Belgium’s violin hopeful wins public’s heart, misses prize rankings
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Belgium’s violin hopeful wins public’s heart, misses prize rankings

© Queen Elisabeth Music Competition

This year’s Queen Elisabeth Music Competition has been won by the American violinist Stella Chen.

Chen (pictured) won with a performance of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, a certain crowd pleaser. In second place came the Canadian Timothy Chooi, and in third place another American, Stephen Kim.

Belgium’s Sylvia Huang, the country’s first finalist in years, was tipped as a favourite to win early in finals week, but in the end she was listed in the unranked finalists, in other words in the bottom six.

The finals take place over the course of six days, with two musicians playing each evening in Bozar, accompanied by the Belgian National Orchestra. They each play an imposed piece, a new composition by a contemporary composer, and a concerto of their own choice.

Huang had impressed the audience with her performance of the concerto by Dvorak, a little-known work last heard in the competition in 1971. Her performance impressed one jury member so much he forgot the rules and joined in the audience’s applause.

But those who tipped her for the top prize – officially, the Queen Fabiola Prize and Queen Mathilde Prize – were ignoring history. The figures show that the advantage goes most often to those playing late in the week. Huang, a first violinist with the world-renowned Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, played on Monday. Chen’s turn came on Friday, and Chooi on Saturday itself. Huang did however win the public prize offered by Flemish public radio station Klara and TV channel Canvas, worth 2,500 euros.

Chan goes home not only with one of the most respected titles in the music world, but also a cheque for 25,000 euros and a Stradivarius violin given to her on loan.

The top six soloists from the finals can shortly be seen in a series of concerts in Brussels and elsewhere. Details at the competition website.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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