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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Australian violinist Christian Li has made history at the Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition

Christian Li and Chloe Chua at the Menuhin Competition 2018.
Photo by Olivier Miche

The 10-year-old Australian violinist Christian Li has made history at the 2018 Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition in Geneva as the youngest ever winner of the Junior First Prize, taking out equal first with 11-year-old Chloe Chua from Singapore. This is the first time in the Competition's history that a joint first prize has been awarded. Li and Chua were the youngest of the finalists, competing against Clara Shen (12), Hina Khuong-Huu (13), Guido Sant'Anna (12) and Ruibing Liu (13).

Li, who performed Summer from Vivaldi's Four Seasons alongside Jaehyuck Choi's newly commissioned work Self in Mind in the final round with the Geneva Chamber Orchestra, also took out the Audience Prize. "I feel very surprised and excited! And thankful to my teacher", Li told Limelight. "It was an honour to play with the Geneva Chamber Orchestra in Victoria Hall."

In addition to 10,000 Swiss Francs worth of prize money, Li and Chua will each be granted a one year loan of an Italian violin by Florian Leonhard Fine Violins. Both violinists performed alongside the Senior Competition winner, 18-year-old Armenian violinist Diana Adamyan, in the Competition's Closing Gala Concert on Sunday with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Julian Rachlin.

The jury of the 2018 Menuhin Competition, which attracted 317 entries representing 51 nationalities, was chaired by American violinist Pamela Frank and comprised of Joji Hattori, Itamar Golan, Ilya Gringolts, Henning Kraggerud, Lu Siqing, Josef Špaček, Maxim Vengerov and Soyoung Yoon.

Source: Angus McPherson, April 23, 2018 (limelightmagazine.com.au)

Menuhin Competition 2018

In summary. Founded by Yehudi Menuhin in 1983 the Menuhin Competition is the leading international Competition for young violinists. Nicknamed "The Olympics of the Violin" the Competition attracts hundreds of entries from over 40 countries, choosing only 44 of the world's very best young violinists to participate. Held every two years in a different world city the Competition discovers, encourages and nurtures exceptionally talented young musicians from all corners of the globe under the age of 22 years to develop into the next generation of great artists.

The Menuhin Competition has an impressive track record of counting some of the world's most gifted violinists among its participants and prizewinners. Since 1983, many prizewinners such as Nikolaj Znaider, Tasmin Little, Julia Fischer, Ilya Gringolts and more recently Ray Chen, Chad Hoopes and Stephen Waarts have gone onto successful international careers as soloists. Some are outstanding concertmasters such as Daishin Kashimoto at the Berlin Philharmonic, others such as Corina Belcea lead world-class chamber ensembles.

Yehudi Menuhin: music connects. From child prodigy to one of the 20th century's finest and most celebrated artists, Yehudi Menuhin devoted much of his life to teaching music, forging links between cultures, and bringing classical music to those who may not have access to it, especially the most disadvantaged as he was convinced that music is a powerful social bond.

As one of Yehudi Menuhin's most valuable legacies, the Competition continues to uphold his status as a cultural ambassador and true world citizen by creating an exceptional family atmosphere of learning and exchange for the competitors. All competitors are invited to stay in the host city for the duration of the Competition, allowing them to make new friendships with other young musicians and forge social and cultural connections alongside their musical development.

Beyond the competition. With the Competition itself at its heart, each edition of the Menuhin Competition presents an 11 day festival of music, education and cultural exchange, from concerts to masterclasses, performances by the jury to educational events delivered by the competitors themselves.

Collaborative in its spirit, the focus is placed on participation and learning rather than winning the 1st Prize. Competitors participate in masterclasses and peer to peer learning or turn into mentors themselves and work with our partners to deliver outreach projects in the local community. Creating a stimulating environment in which talented young violinists may learn and grow has always been and will remain at the heart of the Menuhin Competition.

In Switzerland for the first time. Most recently the Competition was held in London, UK, in celebration of Menuhin's centenary in 2016. Prior to this the Competition took place in Austin, Texas (2014), Beijing, China (2012) and Oslo, Norway (2010).

The Menuhin Competition Geneva 2018 took place from 12-22 April 2018.

Source: 2018.menuhincompetition.org

Yehudi Menuhin (April 22, 1916, New York - March 12, 1999, Berlin)

The American violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin had one of the longest and most distinguished careers of any violinist of the 20th century. Menuhin was born in New York of Russian-Jewish parents, recent immigrants to America. By the age of seven his performance of Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto had found him instant fame. As a teenager he toured throughout the world and was considered one of the greats long before his twentieth birthday. Even in his earliest recordings one can sense deeply passionate responses to the great composers. Though considered a technical master, it is his highly charged emotional playing that set him apart.

As a young man Yehudi Menuhin went to Paris to study under violinist and composer George Enesco. Enesco was a primary influence on Menuhin and the two remained friends and collaborators throughout their lives. During the thirties, Menuhin was a sought after international performer. Over the course of World War II he played five hundred concerts for Allied troops, and later returned to Germany to play for inmates recently liberated from the concentration camps. This visit to Germany had a profound effect on Menuhin.

As a Jew and a classical musician, Yehudi Menuhin had a complex relationship with German culture. He was fluent in German and deeply influenced by classical German composers. Menuhin found in the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler an important musical peer. Despite accusations of Wilhelm Furtwängler's pro-Nazi sympathies, Menuhin continued to support him and his work. It seemed that for many years, Menuhin led a double life. He was an outspoken supporter of dozens of causes for social justice, while also longing for a solitary life where he could ignore the concerns of society and attend only to the history of music and his role within it.

Throughout the 1940's and 1950's, Yehudi Menuhin performed and made recordings from the great works of the classical canon. During this time he also began to include rarely performed and lesser known works. One of his greatest achievements is the commissioning and performing of Sonata for Solo Violin by Béla Bartók. In Béla Bartók, Menuhin found a composer of deep emotion and pathos that mimicked his own. Béla Bartók's work was at once technically rigorous and open to interpretive playing. Of Menuhin, Béla Bartók said he played better than he imagined he would ever hear his work played. Their collaboration is considered one of the greats of twentieth-century classical music.

By the 1960's, Yehudi Menuhin began to increase the scope of his musical involvement. In 1963 he opened the Yehudi Menuhin School, a school for musically gifted children. He also began conducting, which he would continue to do until his death. He conducted in many of the important music festivals and nearly every major orchestra in the world. It was around this time he also broke from his traditional roots and did work outside of the classical genre. One of his most successful ventures out of traditional performance was with the great Indian composer and sitarist Ravi Shankar.

Throughout the last twenty years of his life, Yehudi Menuhin continued to engage in every aspect of musical work. As a performer, a conductor, a teacher, and a spokesperson, he spent his seventies and eighties as one of the most active musicians in the world. He was a constant contributor to religious, social, and environmental organizations throughout the world.

Among his many books were: "Violin: Six Lessons" (1972), an autobiography "Unfinished Journey" (1977), with Curtis W. Davis "The Music of Man" (1980), based on the television series of the same title, and "Life Class" (1986).

Source: bach-cantatas.com / Baker's Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians, 1997

Christian Li at the Menuhin Competition 2018. Photo by Olivier Miche

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