After three very solid performances on Wednesday night, the remaining three semi-finalists in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition completed the chamber music round in the Concert Chamber of the Auckland Town Hall on Thursday night.
Chamber music as part of a solo violin competition is, on the whole, somewhat unusual. Trios, quartets and other ensembles have their own dedicated competitions around the world and for the most part, most solo instrument competitions will involve recitals of various pieces selected by the jury or by the performer and this element was completed last week in Queenstown. The rationale for the MHIVC, outlined by its Artistic Director Dene Olding, is that part of a performer’s career will inevitably involve chamber music and it makes sense to add this extra dimension. This makes the Michael Hill a very tough gig and a real test of endurance, repertoire and musicianship.
Eunae Koh, Elly Suh and Suyeon Kang, all female and all Korean, performed very strongly in the Queenstown recital sections of the semi-finals. Could they carry over their high quality performances to Auckland ?
Opening with the ‘Ghost’ trio was Eunae Koh. While this was a solid performance showing good balance, attention to ensemble detail and clean playing, I could not help make some comparisons with the performances of the previous evening. To my ear, it was not as compelling as Natsumi Tsuboi’s performance. But again, I am stating my personal views – the international jury know better than I do.
Elly Suh once again exhibited solid, clean playing in the Op 1 No 2 trio interacting well with cellist Ashley Brown and pianist Michael Houstoun and was a pleasure to listen to.
After the interval, Suyeon Kang performed the c minor Op 1 No 3 trio with true poise and balance. Compared to Timothy Chooi’s performance the precious evening, it was not as aggressive and the theme and variations second movement was impressive. The visual communication between Kang, Brown and Houstoun was very clear and consistent throughout her performance and I thought this was easily the strongest performance of the evening.
So I have to confess to be slightly surprised when the three finalists were named – they are Timothy Chooi, Eunae Koh and Suyeon Kang. Chooi and Kang will perform the Sibelius concerto while Koh will perform the Brahms.
The final will be very interesting indeed ! Good luck to all.