The young violinists taking part in this year’s Carl Nielsen International Competition in Odense, Denmark, are today arriving and registering for what could be a career changing event.

The violin event takes place in parallel with a clarinet and flute competition, reflecting the three instruments Nielsen wrote concertos for.

The 24 competitors will play in the first round starting tomorrow, Saturday 23 March; the second round will be on 25 March with 12 contestants; and the semi-finals on 27 March with six contestants. Three finalists will battle it out in a 29 March prefinal and 31 March grand final, both times playing a 50min programme with orchestra.

This year’s competitors are:

  • Yurina Arai (24 Japan)
  • Ava Bahari (22, Sweden)
  • Elina Buksha (28, Latvia)
  • Jiwon Choi (20, South Korea)
  • Wonbeen Chung (21, South Korea)
  • Johan Dalene (18, Sweden)
  • Anna Agafia Egholm (22, Denmark)
  • Kornelia Figielska (22, Poland)
  • Michael Germer (16, Denmark)
  • Ariel Horowitz (22, USA)
  • Marie-Astrid Hulot (21, France)
  • Hayato Ishibashi (27, USA)
  • Karen Kido (24, Japan)
  • Paul Kropfitsch (18, Austria)
  • Heemyeong Lee (26, South Korea)
  • Kunwha Lee (25, South Korea)
  • Hina Maeda (16, Japan)
  • Seina Matsuoka (25, Japan)
  • Michiru Matsuyama (27, Japan)
  • Kyumin Park (22, South Korea)
  • Sueye Park (18, South Korea)
  • Dmitry Smirnov (24, Russia)
  • Belle Ting (18 Canada)
  • Arata Yumi (26 Japan)

The president of the competition is Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, who himself won the competition in 1992 in a vintage year, with Jennifer Koh and Pekka Kuusisto taking second and third place respectively.

The jury comprises:

  • Eugen Tichindeleanu, Odense Symphony Orchestra concertmaster
  • Albena Danailova, concertmaster Vienna State Opera and Vienna Philharmonic
  • Sergey Khachatryan, violin soloist
  • Nurit Bar-Josef, concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra (US) and founding member of the Dryden Quartet
  • Sally Beamish, composer
  • Ingrid Fliter, pianist
  • Kathryn Enticott, artist manager
  • Tobias Niederschlag, director of the Concert Office of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, and co-founder and artistic director of the International Shostakovich Festival In Gohrisch.

Szeps-Znaider was adamant about not using teachers in the jury, as he feels it creates conflicts of interest. ‘When they first called and asked if I wanted to be the president of the competition, I said thank you very much for your call, but absolutely not,’ he told The Strad.

‘But I thought about it. I always like to question my own knee-jerk reactions: Why was I so quick to dismiss it? What is it I don’t like about competitions? What if I could do the competition in a way which I felt could be really useful?’

Szeps-Znaider said his main ambition was to ‘extend the platform of the competition’.

‘The whole reason people go to a competition is because they want a platform, to showcase their talent. You want people to hear you! So what we want is to make sure that people in the industry – not teachers, but conductors, managers, orchestra managers, people with influence – get to hear the contestants.

‘And more importantly that we offer the winner concerts. Yes, money is great, and we offer a nice prize [€12,000 for first place], but the main thing is that we have secured ten concerts with top Scandinavian orchestras. I think it is really unique that we can offer this to a winner – It amounts to a career launch.’