivy League of the violin competition world, even without a prior track record. This was possible with all the stars in alignment - the Conservatory, NAC, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Esplanade and the Rin Collection all in collusion - this "impossible" dream has become possible in SG50.    

35 of the world's top young violinists have been short-listed. and no less than 28 are of Asian origin. This is unsurprising for a concours held in Asia, but also reflects a shift in the classical music world from the European-American axis towards the East. Could the SIVC someday become as prestigious as the Queen Elisabeth, Tchaikovsky, Jacques Thibaud competitions? Time and money will tell, but there will be no effort spared to make this a reality.

A sneak preview of a small sample of the Rin Collection,
one of the world's great instrument collections.
The finalists will each get a 3-year loan
on a violin of his or her choice.

How does one describe "priceless"?
These two Strads were once owned by
Liszt and Paganini.

Mr Rin Kei Mei with Bernard Lanskey
and Qian Zhou, chief judge of the competition

A little history was made when
Francisco Fullana (Spain) played his first notes.

The first notes of the competition on Saturday afternoon (10 January) came from Francisco Fullana (Spain, above) who opened with Bach's Chaconne in D minor. His was an assured reading which came with a natural and unforced virtuosity. In the 1st round, each participant gets to perform some 20-25 minutes of music, including the first two movements of J.S.Bach's unaccompanied Sonatas or the Chaconne, any two Paganini Caprice (always a technical challenge) and any of Fritz Kreisler's pieces.

Singapore's involvement began with Shi Xiaxuan (China),
who is a student of YST Conservatory.

Some chose to play Kreisler's Recitative and Scherzo which made their entire programme unaccompanied. While others followed their serious with popular pieces like Liebesleid, Liebesfreud or Schön Rosmarin, which was a balm on the ears. It is telling on someone's musicianship if he or she could make the Viennese waltz sound musical by allowing the instrument to sing.

Lukas Stepp (Germany) had interesting things
to say in his programme.
Despite his German name, Christopher Scherer (USA)
is definitely an Asian.
Anna Lee (Korea) was a 6-year-old when she
played the first movement of Paganini's Violin Concerto No.1
with the SSO in 2001. How she has matured!
Fedor Rudin (Germany) is a grandson of Edison Denisov.
He displayed remarkable composure despite the
noisy, fidgety children seated on the front row. 

I should have stayed a little longer to hear the final two players in the evening, but had to rush off to Esplanade to catch the SSO concert with Krystian Zimerman. 

In between sessions, a young violinist tries out the
Carlo Bergonzi violin, impressing the crowd
with excerpts of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.

No comments: