Violinist: Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition Begins August 16

Violinists in the 2016 SISIVC, after a "bow draw" on Monday to determine First Round order.

Violinists in the 2016 SISIVC, after a "bow draw" on Monday to determine First Round order.
By Laurie Niles

Violinists from around the world arrived over the weekend in Shanghai, where 24 violinists ages 18 through 32 will begin competing Tuesday in the first-ever Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition, which is offering a record-breaking top prize of $100,000, to be awarded when the competition concludes on Sept. 2.

Watch for coverage from Shanghai, starting Aug. 24 from the semi-finals.

The competition was named after the famous American violinist Isaac Stern (1920-2001), who broke cultural ground when he traveled to China in 1979 -- a time when China-U.S. relations were tenuous at best. Stern gave concerts and also visited China’s Central Conservatory of Music and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. The trip resulted in a documentary called From Mao to Mozart, which won an Academy Award in 1980 for Best Documentary Feature.

The competition, two years in the making, will take place at Shanghai Symphony Hall. The 24 competitors represent several countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, France, Germany and the United States. Nearly half of the competitors are from China, with three from the United States. Of the 21 competitors who are not listed as being from the United States, eight of have strong U.S. connections, having studied in the U.S. at places such as the Curtis Institute, The Juilliard School, New England Conservatory, Temple University's Boyer College, Bard College Conservatory and the Aspen Music Festival. One contestant from China is a member of the Oregon Symphony. For full bios of the competitors, click here. (Names of all competitors are listed at the bottom of this article).

Preliminary rounds take place Aug. 16-19, and performances will be available to view afterwards on the competition's YouTube channelHere is a schedule.. Semi-finals and Finals will be live-streamed on SMG and LeTV -- we'll provide links as they become available.

After preliminaries, 18 competitors will be named semi-finalists. Semi-finalists are required to perform The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, which has achieved modern popularity after being written in 1959 by Chinese composers, He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, while they were students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Semi-finalists will also play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 with a chamber orchestra (original cadenzas required), a sonata, and the first movement of piano trio by Schubert or Brahms. Competition officials report that all semi-final tickets were sold out within one week of ticketing -- I'd like to think this is a testament to the popularity of the violin in China!

Six finalists will go on to the Final Round, Sept. 1 and 2. Besides the record-breaking First Prize of $100,000 USD; other prizes include a Second Prize of $50,000, Third Prize $25,000 and Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Prizes $5,000 each. Another $10,000 will be awarded for the best performance of "The Butterfly Lovers" concerto; and a $10,000 Isaac Stern Human Spirit Award will go to a non-contestant "in any field and from any part of the world - who is deemed to have made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of humanity through the medium of music."

The competition also has promised winning competitors performance opportunities with various orchestras, including Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, China Philharmonic Orchestra, Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Jury members for the competition are Zakhar Bron, David Cerone, Martin Engstroem, Daniel Heifetz, Emmanuel Hondré, Boris Kuschnir, Elmar Oliveira, David Stern, Maxim Vengerov, Jian Wang, Zhenshan Wan, Vera Tsu Weiling and Lina Yu.

Competitors in the 2016 Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition are:

  • Takamori Arai, Japan
  • Yu-Ting Chen, Taiwan, China
  • Elvin Ganiyev, Azerbaijan
  • Fangyue He, China
  • Sirena Huang, United States
  • Yiliang Jiang, China
  • Jee Won Kim, South Korea
  • Mayu Kishima, Japan
  • Zeyu Victor Li, China
  • Richard Lin, United States
  • Ming Liu, China
  • Kyung Ji Min, South Korea
  • Raphaëlle Moreau, France
  • Andrea Obiso, Italy
  • Dongfang Ouyang, China
  • Yoo Min Seo, South Korea
  • Ji Won Song, South Korea
  • Kristie Su, United States
  • Stefan Tarara, Germany
  • Xiao Wang, China
  • Wendi Wang, China
  • Jinru Zhang, China
  • Yang Zhang, China