Congratulations to the winners of the first-ever Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition!
Best Chinese Work Performance ($25,000) for performance of The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto: Ji Won Song of South Korea
Isaac Stern Human Spirit Award ($10,000), given to individuals or organizations “deemed to have made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of humanity through the medium of music:
As a child learning to play the violin in Shanghai during China's Cultural Revolution, Vera Tsu Weiling hid in a dark basement to practice, using sheets of music copied out in pencil, always with the fear of being discovered and gravely punished.
She never could have imagined where she would be a half-century later: back home in Shanghai, sitting among some of the most distinguished violinists in the world - now her colleagues - in a new hall built for the Shanghai Symphony (conducted by her husband Long Yu), serving on the jury of the first-ever Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition. Though she has represented China on juries for many of the most prestigious violin competitions in the world, this one had particular meaning for her.
"Before, I couldn't even dream of all these people in my own city, and also being a judge in an international-level competition," she said. "We were so isolated in China: no music, no recordings, no live performance, no idea what real music is. And now, we have our own competition, bringing so many great musicians together in this city. This changes things tremendously."
Weiling's musical journey took her around the world, to study with Dorothy DeLay and Rafael Bronstein, to play as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, and to be associate concertmaster for the Hong Kong Philharmonic. Now she is one of the most sought-after violin teachers in China, teaching at both the Central Conservatory in Beijing and the Shanghai Conservatory.
While in Shanghai, I spoke with Weiling about what it was like to learn to play the violin during the Cultural Revolution, being one of the first students to be admitted to China's Central Conservatory afterward, Isaac Stern's 1979 visit and the state of Western classical music in China today. Keep reading...Comments (5)
That 1979 trip, made just as China was allowing Westerners visit the country again after a long period of isolation, had lasting significance for the community of musicians in China that had lived through the Cultural Revolution and were struggling to build their cultural institutions anew.
Last month, David Stern was back in China, as he is fairly often these days. Stern is artistic advisor and principal conductor of the Shanghai Baroque Festival, and he also directs the Paris-based Opera Fuoco as well as the opera segment of the Crested Butte Music Festival in Colorado. On this China trip, he was serving as co-chairman of the jury for the new competition that bears his father's name, the Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition.
One thing is sure: since the Sterns' first trip, Shanghai has grown immensely -- the city, and the music. While in Shanghai, David Stern sat down to talk with me about the Sterns' initial trip, about the explosion in Western classical music in China since that time, and about the new violin competition that bears his father's name. Keep reading...Comments (4)
Japanese violinist Mayu Kishima had actually quit doing competitions for good -- when she decided to do just one more.
"I've done several competitions, and I'm not a good competitor," Kishima told me last week in the lobby of her hotel in Shanghai. Of course, I was skeptical of her view; just the day before she had won First Prize in the inaugural Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition. But she said that for her, competitions always were a struggle.
"Last year, when I played the (2015) Tchaikovsky Competition, I decided not to do any more competitions," she said. "I'm 29 years old, and I didn't pass to the Finals. In 2009, I was in the Finals at the Queen Elisabeth Competition but didn't receive any prize. I never could play well on stage in a competition -- something was blocked mentally." After the Tchaikovsky, people advised her not to do any more competitions, and she took the advice to heart.
But something changed for her in the months following the Tchaikovsky. "After the competition I had a tour in Japan, and I felt so confident," she said. "Playing on the stage in a competition was not a normal state of mind, for me. But getting to the stage to play a concert, all of a sudden I felt so free. Something had improved, something had changed in myself. I thought, maybe I will come (to Shanghai) as a last time, and maybe I will try to do my best on the stage, no matter what prize I get. Even if I don't pass the first round, I want to play the way I want to play, on the competition stage."
Something else that might have attracted her to the Shanghai competition was the name Isaac Stern (1920-2001). Though it was not in her bio and no one at the competition knew about it, Kishima had met Isaac Stern when she was just nine years old. Keep reading...Comments (5)
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