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Top six semi-finalists announced

Media Release


4 June 2007

Top six semi-finalists announced

The top six semi-finalists of the 2007 Michael Hill International Violin Competition have been chosen to go forward to the chamber music round with the NZTrio.

They are:

Can Gao (China)

Noah Geller (USA)

Celeste Golden (USA)

Stefan Hempel (Germany)

Bella Hristova (Bulgaria)

Yuuki Wong (Singapore)

The jury of Pierre Amoyal (France/Switzerland), Justine Cormack (New Zealand), Pamela Frank (United States), Mark Kaplan (United States), Boris Kuschnir (Russia/Austria), Hu Kun (China/United Kingdom), and Dene Olding (Australia) made their decision following three intense days of competition in Queenstown. Each of the 18 semi-finalists was required to perform works from the very challenging violin repertoire (including Bach, Paganini and Mozart) as well as Fanitullen, a five minute piece by leading New Zealand composer Ross Harris, commissioned by the Competition.

The chamber round requires that each of the six semi-finalists performs a full-length piano trio with Ashley Brown (cello) and Sarah Watkins (piano) of the NZTrio in Auckland’s Concert Chamber on Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 June. From this round, three finalists are selected to compete in the final round, a concerto performance on Saturday 9 June in the Auckland Town Hall accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

First prize is NZ$40,000, a CD recording on the Naxos label and a winner’s tour in 2008. Second prize is NZ$10,000, and Third prize is NZ$5,000. A prize of NZ$2,500 is awarded to the semi-finalist who has the best performance of Fanitullen.

Biographies for the six semi-finalists follow.

NOAH GELLER has won numerous competitions including the top prizes in the 2006 Corpus Christi International String Competition, the Skokie Valley Symphony Symphony Young Artists Competition and Wisconsin Public Radio’s Neile-Silva Young Artists Competition in Madison, Wisconsin. Previously, Noah won competitions at the Music Academy of the West (Santa Barbara) and the Chicago Youth Symphony.

An avid participant in summer music festivals, Noah has attended the Aspen Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, the Taos School of Music in New Mexico, and the Tanglewood Music Centre. As an orchestral musician, he has served in concertmaster and principal positions for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the Juilliard Orchestra, the Chicago Youth Symphony, and the Tanglewood Music Centre Orchestra.

A previous student of Hyo Kang, Noah is currently in his first year as a Master of Music degree candidate at the Juilliard School where he studies with Donald Weilerstein and Cho-Liang Lin.

CAN GAO was born in Chongqing in 1981 and started learning the violin at the age of four. He attended the Primary and Secondary Departments of the Central Conservatory of Music studying violin and composition and later attained his Bachelors Degree. He has studied with Professors Yang Defeng, Huang Xiaoshao, Yaoji Lin, Luo Xinmin, Dr Hao Wei-Yaj, and has attended master classes by Poulet Gerard, Pauk Gyorgy, Layfield Malcolm, John Jong-Wolfgang, Pinchas Zukerman and Masner.

Gao was awarded the “outstanding award” at the International Wieniawski Youth Violin Competition in 1997 and the First Prize in Youth Division of the China 8th National Violin Competition. He has concertised all over China as a recitalist and soloist with orchestras and has performed for embassies, Consul-generals, and foreign ambassadors.

Gao Can’s violin playing can be heard in the French movie The Little Chinese Seamstress which won the Best Music Award in the Canadian Film Festival.

CELESTE GOLDEN, Bronze Medalist in the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, began her musical studies at the age of three in Dallas with Arkady Fomin. At 15 she was accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music where she was a student of Jamie Laredo and Ida Kavafian. Currently she studies with Paul Kantor and David Cerone at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Celeste made her orchestral debut at the age of 11, and has since performed with orchestras around the world including the Latvian Chamber Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, The Amadeus Chamber Players in Hannover, Germany, The Royal Chamber Orchestra of Wallonia in Brussels, Belgium, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, among others.

In addition to her most recent prize in Indianapolis, Celeste has won First Prize in the Solo Concerto Competition, and Grand Prize of the Kingsville International Young Performers Competition, and Third Prize at the Irving Klein Competition. She also won Third Prize in the Ima Hogg International Music Competition in Houston, Texas, and was a semi-finalist of the Queen Elisabeth Competition.

STEFAN HEMPEL was born in Leipzig in 1980. His first violin lessons were at the age of four at the J.S.Bach Music Conservatory Leipzig. He studied at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin with Prof. Michael Vogler and continued his studies as a postgraduate in the class of Prof. Stephan Picard. He attended master classes with Kolja Blacher, Walter Levin, Werner Scholz, and Kolja Lessing.

Stefan is the First Prize winner of the Ibolyka-Gyarfas-Foundation (Berlin) and won Second Prize at the Deutscher Hochschulwettbewerb 2004 Frankfurt am Main, the International Joseph Joachim Competition Weimar 2005 and International Königin Sophie-Charlotte Competition, won the “Boris-Pergamenschikow Prize for Chamber Music” in 2005, and Third Prize at the International Max Rostal Competition in 2006.

A passionate chamber musician, Stefan has played recitals as the Primarius of the Chagall String Quartet. He has performed with Guy Braunstein, Tanja Tetzlaff, and Hariolf Schlichtig. Stefan is a member of the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation “Life music now”, and plays a violin made by Nicolaus Gagliano, Naples 1734.

BELLA HRISTOVA was born to musical parents in Pleven Bulgaria in 1985. Her early studies in Sofia were with Joseph Radionov with master classes with Ruggiero Ricci at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. In 1999, at the age of 13, she moved to the US to study with Stephen Shipps at the Meadowmount School of Music in New York State. She now studies violin with Ida Kavafian and chamber music with Steve Tenenbom at the Curtis Institute of Music.

Having a great interest in chamber music, she has played with artists such as Gary Graffman, Ida Kavafian, Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson, Paul Watkins and Peter Wiley.

Bella has appeared as soloist with the Ann Arbor, Illinois, Indianapolis, Redding (California), Olympia (Washington), Wyoming and Ashland (Ohio) Symphony Orchestras. She has made several appearances on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion performing live for radio audiences of over four million. In 2006 she was featured in the May issue of O (The Oprah Magazine).

Having won the First Prize, Grand Prize, European Union Prize and Barenreiter Prize at the International Kocian competition, Bella became a Laureate at the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.

YUUKI WONG was born to Japanese and Chinese parentage, and just three years after starting the violin, was admitted to the Yehudi Menuhin School in England where he studied with Rosemary Furniss and Natasha Boyarsky. At 15, he was admitted to the Oberlin Conservatory in the US to begin his Bachelors Degree. Since 2000, Yuuki has been studying at the Konservatorium Wien under Prof. Boris Kuschnir, and has participated in master classes with Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Tibor Varga, Viktor Tretyakov, Zvi Zeitlin, Mauricio Fuks, Pierre Amoyal, Pamela Frank, and Gabor Takacs-Nagy, to mention a few.

Honours bestowed upon Yuuki include a Special Prize and fourth place at the 2004 Jean Sibelius International Violin Competition, Third Prize at the Abbado International Violin Competition in 2004, and the Grand Prix at the Kingsville International Competition in 2000 where he also won the First Prize Senior Strings and Best Violinist Prize.

Yuuki’s performing experience includes extensive recital and concerto appearances in the US, UK, Scandinavia, Europe, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Other highlights include performances for the President of Singapore, and at prestigious venues such as the Armani Teatro in Milan, MusikvereinGroβesaal and Konzerthaus in Vienna, Finlandia Hall in Helsinki and Buckingham Palace in London.


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