Three Singaporean musicians have progressed from the first round of the inaugural edition of the Singapore International Violin Competition.
Mr Loh Jun Hong, 24; Mr See Ian Ike, 25, and Ms Phang Lijia, 24, will join 32 other violinists in the next round.
For this first edition of the triennial contest to be held here in January, open to violinists under the age of 30, more than 148 applications were received from 27 countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Australia and Canada.
Head of the nine-member jury panel, accomplished violinist Qian Zhou, says it selected the candidates in a blind listening test, looking out for "musicianship, capability of instrument and artistry".
Ms Qian, who is head of the strings department at Singapore's Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, says: "The standards of the candidates are first class. Many of those who are selected have also been prizewinners at other prestigious international competitions. That gives us the hope to join the ranks of the world's leading international violin competitions."
Shortlisted candidates include China's He Shucong, 23, who won first prize at the Asia String Music Competition and the jury prize at the Brahms International Violin Competition, and South Korean Hong Ui-Youn, 27, who has played as a soloist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.
The 35 selected musicians will be flown to Singapore for nine live rounds, taking place in January at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall, Victoria Concert Hall and Esplanade Concert Hall. In the final round, each of the three finalists will perform with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
The competition winner will receive a prize of US$50,000 (S$65,000) and be eligible for a three-year instrument loan of a prized violin from the collection of Mr and Mrs Rin Kei Mei.
This is the first international competition for Ms Phang, who is studying for a master's degree in violin performance at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music in the United States.
She says: "One of the biggest draws of this was that I would get to go home and play for my parents. I haven't been home in over a year and I miss Singapore like crazy."
She adds that the first edition of this competition is "exciting" for the local music scene. "Hopefully, in the future there can be big events for other instruments as well. Growing up in Singapore, I've always felt there is a lot of talent here in many areas of music and for Singaporeans, it is very exciting to be able to listen live to a competition like this."
Mr See was associate concertmaster of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in Australia from 2012 to 2014 and recently joined the
Australian Chamber Orchestra. He did not respond to Life!'s queries by press time.
The third shortlisted home-grown contestant, Mr Loh, is an old hand at international competitions, having won prizes at the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition in Boston, the Andrea Postacchini International Competition in Italy, and the Canetti International Violin Competition in Turkey. His next performance here will be Shall We Dance? next month at the Esplanade Recital Studio, where he will perform alongside local pianist Abigail Sin and guitarist Kevin Loh.
Like Ms Phang, Mr Loh is excited not just to be competing, but also by the significance of the competition for Singapore. "Every competition is different in size, it's just like sports where there are regional meets, international competitions and the Olympics. And judging by the prize money, the jury and the participants, this is definitely one of the most difficult in the world," he says.
"This is also the first time that this competition is being held, so it's nice that we have three Singaporeans representatives. We're a small country, but have no lack of talent and I will definitely try my best."
This article was first published on November 22, 2014.
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