VC INSIGHT | “As a Jury Member, What Are You Really Looking For?”

Dong-Suk Kang shares his experience as a Menuhin Competition jury member, of what he feels really matters, and what does not

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Each member of the jury uses his or her criteria, in addition to the competition regulation’s, to judge the candidates for the Menuhin Competition. 

Although the participants in the Menuhin Competition are younger than the participants in other major competitions, for me, the criteria remain the same.

I am always looking for violinists who have something individual and personal to say.

Today, there are many violinists who show amazing skills even at very young age.

The general standard of violin playing, or other instruments for that matter, has risen considerably.

When I competed as a student, there were very few violinists who could play the Paganini Caprices in a spectacular fashion. Now, there are very few who have difficulty with the Caprices. It is no secret that young violinists today have enormous capacity as instrumentalists.

On the other hand, I don’t find that musical understanding and maturity in young musicians have evolved that much over the years. Often in the final rounds, when they play with an orchestra, I noticed that the performances are less convincing due to a lack of experience and the rarity of original musical personality.

Therefore, as far as I am concerned, the most important qualities I look for are musical insights, appreciation for different styles of music, and individuality.

It is not easy to explain, but with some violinists, it is obvious from the very first note that they are able to attract your attention and convey a personal message, even if you might not agree with their taste and approach.

For me, the final test is whether the young violinist touches you emotionally or not. There are many violinists who do everything in an impeccable way, but not saying much overall. There might not be anything to criticize technically, but at the end, there is no emotional impact. I prefer those who might not have as much command of the instrument, but have something unique to express.

Some of my colleagues don’t necessarily look for the same qualities.

Fortunately, we have enough jury members to represent different opinions or tastes, and come up with some sort of consensus at the end.

– Dong Suk Kang