With the 2018 Alice & Eleonore Schoenfeld International Violin Competition reaching its final stages in Harbin, China, this week, VC recently caught up with a number of former prize winners, to get a better understanding of their time at the competition – and the opportunities the biennial event has since presented.
In a VC-exclusive blog, South Korean violinist and former 1st Prize winner, VC Young Artist Ji Won Song talks us through her 2014 experience:
“I participated in the 2014 Alice & Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition, which has been, in a way, life changing, and a memorable experience.
Back then, it was my first time visiting China, and I was especially excited to visit Harbin, the city where the competition took place and also the city awarded “Musical City” by United Nations. As I imagined, Harbin was beautiful and peaceful, and venues and facilities were superb. My visit to Harbin turned out to be so heart-warming and wonderful that the experience left a long lasting impression.
Back then, I did not foresee that this opportunity would take a big part of my growing fondness towards Chinese music. Each year, the competition assigns a new piece for the competitors to prepare, and that year, the piece I was given was by a Chinese composer, titled Wusuli Barcarolle (“Wusuli” refers to the Wusuli River which runs through Russia to southeast region of Northeast China). To my surprise, although it was my first time getting to know Chinese music, the piece immediately spoke to me. The piece was somehow clicking with my natural instinct and feelings, and I quickly began to like the piece (I liked it to the point that, to this day, I occasionally miss this piece and play it on YouTube…) This captivating first involvement with Chinese music was encouraging and motivated me to further learn more Chinese music. I believe this experience eventually contributed to more opportunities to visit China and to perform again, with a different piece –– the Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto –– which is another one of my favorites.
During the competition, I was also astonished by the enthusiasm of the audience. Before the start of preliminary rounds, the competition held an opening ceremony concert. Not knowing what to expect, I imagined what I usually saw at most opening ceremony concerts in the past. However, I remember being greatly amazed and almost shocked at the size of the audience and the wide range of age. The beautiful and grand concert hall was packed with audience whom, as I presumed, really enjoyed being there. Likewise, when I performed at the winner’s concert, I experienced the same energy. Not surprisingly, the concert hall was full again, and I felt the audience was very warm and receptive as well. This moment for me was one of a kind, I truly enjoyed this experience of performing for the audience at Harbin.
Another very memorable moment for me during the competition was meeting Ms. Alice Schoenfeld in person. I was walking through the Harbin Conservatory of Music one day, not expecting that I would get to meet her there. When I approached her, she greeted me with such warmth! Meeting Ms. Schoenfeld in person was definitely memorable for me, since I could not have met her otherwise.
I really feel that this competition was a very important stepping stone for my career, especially by introducing Chinese music and planting such pleasant memories of China in my heart. Although participating in competition has its pros and cons, I believe one can usually take away something valuable to learn. As much as I feel grateful and thrilled for receiving the first prize at the competition, I am also immensely grateful for the growth of my overall musical perspective gained from the Schoenfeld Competition.