The Violin Channel recently caught up 2019 Tibor Varga International Violin Competition 1st prize winner, 22-year-old Anna Agafia Egholm from Denmark.
A graduate of the Haute Ecole de Musique de Lausanne where she studied with Svetlana Makarova, Anna is a former major prize winner at the Ginette Neveu, Marie Cantagrill, Ysaÿe and Nielsen International Violin Competitions.
Congratulations Anna. How does it feel to be a 1st prize winner at the prestigious Tibor Varga Competition?
"I feel extremely grateful to have won the Tibor Varga Competition! ... I had known about this competition for some years before submitting an application, and I'm so glad I finally did.
To win was an unexpected (but very positive) surprise, as there were so many great players in the competition.
I am not sure it has actually quite sunk in yet, but I have felt like every day since the last day of the finals has been my birthday, because people around me keep congratulating me ... It has truly been an amazing experience."
What will be your best long lasting memory from your time at this year's competition?
"I think one of the most memorable and heartwarming things about this competition was the organisation ...
First of all, the accommodation I was provided with was wonderful: I stayed in the most cosy little room, with big windows overlooking Sion's two castles, the mountains and the vineyards.
In addition to this, the administration was extremely helpful, and they were always there for me when I needed them – all I had to do was call. They were all really kind, and turned the ”competition atmosphere” into a more relaxed environment."
What are the most important lessons you learnt from your preparation for the competition?
"I realised during my preparation that you have to make sure to constantly release any tension you acquire from practicing under pressure.
Preparing for competitions is bound to make you worried and stressed, which often leads to pain or discomfort while playing, especially if you're not feeling completely ”ready”.
You might even build up some aggressions towards the violin if you're not getting the results you expect fast enough ... but if you manage to keep your mind and your body relaxed and focused, you avoid these unnecessary problems and it becomes easier to keep a positive attitude."
What tips and advice do you have for keeping one’s focus on the music even under the highly stressful situation of a competition?
"Personally, my friends and my family were a huge help to me during this competition ... both my mother and my little brother were there with me, and they did everything they could to keep my mind off the pressure and focus simply on playing the best I can.
I also made sure not to disappear into my own personal ”bubble of worry” by calling close friends every day, and by talking to and getting to know other candidates.
It turns the typical ”all against all” competition mentality into more of a team sport with unfortunate eliminations along the way."
Who have been your most influential mentors and inspirations?
"My first teacher Alexandre Zapolski, with whom I studied for 13 years, shaped my entire musical intuition ... his conception of listening to the beauty of every single note will forever stay with me.
My late ear training teacher in Copenhagen is also really important to me ... he taught me to be curious and investigate every piece I play to better understand the meaning of every harmony, structural or rhythmical decision made by the composer.
I am always reminded of him whenever I hear a motive I know he would have liked."
What important piece of advice have your learnt from your mentors that you’d like to pass on?
"I have gotten great advice from many people so choosing just one is tough ... but it all pretty much sums up to a quote by Taisen Deshimaru: 'Think with your whole body'.
To me, this roughly means never underestimating the negative effect of for example stress, lack of sleep, etc.
This probably varies from person to person, but I know that if I forget to make sure that my body and mind are healthy, the quality of my practice will go down almost immediately, and every mentor I've had has pointed out the importance of taking care of yourself."
Away from your instrument, what do you like to do to keep your sanity?
"I feel like it's easy to get trapped inside the Pandora's box of the violin world, and to me it can become overwhelming.
I therefore take little breaks from classical music and listen to other things, mostly songs I have grown up with and can sing along to.
I really enjoy watching 'light' TV-series such as Friends or Modern Family, as it is a nice breath of fresh air away from reality, and since I am also a huge fan of Disney and Dreamworks, I watch their movies very often.
I'll never grow out of watching cartoons."
What does the future hold now for Anna Agafia Egholm? What are your career goals?
"My main goal is to never stop learning ...
There is so much to discover within the classical music field, and I just hope that I will be given the opportunity to have many inspiring experiences that will allow me to grow ... not only in regards to my instrument, but also personally.
My favorite thing is to travel with my violin, because to me, exploring new places plays an important part in the shaping of one's musical expression.
I want to take in as much art, culture and nature as possible, and then let it all out through my playing."