The 1st Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition officially begins after two years of careful preparations that paved the way for the 1st Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition (SISIVC) to stage its opening ceremony followed by a press conference at the Shanghai Symphony Hall and speeches by Art Director of Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film & TV Wu Xiaoming, Music Director of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and President of the competition’s Organisation Committee Long Yu, President of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Executive President of the competition’s Organisation Committee Fedina Zhou, Chairman of China Pacific Insurance (Group) Co., Ltd. (CPIC) Gao Guofu, and Co-chairs of the jury committee David Stern and Vera Tsu Weiling. Jury members and competition contestants were also introduced to the public during the occasion.
Culture booster and talent incubator
Prestigious competitions such as Tchaikovsky, Queen Elizabeth, Paganini, Wieniawski and others have long attracted the attention of global music lovers. As China’s economy progressed, its citizens’ demand for cultural events grew and their desire for witnessing high-level competitions intensified. “Such long-held desire is finally fulfilled by the establishment of SISIVC in China,” Fedina Zhou commented, “and Shanghai’s arts and culture landscape is made even more beautiful. We are pleased to see that SISIVC has attracted top contestants from all over the world to gather here. Their presence guarantees a music feast for audience in China to enjoy the current level of outstanding violin playing around the globe.”
All semi-final contestants will perform a signature Chinese composition as part of the mandatory repertoires — “The Butterfly Lovers” Violin Concerto, as SISIVC celebrates its identity as a top-level international competition hosted by China. Provided by the primary benefactor of this competition CPIC, a prize in recognition of the ‘Best Chinese Work Performance – CPIC Award’ will encourage candidates to turn their talents towards the Chinese work. In coming years, SISIVC will continue appointing existing Chinese composition or even a newly commissioned piece as mandatory repertoire, in its effort to harness the competition as a platform to appreciate Chinese compositions as well as spreading such appreciation to the world.
The Organisation Committee also revealed that representatives from several international music agencies and symphony orchestras will arrive on scene to spot the next great talents and to help them launch their careers. Besides the competition’s organiser Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, other orchestras including China Philharmonic Orchestra, Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and Sydney Symphony Orchestra have promised to provide performance contract for potential contestants. Long Yu affirmed that “the establishment of SISIVC not only provides a platform for global talents to showcase their skills, more importantly it nurtures contestants to become ambassadors for the classical music culture. Through SISIVC we hope to establish a comprehensive talent incubator, in order to revitalize and promote classical music.”
Joyful stage packed with distinguished guests
The opening ceremony press conference with 15 distinguished guests sharing the stage was an impressive sight to behold. Contestants and jury members entered the stage from separate entrances, reflecting the competition’s commitment to remain open, fair, and transparent as the Organisation Committee actively prevents the contestants from being in close contact with jury members. Co-chair of the jury panel Vera Tsu Weiling explained, “during the preparation period we repeatedly discussed the competition rules, referencing rules of existing international competitions as well as our own experience and insights from sitting on jury panels. All these efforts aim to bring fairness to all, in order for every contestant to stay focused and enjoy performing the music.” Witnessed by guests, contestants came to the stage one-by-one to draw ballot for their order of performance in the first round. Performance order for the semi-finals and finals will be decided by ballot draw after the completion of the first round and semi-final round respectively.
Contestants now only have less than 2 days to rest before jumping into the heat of the competition. A 4-day preliminary round will see no more than 18 contestants go onto the weeklong semi-finals, after which the remaining 6 will compete in the final round. To provide an optimal environment for the competition, the audience is instructed to leave all electronic devices with filming functions outside the venue and even jury members are not allowed to bring cellphones into the venue.
Highly sought-after tickets. Live broadcasting on TV & web
All semi-final tickets were sold out within one week of ticketing, and only a few low category tickets of the final round left even with more seats opening for sale. Reservation for all first round sessions is almost full. Audience members will come to watch the competition from as far as Beijing, Tianjin, Sichuan, Xi’an and other cities; some even from overseas.
The Organisation Committee is well prepared to face such popular demand. Fedina Zhou announced at the press conference about SISIVC’s cooperation with LeTV Music and SMG. Under such cooperation, SMG will be live broadcasting the final round on Art Channel accompanied by on-site live commentary. This broadcast will also be streamed on the special SISIVC section on the LeTV Music website under agreement between SMG and LeTV Music. As the official online partner with extensive live events streaming experience including Beijing International Music Festival and Verbier Festival, LeTV Music will live stream the semi-finals. All preliminary round videos can be watched on the competition’s official social network channels including Weibo, WeChat, YouTube, Facebook and more.
Challenging Demand and Special Award
Since its launch in September 2015, SISIVC has attracted global attention through its eminent jury panel, challenging repertoire requirements, and the world’s highest competition monetary award. The strength of its jury panel is comparable to that of any long-existing competition. The panel comprises renowned soloists, distinguished educators, as well as artists from other instrument fields in order to better evaluate the candidates’ potential from diverse angles.
SISIVC’s demanding requirement for contestants is reflected in its mandatory repertoires. While other competitions typically ask for a 60-minute recital during the semi-final round, SISIVC challenges the contestants by requiring two mandatory concertos – “The Butterfly Lovers” accompanied by piano, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 with a chamber orchestra (with original improvisation during the cadenza section), a sonata, as well as the 1st movement of piano trio by Schubert or Brahms. No contestants would be able to meet these requirements without considerable talent and preparation. Such challenging requirement will no doubt make the emerging winners more convincing to all.
SISIVC also set up a unique “Isaac Stern Award – Human Spirit Award”. An open call was conducted for stories demonstrating the efforts of an individual who made contribution to humanity through music. Enthusiastic responses came from many countries including the United States and Brazil. Long Yu, guest jury member Yo-Yo Ma, and the Stern family decided together on the winning entry, to be announced on the day of final round competition on September 2nd. The individual featured in the winning entry will be invited to accept the award from the Stern family. Yo-Yo Ma commented, “How fortunate we are that his spirit lives on, through the legions of people he mentored, myself included; through his magnificent recordings and performances; through the dedication to life and music of each of his children; through his journey to China, memorialized in the film ‘From Mao to Mozart’; and now through the Isaac Stern Human Spirit Award. I extend my congratulations to the first recipient of this award.”