With the 2016 Menuhin Competition opening rounds set to commence this coming Friday, 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 presented.
1983 3rd Prize Winner and 2016 Jury Member, Tasmin Little guest blogs about his eventful experience.
“In 1983, I was 17-years-old and decided to enter the inaugural Yehudi Menuhin international violin competition. I was at the end of an 18-month stint during which my technique had undergone a complete overhaul, having suffered problems with tension in my bow arm. I was keen to test myself in an international environment.
I remember arriving at London’s Southbank Centre where a coach was waiting to take the competitors to Folkestone. Everyone was friendly and excited – it felt more like a summer music course than a violin competition!
We arrived in Folkestone and went to our host families but unfortunately the house was very noisy. I got no sleep and, early the next morning, I was the fourth competitor to play. The hall was empty except for the long lines of judges. I was extremely nervous but gave it my best shot and then went to listen to the other competitors. This was my first taste of hearing other players of my age from abroad, and I felt excited and intrigued by the different styles of interpretation. I remember thinking that, even if I didn’t make it through that first round, it was worth it to broaden my horizons.
When I made it through to the semifinals, I asked to change hosts and was put with a kind, elderly lady. After settling in, I went to start my evening practice before my performance the next morning. Unfortunately my bow would not tighten and I had no spare bow so I was very worried. But, incredibly, my host’s neighbour repaired bows and one hour later the screw was fixed! The second round went better than the first and I was so excited when the announcement revealed that I was in the finals. My excitement was tinged with sadness, though, as by this time I had made many new friends and most of them were leaving to go home.
The day before the finals was spent frantically preparing my concerto and rehearsing with the orchestra. My teacher came down from London to coach me in her hotel room. During our dinner that evening, the fire alarm went off – I ran up 10 flights of stairs to rescue my violin from her room and suffered terrible indigestion all night!
Despite nerves and lack of sleep, the Finals were a joy. It was my first experience of playing with a professional Symphony Orchestra and was a great feeling to work with such brilliant musicians. In addition, I was finally playing to a full hall!
Afterwards, I read Yehudi Menuhin’s comments and saw that he placed me second out of the six finalists. My overall mark gained me third prize and I came away feeling very happy with my first experience of an international competition. I had gained many new friends, as well as wonderful musical experiences. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra gave me many opportunities during the early years of my career and I continue to work regularly with them to this day.