Kaunzner in Korea: a nation of winners

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In recent years, string players from South Korea have made headlines as the winners of numerous international competitions. German violinist–composer Viktoria Elisabeth Kaunzner speaks to South Korean colleagues and draws on her own teaching experience in the country to examine the phenomenon

Followers of classical music competitions will surely have noticed the very great number of successful competitors from South Korea in the last few years. The undeniable technical prowess and – crucially – musical sophistication of these young and ambitious instrumentalists is quite phenomenal. Indeed, the evidence is more than anecdotal: the World Federation of International Music Competitions (WFIMC), which represents 122 contests in 40 countries, has observed a recent increase in South Korean candidates entering international events. ‘Many are already based in Europe or the USA for postgraduate study,’ says WFIMC secretary general Benjamin Woodroffe. ‘We held our 2014 General Assembly in Tongyeong where we discussed the rise in success and representation of South Koreans across all disciplines.’Is this a coincidence or can the phenomenon be attributed to certain teaching methods and cultural practices specific to South Korea? In order to understand the situation today, it is useful to look at the origins of the country’s modern veneration of classical music and string playing.

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