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Yixi Zhang

Kenneth Arthur Renshaw (USA) 18, Wins Senior Division of 2012 Menuhin Competition in Beijing

April 14, 2012 at 4:12 PM

BEIJING -- Kenneth Arthur Renshaw, 18, of the United States has won the Senior Division of 2012 Menuhin Competition. Here is a list of all the winners (click on each name to reach their video performances page):

1st Prize: Kenneth Arthur Renshaw (USA), age 18
2nd Prize: Ji Eun Anna Lee (Korea), age 16
3rd Prize: Alexi Kenney (USA), age 18
4th Prize: Siyan Guo (China), age 20

Jury Chair Pamela Frank said that they had the closest scores among these finalists in the history of Menuhin competition. She told the winners that the numbers do not define them. They are defined by their soul and they all have a beautiful soul and will all have great future in music.

She also emphasized that this competition is not sports. Art is intangible and judging is very subjective, based on individual taste and chemistry.

Kenneth Arthur Renshaw plays the third movement of the Sibelius Concerto during the final round of the Senior Division on the 2012 Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition:

From Emily Hogstad
Posted on April 14, 2012 at 5:40 PM
Anyone have any thoughts on the winning performance? Mine are less positive than I'd like them to be but I'm in a bad mood at the moment, and I'm wondering if that's affecting my judgment.

That being said, huge congratulations to everyone who participated; you're all way better than I'll ever be! Here's to long careers in music for all of you...

Edit - I like his Tzigane a lot better than the Sibelius. I wonder if it was the orchestra I'm not sold on...

From Simon Streuff
Posted on April 14, 2012 at 8:10 PM
i didn't listen to all but its not what I expect from first place... but the senior bracket seems to be quite young too. max age 22?
Its very unclean. I am not saying I can do better, but still I can hear.
From Simon Streuff
Posted on April 14, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Ok, I couldnt follow the competition due to time difference, but I followed some competitions, and they are always full of strange decisions and pushing and puttin down. I saw so bad finalists in an international competion (wich will be heldm up again this year), that I couldnt believe my ears. Other very interesting players dropped out before. Those who came far, were students of one jury member, who also runs that competition.
It must be very depressing to fight not only against your collegues but also against the jury... competitions yes or no? Big question. The problem today is, that there are no general rules for competitions. How unfair it is only to have your teacher sitting in the jury?! Imagine that in sports!?
I feel bad, that the Name of Yehudi Menuhin is used for a competition with as it seems similar problems.
No offense to the winners! I love that they play and work so hard and they will go their way.

So were there actually more interesting players who did not get first price? I would be interested in listening to them, but I don'T have time to listen to all of them.

sorry for my spelling, probably should sleep

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 12:39 AM
These are a few of my observations:

No one seems to be entirely happy with either junior and senior final results, including the couple sat next to me last night who are closely related to one of the jurors. Yet based on a couple of dozen people(violin teachers, students, competitors and their parents, friends and relatives of some jurors and one Chinese music critic) I've talked to here, their rating is all over the map. I doubt even the jury can get consensus.

Even though it’s hard to avoid using sports analogy, this is not supposed be a sports, as the judging is not objective, just as the chair of the Jury said last night. What is clear to me (through watching these competition rounds and the feedback in masterclasses given by the jurors)is that the jury is not looking for just good violinists (technically strong players), but the musicians who move the listeners (give them goosebumps). There are tons of kids can play everything so clean and so in tune. They may impress us as violinists, but not this jury.

Also keep in mind that this completion was established by Menuhin himself in 1983, and his daughter Zamira Menuhin has been attending all the events during this competition. One of the prizes is donated by her.

From Simon Streuff
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 1:13 AM
1."There are tons of kids can play everything so clean and so in tune"

please show them to me! :)

2.How is the sports analogy strange when it comes to "competition"?

3. A difficult point is this "musicality" wich is often mentioned when obscure decisions come across. First everybody is touched by different expressions and second everybody is touched by perfect technique, because it makes the playing something special and an ideal in the best sence of an "idea" to achieve...

sorry about that nummering technique i use, its late and i have to play tomorrow, but i had to write this shortly

From Paul Deck
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 1:30 AM
See, Yixi? Didn't I tell you this would make a good book? So much intrigue and bitterness? Surely with a little investigation you can find something truly sordid with which to frost an already delicious cake.

I don't know any of the details of this competition but from one of the other posts, the idea that one of the jurors would have several of his or her own students competing -- that just sounds really bad. On the other hand everyone has biases, friendships, favors they owe people, etc.

Again the comparison to sports could be overblown but this is starting to sound like Olympic figure skating. Who's the Tanya Harding of classical violin?

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 2:16 AM
lol! Paul, you are quite right about all the emotions we’ve seen, more in the internet than here at actual competition site though. I’m not good at pursuing this sort of drama, especially when I see so much positive effort and good will have been putting into making music and inspiring young musicianship. While it’s natural to be disappointed about the results don’t come our way, it’s sad for me to see the bitterness among some. Let’s not lose sight that the bitterness is unproductive and unfair to all the hardworking people involved in these events, including the competitors and their families, who need our encouragement and support.

This is not specific to this competition but I think is true in life in general that it’s just too easy to pick something one doesn’t like and go on speculating and criticizing. I did this a lot in my life but as I’m getting older, I understand it takes a lot more heart, brain and sweat to stay positive and make concrete effort to move things forward. For this reason, I’m not interested in engaging in emotional “Ping-Pong” debates and will not respond to questions and arguments of this nature.

From Momoko Takahashi
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 6:24 AM
This Sibelius isn't technically stellar... as for the sound, I always maintain that it's a lot harder to produce a character in 3rd movement than say, 1st. 1st is the easiest to produce a character, 2nd simply is the hardest musically, 3rd is technically challenging but because of the constant flourish it's quite easy to sound virtuosic without much characterisation. The arpeggio before the 3rd run-ups, for instance, had some booboos.

I would have liked to hear the intro of the 1st movement. It takes a lot of fine-tuning and care to truly produce coldness in Sibelius, and the intro pretty much makes or breaks the concerto in my opinion. Vibrato, but not wide nor too much, piano but must be clear...

The 3rd movement also could have used a lot more choppy articulation. The rhythm and the tune is quite militaristic imho.

From Simon Streuff
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 10:20 AM
bitterness or realism? Think about that. I like to point out what I don't like and there are many things I don't like about music business and I am not even an "insider" never signed or gave an production contract or anything. But you can tell the Tree by its apples. And the fruits we have today are not necessarily the tasty ones, but the best looking. I know people who I would call "artists" on the violin who are still alive. But you would be disappointed to see them playing, because, not every good player is good looking. People throw that together! Its a fact.
From elise stanley
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 6:54 PM
Yixi - just a quick thanks for putting in all the time and effort to give us a ringside seat!

Perhaps the variability is just that - no one really shone so there was no shaddow either...

From SY Chao
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 7:22 PM
To avoid your thought of any bias or bitterness from my side, I have withdrawn all of my posted regarding this competition. I'd like to leave the following information for your thought. These info are by/from the real world musicians, not from amateur, casual audience, or parents/friends/colleagues of music students... etc.. I've observed this competition, as well as few others, for many years. This one has no difference than the examples mentioned in the following article. I fully agreed with Simon Streuff: "the fruits we have today are not necessarily the tasty ones."

From Reginald Perry
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 7:38 PM
Can someone speak to the orchestral performance. It seemed to me that neither Mr. Renshaw nor Miss Lee were well served by the orchestra. It seemed especially disjointed in the Shostakovich. I can't imagine what she was going through while it seemed that the orchestra was trying to find its way through the piece. The Sibelius seemed better but still a bit off. Was I just hearing things and injecting my own bias?
From Paul Deck
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 9:43 PM
@Simon I know what you are saying and to an extent I agree, but I don't think this competition ended up a beauty contest. Remember that being a juror in something like this is very hard. Everything happens in real time. They don't review tapes, do they? Regardless of one's training, 1000 ears listening to a piece will detect more mistakes than two.
From Simon Streuff
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 10:02 PM
yes, I agree, but I was not necessarily speaking only about beauty. more in a sence of what is behind the shiny image of some well crafted violinists.
From Simon Streuff
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 10:19 PM
SY Chao: Its a dark dark place of music business. I think it will die on its own poison some time. But before it will consume and destroy some promising artists ... sad story!
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Reginald, many people here think the orchestra was problematic.

From Simon Streuff
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 11:01 PM
most competition orchestras are bad, even in big competitions like the tschaikowsky.. etc. its also a question of who organises the competition, wich orchestra, might it be good or not, gets the job.

Btw. The best and most serious competition I have ever seen and heard was the 2010 Sibelius competition. There were still some sad decisions but everything was more or less predictable and reasonable. And the Orchestra for the finals was top!

From SY Chao
Posted on April 15, 2012 at 11:21 PM
@Streuff: It’s so very dark that I’ve personally witnessed a couple of victims over the years.
The saddest story is that while those who are poisoning these young promising artists, there are the crowd on the side line worshiping and wooing the convicted, and giving them rounds of applause.

From SY Chao
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Fortunately, Beijing audience were not fooled:

Beijing Times April 13, 2012

Beijing Times April 15, 2012

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 7:21 AM
well,I shamfacedly admit I haven`t followed the competition or listened to any one elseso I can`t comment on whetehr his selection was a farce, the whole thing was rigged, the standard has dropped or anything to that effect. I did just listen to some of the Sibelius and enjoyed it. some observations independent of the competition or whatever:
1) His rythmic control and crispness was a little weak. he hasn`t yet learned to find the spaces between the notes in a big hall.
2)Thought he might use 13 rather than 14 in his octaves.
3) The orchestra wsn`t helping.
Very pleasant
From SY Chao
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 1:06 PM
“…haven`t followed the competition or listened to any one else…” That’s exactly the reason why and how this “plot” is working… because we, including myself, are busy/ignorant/lazy/pick-up-the-easier-path-only/___(you can fill up the blank with the rest of the reasons here.).

But that’s exactly what causing those music students struggling and fighting for their petitioning for the international competition jury’s transparency.

Only few extremely highly achieved music students are capable and having the chance to participate the international level competitions. And only those handful students may encounter having the issues with the (rigged) jury systems. But for more than 99% or more of the rest of music students body, the international level competitions are too far to their reach. So they don’t care. Hence it allows the problematic jury systems keep flourishing.

Now, back to this 2012 Menuhin International Violin Competition. So far, you only see few video clips by very few specific contestants shown on the youtube, or picked up by this blog. Those video clips were cut from the complete round of each contestant’s program. Each video clip only give you a glimpse of a very partial impression the presenter wants you to see. If you are serious or curious about what’s really going on with this competition, or want to know what the Beijing Times, Beijing’s largest news media, were criticizing this competition about:

The Beijing Times, April 13, 2012

The Beijing Times, April 15, 2012

(Both articles are questioning the selection of the finalists with the Senior Group only.)

if you can’t read Chinese text, or if you don’t understand what the two columnists criticizing about, you should spend some time watching through the complete First Round and the Semi-Final Round videos performed by the following specific contestants. Those contestants are the ones whose names were specifically mentioned by the two different columnists. Those complete videos are available from the Menuhin’s official site, and I’ve listed their links below.

Since the levels of some of these contestants are so far apart, after you have watched the COMPLETE both First Round and Semi-Final Round videos, you would easily see why the two columnists and the Beijing audience were questioning how the finalists were selected by the jury. The first columnist labeled it as the biggest controversy of this competition. The 2nd columnist even called it ‘the flaw’ of this competition. Both authors mentioned that the audiences believed Zeyu Victo Li from China and Zenas Hsu from San Francisco should have been on the top-3 positions... etc..

Since all of the contestants are playing similar repertoires, thanks to the modern technology, it’d be easy for you to do “contestant vs contestant” side by side comparison with each same piece of the repertoire played by the contestants who are playing it. You’d be the judge to decide if the jury was correct or if the columnists and the Beijing audience were correct.

If you have much free time, you should watch ALL of the 22 contestants' videos. Otherwise, just take your time watching the complete First Round and Semi-Final Round performed by these specific ones named as part of "the controversy":

Zeyu Victo Li

Zenas Hsu


Siyan Guo

Ji Eun Anna Lee

Kenneth Arthur Renshaw

From Jonathan Frohnen
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 6:04 PM
I was impressed by all of these finalists...I especially enjoyed Alexi's "A Paganini!"
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 7:12 PM
SY I understand your anger/frustration ( add any word you like) but your interpretation of the situation accoridng to the post above is, inmy opinion, not correct.
You say it is the fact taht I am `busy` which is `exactly ` the cause. In essence you are confusing something that merely `allows` (supposedly) the situation. In reality the cause is a vicious hydra that includes greed, over competitiveness, financial pressure, misguided teachers, prejudice,fear of the future, nationalism, decline of the arts and so on. In fact the cause is capitalism writ large
Best wishes,
From SY Chao
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 8:16 PM
English is not my native tone. I’m sorry that I did not convey my points clearly.
You have stated it very well, and it is exactly what I intended to say.

It’s those 99% music students’ ignorance, "that's not my business" attitude, so they don’t participate the petition to urge the international competition jury process to become transparent.
It’s our laziness, so we are sitting here, being fed by the media with the processed (manipulated) info/video.
We don’t watch the complete set of the videos performed by every contestants, we then concluded that the video clips we are fed is the whole story.

The real cause of this, as you said it so well, is the vicious hydra. Yet the ignorant and lazy people are the direct or indirect supporters for the hydra.

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on April 18, 2012 at 4:33 AM
Wow, I’ve been way from internet and glad to see so much discussion is still going on here. I want to thank you all for your interesting and support.

I also want to clarify a bit about these blogs: I paid my own way to Beijing on my vacation and my blogs are from my personal direct observations. I have no personal, financian or political connection with any competitors or jury so I can safely say that I’m no more or less biased than anyone who is watching the competition near and far.

I understand where SY Chao comes from, although I don’t entirely agree some of his interpretation of the Menuhin competition, I respect his opinion. I still have more to write about this competition, including the other masterclasses and my interview with Kerson Leong, etc. Currently I'm in Shanghai visiting family. I'll try to get my next blgo or two posted as soon as I can.

Thank you all again for your interest!

From John Cadd
Posted on April 18, 2012 at 4:30 PM
There is a Menuhin video where Menuhin tells of Heifetz coming to see him about joining a Union .He said to Menuhin , "The war will be over in a year and we need to protect ourselves from European players . " Menuhin refused to join for that same reason. That is in the same kind of musical / political ballpark . I found the idea very odd in a world of travelling virtuosi. Was Heifetz short of a bob or two? Who was he protecting?
Comparing music to sport is not such an unusual idea. Each player is rated . Both involve physical performance . Speed and dexterity are involved. Audiences respond in similar noisy ways. People pay to watch and listen. Failure leads to rejection. The best ones are paid the most. Mine is better than yours. Where do we read that? Not only on the back page sports reports . Both give us a chance to be infinitely more wise and superior than the people who choose a different star . So ---no more competitions then. We will have to pretend to be different.

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