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The human touch

No first prize was awarded in the violin section of this year’s Sendai International Music Competition, yet the Japanese contest showcased some sensitive and interesting performances, writes

At a press conference following the prize-giving ceremony for the violin section of the seventh triennial Sendai International Music Competition (SIMC) in June, a reporter asked the six finalists each to describe their experience performing at this singularly demanding and unusual competition.

The SIMC launched in 2001 around the city’s philharmonic orchestra, and in a twist on convention its organisers made concertos the main focus. Whereas music competitions typically culminate in a concerto performance, the SIMC asks candidates to play one or two at each stage.

In this edition, the repertoire spanned from Bach in the preliminary round (either the A minor or the E major Concerto) to the 20th century in the semi-finals (Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, Prokofiev’s no.1 or Bartók’s no.2), and finished with one of Mozart’s five violin concertos and a Romantic concerto, chosen from lists. For good measure, candidates also performed an Ysaÿe violin sonata (no.3, no.5 or no.6) in the preliminaries, and at the instigation of jury member Gidon Kremer there was a new concertmaster section in the semi-finals in which candidates played the violin solo from Brahms’s Symphony no.1, second movement, and the ‘Das Tanzlied’ waltz from Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra.

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About The Strad

We talk to the members of the Belcea Quartet and ask why more young people are turning to period performance. Students of Kató Havas pay tribute to the late violin teacher, and there’s a look at asymmetric instruments. Plus a Mendelssohn Masterclass and Renaud Capuçon’s Life Lessons.