Only three weeks to go...

Haere Mai, semi-finalists

In just three weeks, 20 of the world’s finest young violinists will descend on New Zealand for the eighth biennial Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

We look forward to welcoming them all to beautiful Queenstown and bustling Auckland, along with our international jury, staff, volunteers and of course our cherished audience members who get to enjoy a violin degustation in both the North and South Islands.

The superbly talented group of 18 semi-finalists, who made it through a competition record of nearly 160 entries and grueling selection process, will be joined by the recipients of the New Zealand and Australian Development Prizes, Amalia Hall and Markiyan Melnychenko.

Our 2015 semi-finalists will be travelling from South Korea, Canada, Poland, Taiwan, USA, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria and China. We thank, in advance, our generous host families whom we know will make them all feel so welcome after, what will be for many, long journeys.

We look forward to welcoming you all to New Zealand

Hot off the press:
Nikki Chooi's new album

It is with great pleasure we congratulate our 2013 Winner, Nikki Chooi, on the release of his superb, self-titled debut album.
The album represents part of Nikki’s first prize package. It was recorded during his 2014 Winner’s Tour, with pianist Stephen de Pledge.
Nikki Chooi was produced by New Zealand’s Atoll Records and the track list comprises Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No 1 for Violin and piano (Op 80), Gershwin-Heifetz’ 3 Preludes, Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for violin and piano and ‘Tzigane’ concert rhapsody.

This recording is the most recent to join our past winners archive, all of which can be accessed here.

Something for everyone

As well as the competitive rounds, the Michael Hill International Violin Competition 2015 presents a series of extra events, nearly all of which are free to the public.
Among them, on Friday 5 June, Queenstown audiences are invited to a panel discussion with the international jury called Violins and their Makers: Past and Present, which explores how much the instrument contributes to the success of a performance and what a young artists should aim for when acquiring a violin. 
This is immediately followed by another free public session, The Old Masters and New World Makers, in which NZ violin maker Dick Panting and European dealer Johannes Leuthold will discuss the merits and options of old verses modern instruments.
In Welcome Back Winner, at 8pm, guests will be delighted by 2013 winner Nikki Chooi (pictured) who will perform a captivating concert, with Sarah Watkins on piano. Joining them will be the 2015 Development Prize Winners Amalia Hall and Markiyan Melnychenko.

On 6, 7, and 8 June at the Queenstown Memorial Centre, and 10 and 13 June at the Auckland Town Hall, the Competition will host its popular Insider’s Guide – free, 30-minute discussions that provide a deeper insight into the repertoire challenges presented to the competitors and what the judges will be looking for in the winner.
There is a series of masterclasses in Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland that are free and open to the public. And, in Queenstown and Auckland, there are also Classroom Conversations, to which secondary school students are invited to meet the artists and discuss career pathways in the classical music industry.


New jury member

It is with sadness we announce our friend, colleague and 2015 International Jury member, Boris Garlitsky will no longer be coming to New Zealand. Unfortunately, in training for a marathon, Boris sustained a foot injury that prohibits him from flying within the time frame of the Competition. We wish him all the very best for a speedy recovery.

In Boris’ place, we look forward to welcoming Romanian performer, conductor and teacher, Sergiu Schwartz (pictured). Please read more about Mr Schwartz here.

Repertoire refresh

The repertoire selected and performed by the competitors is a critical element of any competition – it represents the ingredients the judges use to analyse each performer’s proficiency and artistry. 
Combining the most revealing repertoire for the judges – and balancing it with our audiences’ enjoyment – is an important task. 
New this Competition, for our Queenstown rounds, are:
1. The addition of a salon piece (think of the charming, somewhat old-fashioned, works often heard as encores), which has been selected to express a performer’s personality (or lack thereof!)
2. A concertmaster solo from the orchestral repertoire. The genesis of this idea came from a realisation we had last Competition that many of our past Laureates now hold a leadership role in orchestras across the world (Melbourne, Lisbon, Montreal, Bamberg, Czech Philharmonic, to name a few). We think we’re the first major violin competition to feature this and believe that if this competition is about identifying and encouraging violinists to have rewarding and fulfilling careers in music, we need to honour the important Concertmaster role. Listen out in Queenstown, then, for Danse Russa from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake
The 2015 NZ-commissioned work is entitled Gone, by Kenneth Young, and the Round Three chamber music test (also unique to the Michael Hill) will focus on the four piano trios of Beethoven. This will allow our judges to compare apples with apples. 
Ultimately, you’ll need to follow progress throughout the week to find out which competitors (and therefore which concerti) will be performed for the Grand Finale.

Focus on: Susie Park (International Jury)

Hailed as "prodigiously talented" by the Washington Post and praised for her "freedom, mastery and fantasy" by Belgium’s La Libre, Australian violinist Susie Park has gained worldwide recognition for her searing emotive range and dynamic stage presence.
Concertising around the world, Ms Park has appeared as soloist with multitudes of orchestras. Among her awards and honours is a top prize of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis and Wieniawski Competition (Poland), and winner of the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition (France). She won the Richard Goldner Concerto Competition and the Ernest Llewellyn String Award, took top prize at the national string division of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Young Performer's Award, and her performance with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was televised nationally, earning her the Victorian Premier's Award. 
We are so pleased Susie will be joining our International Jury from 5 June, and that we were able to fit a quick chat into her very busy schedule.
What are some of the key attributes you’ll be looking for in the winner?
Technical proficiency and inherent musicality are perhaps two of the more obvious attributes a winner might have. A compelling communicator with a unique voice who I want to hear again is what will standout for me.
What do you think will be the most difficult elements of your role as juror?
The overall high level of playing I'm sure will be thrilling and at the same time challenging to rank! I do believe, though, that the performances I enjoy most will show through in how I decide.
If you could give one piece of advice to the semi-finalists, what would it be?
Enjoy the act of performing as much as you can! It is music after all, not life or death surgery, and a privilege to channel great composers. 
There are 17 female semi-finalists and one male, this year. Tell us about professional violin as a career path for young women. Has this changed during your career?
I have witnessed the success of both male and female young artists. Stay true to who you are and persevere. Ceilings exist for many, not just women. In the end, great music is not about gender or how one is perceived, it is about communicating. 
As a performer who travels the world extensively, what are you looking forward to most about coming back to New Zealand?
I've had the most positive experiences in New Zealand. The people are genuine and sincere, it is utterly beautiful and the coffee is great! I'm truly looking forward to everything.
You must have a very busy schedule – what’s on your agenda between now and the end of the year?
I fly to Cuba tomorrow as part of the Minnesota Orchestra, the first U.S. Orchestra to perform there in decades.
I'll be spending several weeks in Bowdoin, Maine, over the US summer, touring with the Australian String Quartet as guest first violinist in September, and giving a recital at the Melbourne Recital Centre in August. Then, I'll be touring India as part of the Australian World Orchestra later in the year. 
Who inspires you? Why?
Many people inspire me, not just musicians. Artists and creators who are passionate and devoted to their craft, including Beethoven, Mahler, Van Gogh, Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare and Grant Achatz. People who break ceilings and forge paths for others to pursue their dreams inspire me.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Mahler 6, Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet, Beethoven 131, Bill Evans and The Bad Plus, among others!

Vote for your favourite competitor to win the Michael Hill Audience Award
Live and online audience members are encouraged to vote for their favourite competitor.

Voting opens 6 June and the winner of the Michael Hill Audience Prize will be announced during the prize giving on 13 June. 
All live rounds of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition are open to the public. Auckland tickets are on sale through TicketMaster and Queenstown through Ticketek.
For more information, please visit or view the Competition’s Facebook page.

New sponsors

As ever, we greatly appreciate the support of all our sponsors and donors.

Huge thanks goes to Rosie and Dr. Bill Sanderson of Northland Orthopaedic Surgical Group, who are sponsoring the Australian Development Prizewinner Markiyan Melnychenko, to Wallace & Gibbs Group and Untouched World.
We also thank Wayne Peters of Peters MacGregor Capital Management for his ongoing support. Wayne has generously offered to sponsor a second semi-finalist. 

Don't miss...

Chamber Music New Zealand’s Turnovsky Ensemble
This year, the Competition’s touring partner Chamber Music New Zealand is celebrating 50 years of its iconic Chamber Music Contest for young people.
Founded in 1965 the Chamber Music Contest has a long list of alumni including acclaimed pianist Michael Houstoun, members of the NZTrio and violinist Wilma Smith.
For many young musicians, their first encounter with chamber music is through the Contest. Last year nearly 2000 students from 15 regional centres took part.
There could be no better way to celebrate 50 years of chamber music than with the Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble, a fabulous alumni ensemble made up of Contest-winners spanning 25 years. On Friday 12 June, the ensemble (which happens to include many familiar Michael Hill artists) will take to the stage in Auckland during a week of activities supporting musical talent and rising stars.
For more information and tickets, click here.
APO Enigma Variations

Marking the centenary of Douglas Lilburn, founding father of New Zealand music, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s concert opens with his enduring Aotearoa Overture. Composed when Lilburn was studying in London, Aotearoa is an evocation of longing for his homeland.

Béla Bartók was a composer whose homeland was ever-present; his vigorous Violin Concerto No.2, performed by Competition judge Benjamin Schmid (pictured), is steeped in Hungarian folk music.

In his breakthrough masterwork, the Enigma Variations, Edward Elgar depicted his ‘friends pictured within’ – his wife, his publisher, even his friend’s dog – but never revealed the ‘enigma’. Encompassing the profundity of ‘Nimrod’ and Elgar’s ebullient self-portrait, this is an extraordinary orchestral tour de force.


For more info, please visit their web site.
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