HARBIN, CHINA – With the 2016 Schoenfeld International String Competition reaching its final stages in Harbin, China, The Violin Channel recently caught up with a number of former prize winners to get a better understanding of their time at the competition – and the career-changing opportunities the biennial event has presented.
2014 Chamber Music Division 1st prize winner, The Goldmund Quartet guest blog about its eventful experience:
“In 2014, we had the pleasure of participating at the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition. The deadline was only a few days away, so we had to decide very quickly whether we’ll take the opportunity and fly to Harbin, China or enjoy the summer and take some time off.
It was our first international competition, so we were thrilled to take on the challenge. Also, we love to travel and see different places and cultures, so we were even more encouraged to fly there. The weeks until the competition we spent almost everyday together preparing the required repertoire.
The trip there took about 20 hours, so we were pretty exhausted by the time we got there. Raphael was lucky to get an upgrade to business class together with his cello, where as the others weren’t able to rest at all…They were so happy for him!
Once we arrived there, the competition staff was very helpful and warm-hearted. We stayed at the hotel of the University Campus, where the other participants were staying as well, so we were constantly in touch with them and got to know each other really well. Although everybody was going through stressful competition days, the atmosphere was great and we had a lot of fun together.
We were amazed by the huge concert halls, where the competition rounds took place. Also, there was always a lot of audience listening, so during the rounds we had more of a concert atmosphere than the feeling of a competition. We really didn’t expect too much; we just wanted play our best and learn from the experience.
Winning the first prize was of course really exciting! There were a lot of jurors that got in touch with us afterwards, inviting us to their concert series or to play together. We made long-lasting friendships. Looking back, the competition really helped our quartet career, since it gave us international attention and performing opportunities.
We’ll never forget the night after the prizewinner concert, where we were invited to have dinner with the Major of Harbin. All the prizewinners and jurors were there as well, so we were quite a large group. As it is custom, we each had our glass of wine (only filled a bit) with which we had to clink glasses with each person or group at the table and also every time someone gave a toast. Each time, the wine had to be downed and was immediately refilled by one of the countless waiters. Well, the dinner had 15 courses and there was always something to give a toast on…