The violinists, aged 18-28, were whittled down from 140 applicants representing 32 countries, and will compete at the New Zealand contest for a top prize of NZ$40,000


The 2017 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, taking place in New Zealand in June next year, has announced the quarter-finalists selected to compete in its live public rounds.

The 16 young musicians, aged 18-28, were whittled down from 140 applicants representing 32 countries, and will compete for a top prize of NZ$40,000, a recording contract with the Atoll label, a performance tour across New Zealand and Australia, and a professional development programme. The top ranked player will also have the opportunity to perform on Sir Michael Hill’s 1755 Guadagnini 'The Southern Star' violin, on his or her Winner’s Tour.

This year's group of quarter-finalists feature a number of names familiar to the competitive circuit, including New Zealand-born 26-year-old Benjamin Baker (pictured), a winner at the 2016 Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York and 2013 first prize winner at the Windsor Festival International String Competition; 2016 Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition winner Luke Hsu from the US; and 2013 Montreal International Musical Competition third prize winner Zeyu Victor Li from China.

The full list of quarter-finalists are:

Benjamin Baker (Male) - New Zealand

Elizabeth Basoff-Darskaia (Female) - Russia / USA

Maia Cabeza (Female) - Canada / USA

Jung Min Choi (Female) - South Korea

So Young Choi (Female) - South Korea

Ioana Goicea (Female) - Romania

Luke Hsu (Male) - USA

Mari Lee (Female) - South Korea / Japan

Jaeook Lee (Male) - South Korea

Kunwha Lee (Female) - South Korea

Zeyu Victor Li (Male) - China

Thomas Reif (Male) - Germany

Yoo Min Seo (Female) - South Korea

Natsumi Tsuboi (Female) - Japan

Momoko Wong (Female) - Japan / USA

Galiya Zharova (Female) - Kazakhstan

This year's jury comprises USA’s Pamela Frank, Ilya Gringolts from Russia/UK, South Korea’s Dong-Suk Kang, Finland/NZ’s Vesa-Matti Leppänen, Romania’s Silvia Marvovici, Dene Olding from Australia and Krzysztof Wegrzyn of Poland/Germany.

The Michael Hill Competition takes place every two years in Queenstown and Auckland, and has helped to launch the careers of a number of leading violinists, including newly-appointed Concertmaster for New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Nikki Chooi, who won the 2013. 2015's winner was Suyeon Kang from Australia.

Photo: Kaupo Kikkas