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Jinjoo Cho, 26, of South Korea wins Gold in the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis

By Laurie Niles
Published: September 20, 2014 at 20:29

Jinjoo Cho, 26, of South Korea has won first prize in the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. Laureates were announced Saturday following the last Finals concert with the Indianapolis Symphony at Hilbert Circle Theater.

Jinjoo Cho
Photo by Denis Kelly

Here are the laureates and their prizes:

Gold Medalist, Jinjoo Cho, 26, of South Korea: $30,000
Silver Medalist, Tessa Lark, 25, of the United States: $15,000
Bronze Medalist, Ji Young Lim, 19, of South Korea: $10,000
Fourth Place, Dami Kim, 25, of South Korea: $7,000
Fifth Place, Yoo Jin Jang, 23, of South Korea : $6,000
Sixth Place, Ji Yoon Lee, 22, of South Korea: $5,000

Jury members included Jaime Laredo (Jury President), Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Dong-Suk Kang, Boris Kuschnir, Cho-Liang Lin, Philip Setzer, Dmitry Sitkovetsky and Kyoko Takezawa. Jury member Miriam Fried was asked not to vote because three of the six finalists were current or former students of hers.

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Review: IVCI Finals Begin with Tessa Lark, Jinjoo Cho and Ji Yoon Lee

By Laurie Niles
Published: September 20, 2014 at 05:12

Whatever anyone's opinion about the standing of each finalist in the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, Friday was an exhilarating night of music-making.

The competition's final round began with performances by violinists Tessa Lark, Jinjoo Cho and Ji Yoon Lee with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at Hilbert Circle Theater, with Joel Smirnoff conducting. For this round, each is required to play a full Romantic or Modern concerto with orchestra. Saturday will feature Ji Young Lim playing the Brahms; Yoo Jin Jang playing the Tchaikovsky and Dami Kim playing the Sibelius. (Listen to these performances on the live-streaming or archived performances.)

On Friday, Tessa Lark played the Walton Violin Concerto, a piece less familiar to me (and to many) than the other pieces on this program, which were the Korngold and the Tchaikovsky. She played with guts and great intensity, without ever over-playing.

Tessa Lark
Photo by Denis Kelly

She also showed a great ability to pick notes out of the sky and just nail them to the wall, the intonation was so satisfyingly good. The second movement to me seemed a study in circular motion, from the spinning of a tornado to a lost-in-a-foreign-land dizziness, ending in breathless perpetual motion, up and down and all over the fingerboard. Tessa played the third movement with authority and strong voice, overall a really generous performance that had people on their feet right away.

The cinematic wonderland of the Korngold Violin Concerto felt just perfect after the real-world modern drama of the Walton -- like genius programming rather than the happy coincidence of the competitors' choices. The first movement of the Korngold requires that the violin produce massive long-tone sound for what seems like the whole movement-- Jinjoo Cho made it sound beautiful and easy.

Jinjoo Cho
Photo by Denis Kelly

The second movement sets the violin melody against a backdrop of amorphous bells, clavichord, harp -- she was able to get that veiled affect while still holding steady and clear. Everything seems under a spell, floating up and away, until the wake-up call of the third movement. Here is where I noticed the joyful and abundant energy of conductor Joel Smirnoff, whom I'd seen in his roles as a soloist and teacher, but until this moment, not as a conductor. When everything is so well in-hand one can relax and enjoy what the music is saying. For example, his concerto has such an extended ending, it's almost comical. Again, the audience responded very warmly to Jinjoo's performance.

Ji Yoon Lee played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, certainly the best-known and most-played of the three concertos tonight.

Ji Yoon Lee
Photo by Denis Kelly

The first movement requires both chops and stamina, and Ji Yoon certainly has both, full of energy to the end. The second movement calls for a mute to dampen the sound throughout the movement; not everyone does it, but tonight Ji Yoon did it, to good effect. Her violin (a 1730 Petrus Guarnerius from the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben) was powerful enough that the volume never fell below the level of the orchestra. It really does make that middle movement both a break in the action and in the volume of sound. It's usually a break in speed as well, but she took it on the fast side. It brings out the third movement's volume and speed, though her train was a bit too speedy for the orchestra, they fell out of sync briefly. But especially toward the end of the piece, she seemed clearly to be having fun, and that was infectious.

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Late Friday night, IVCI Executive Director Glen Kwok announced that jury member Miriam Fried was asked not to vote at all in the Classical Finals and Finals because she has three current or former students in the finals. Here is more about that story.

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IVCI Jury Member Miriam Fried Asked Not to Vote in Finals

By Laurie Niles
Published: September 20, 2014 at 04:36

Jury member Miriam Fried has been asked not vote in the finals of the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis because of the six finalists, three of them are current or former students of hers, the IVCI announced Friday night.

Other members of this year's IVCI jury are Jaime Laredo (Jury President), Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Dong-Suk Kang, Boris Kuschnir, Cho-Liang Lin, Philip Setzer, Dmitry Sitkovetsky and Kyoko Takezawa

FriedIVCI Executive Director Glen Kwok issued this statement Friday night:

"One of the hallmarks of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis (IVCI) has always been the integrity of its judging process. From a strict no discussion policy amongst the jury members, to abstentions by any jury member who has a student in the competition, to a sophisticated computerized scoring system which eliminates any possibility of score manipulation, multiple safeguards have been implemented to ensure a fair, honest and transparent process. For the first time in IVCI history, three of the six Finalists are students of a single jury member. Given this unprecedented scenario, the IVCI has decided to take the extraordinary additional measure of requesting that Miriam Fried recuse herself entirely from voting during the Classical Finals and Finals in order to avoid any possibility of jury partiality."

The situation was causing controversy, especially on social media. Curtis Institute teacher and Aaron Rosand, who has several current and former students in the IVCI, sent me this statement last night, before the announcement:

"Although the teachers cannot vote for their pupils, they can simply give lower grades for other worthy candidates. This tactic I have witnessed too many times when sitting on international competition juries. On several occasions, I have even seen teachers coaching their pupils between rounds. This nonsense must be discontinued if we are to have fair and unbiased judgement. A rule should be established barring jurors from having their students participating in a competition. The Indianapolis competition has shown how lopsided results can be when five of six finalist are students of the teachers on the jury. Remembering my experience in 1990 when I was a juror for this competition, I wonder how my dear old friend Joseph Gingold would react to this turn of events."

The program for the IVCI lists all major teachers, current and past, with whom each contestant has trained. For this year's finalists:

Tessa Lark, 25: Miriam Fried, Lucy Chapman and Kurt Sassmannshaus
Jinjoo Cho, 26: Jaime Laredo (present), Paul Kantor, Joseph Silverstein and Pamela Frank
Ji Yoon Lee, 22: Kolja Blacher (present)
Ji Young Lim, 19: Nam Yun Kim
Yoo Jin Jang, 23: Miriam Fried (present), Nam Yun Kim
Dami Kim, 25, Mihaela Martin (present), Miriam Fried, Aaron Rosand

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Top Modern Violin Makers Honored in the 2014 Violin Society of America Competition

By Laurie Niles
Published: September 19, 2014 at 13:10

It's a new Golden Age of violin- and bow-making, but how can you find those amazing modern violins that sound as good, hold up better and sell for a much more reasonable price than the old Italians?

Here is one very good place to start: this list of the winners in the 2014 Violin Society of America Competition. I have provided as many links as possible to their websites, if you wish to connect with any of these makers.

This year, the competition has attracted entries from 312 separate makers, representing 26 countries. There were a staggering number of instruments -- 25 judges evaluated a total of 542 entries, including 246 violins, 110 violas, 69 cellos, 9 basses, 80 bows, and 28 instrument quartets. Instruments were be judged over a three-day period for each category.


Here are the winning luthiers and bowmakers in the violin and viola categories:


Jeff Phillips
Jeff Phillips, with his Gold Medal-winning violin
Gold Medal for Tone and Workmanship: Jeff Phillips

Gold Medal: Collin Gallahue

Silver Medal for Workmanship:
Stephan Von Baehr and Paul Belin
Philip Valentin Ihle
Andrew Ryan

Silver Medal for Tone:
Damon Gray
Xuelin Zhang

Certificate of Merit for Workmanship:
Stephen Quinney
Wei-Xian Zhu
Georg Meiwes
George Yu
Ryan Soltis
John Young
Stefan Lindholm
Haide Lin and Wu Zu Liang

Certificate of Merit for Tone:
Paul Crowley
Artur Friedhoff
Stanley Kiernoziak
Hongbai Qin
Zhen Nian Wang


bow table

Gold Medal: Emmanuel Begin

Certificate of Merit:
Victor Bernard
Eric Fournier
Eric Gagne


Gold Medal: Jason Viseltear

Silver Medal for Workmanship
Petio H. Kostov
Jeff Phillips

Silver Medal for Tone:
Edwin Halloran
James Robinson

Certificate of Merit for Workmanship:
Borja Bernabeau
Paul Crowley
Shi Liao and Li Xiu Ding
Zi Qiu Li
Paul Noulet
Ryan Soltis
Isabelle Wilbaux and Louis Gord
Ming-Jiang Zhu

Certificate of Merit for Tone:
Zhi Xin Huang
Guy Cole
Antonio Donato
Anton Domozhyrov
Mark Hough
Yang Kai
Zhen Hua Ling
Steven M. McCann
Georg Meiwes
Jeffrey S. Robinson
Ryan Soltis
Ken Su
Isabelle Wilbaux and Louis Gord


Gold Medal: Eric Fournier

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The VSA's instrument contest certainly is an opportunity for luthiers and bow makers to get their name out by winning a medal, but it also brings together new makers with more experienced ones, and thus allows the opportunity for mentorship.

"It's such an opportunity for everyone to learn something," said luthier Christopher Reuning, who has served as a judge in the past. "Sometimes they are just this close to winning a medal, and there's just one little thing you can tell them -- then they come back and win the next year."

After the judging, makers who entered the competition have chance to talk about their instrument with a judge. Below, judge John Montgomery reviews instruments with makers.


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