Ko takes first prize of CAD20,000, a residency at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, plus recording and performance opportunities


Leland Ko | concoursosm.ca

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The 84th edition of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) Competition took place from 7 to 11 November 2023, this year dedicated to stringed instruments. The final round comprised three musicians whittled down from ten semi-finalists.

25-year-old cellist Leland Ko won first prize - named the Barbara Bronfman Prize. Worth CAD20,000, the award is named in memory of Bronfman, a music lover who was a patron of the OSM. Ko also wins a residency at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Belgium for the 2024-25 season, a recording and broadcast by Radio-Canada, several other performance opportunities, plus a scholarship covering tuition for a degree in a performance programme at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University.

Ko also won the J.S. Bach Special Round Prize, worth CAD5,000, plus the Orchestra of the Americas Prize, which comprises a full tuition scholarship within the 2024 OAcademy, a 12-month orchestral training programme online.

18-year-old violinist Justin Saulnier won second prize of CAD12,000, while third prize went to 19-year-old violist Emad Zolfaghari, worth CAD7,500. Saulnier, Zolfaghari and 20-year-old semi-finalist violinist Tiffany Yeung received scholarships to attend the advanced training programme at Domaine Forget in 2024. 

Zolfaghari won the Stingray Rising Stars Award Audience award, worth CAD2,500, while Yeung won the prize for best interpretation of a Canadian work, worth CAD3,000, as well as the Michèle Paré Prize, in recognition of Yeung’s commitment to music in the community and accessiblity, worth CAD5,000.

The Orford Music awards went to semi-finalist cellists Romain-Olivier Gray, Grace Sohn and Yeung, while double bassist William Deslauriers-Allain received the Young Audience Award, worth CAD2,500. Each of the seven semi-finalists who did not reach the finals received CAD500, and all ten semi-finalists received a CAD1,000 gift card from the competition partner, Air Canada.

The OSM Competition was formed in 1940 and became a national competition in 1963. Held annually, it features all instruments of the orchestra, as well as voice, on a rotating basis over a three-year cycle. The previous string edition of the competition was held in 2019, and won by cellist Bryan Cheng, with violinist Julia Mirzoev and cellist Grace Sohn winning joint third prize.

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