The Wieniawski Competition is the oldest violin event of its kind in the world – it was first held in 1935. It is one of the most prestigious violin competitions in the world and one of Poland’s most important cultural brands. It is open to violinists under the age of 30 and is held every five years in Poznań. The event pays tribute to the Polish virtuoso and composer Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) and was founded on the 100th anniversary of the Patron’s birth. It is also probably the first among the musical competitions still being held in the world to be open to women participants from the very beginning.
The power of women in music
Already in the first edition in 1935, the competition was won by a Frenchwoman, Ginette Neveu. There was also no shortage of women among the winners of subsequent editions. Among them were the famous Wanda Wiłkomirska, Kaja Danczowska, Jadwiga Kaliszewska, Alena Baeva, Bomsori Kim and Veriko Tchumburidze. This year as many as 27, by far more than half of all qualified participants were women, and two female violinists were among the three finalists. The first prize was awarded to Hina Maeda (Japan), whose performance level grew steadily throughout the tournament, culminating in the final rendition of the Brahms Concerto. Second prize was awarded to violinist Meruert Karmenova from Kazakhstan, and third place went to Quingzhou Weng, a 21-year-old from China studying in Germany. Three equal honorable mentions were also awarded to Hana Chang, Jane Cho and Dayoon You.
Patron – the poet of the violin
The Competition’s Patron, Henryk Wieniawski, known as “the last virtuoso of Romanticism,” was a famous violinist known for his phenomenal technique,
a passionate educator and an extremely vivid figure. He was described as “the poet of the violin” and went down in music history as a great lyricist. Wieniawski’s compositions are still relevant today and hold an important place in the repertoire of prominent world musicians, who, inspired by his compositions, introduce fresh contexts and modern sounds to them. The first competition named after him was held in 1935 in Warsaw. The international meetings of young violinists were initiated by Henryk’s nephew, Adam Wieniawski, and organized by the Warsaw Music Society. Subsequent editions were to be held every five years, but these plans were disrupted by World War II. The second competition was organized after 17 years, in 1952, in Poznań. Since then, the competition has been held regularly every five years in the Auditorium of the Adam Mickiewicz University. The participants of the competition include the best young violinists from all over the world, fascinated by its long tradition and unique atmosphere. Among the winners of prizes and awards granted over the years were Ginette Neveu, David Oistrakh, Ida Haendel and others.
Taking place once every five years the Competition, due to the pandemic, was especially anticipated this year – it was held after a six-year hiatus. This year’s edition attracted record interest, with as many as 224 violinists from 34 countries entering the struggle for the main award. Winning the competition offers them a chance for an international career. From all the applications, the jury selected 41 participants, among whom were seven Poles. This year’s preliminaries were held entirely online based on the candidates’ submitted recordings of four compositions from the mandatory program, without corrections or editing cuts. The jury was chaired by French-born Augustin Dumay – excellent violinist, lecturer at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Brussels and conductor with the Royal Orchestra of Wallonia, who regularly performs with the world’s best ensembles. In addition, the jury included Daniel Stabrawa – Polish violinist and conductor, first concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, and Madeleine Carruzzo – Swiss violinist and member of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Beginnings of a grand career
The competition was held on 7-21 October at the Auditorium of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. The awardew gala and laureates’ concert took place on October 21, and two days later the ceremonial Second Laureates’ Concert took place at the National Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw. The pool of statutory prizes in the competition was 115 thousand euros. The first prize winner received 50 thousand euros. The winners of the 16th Henryk Wieniawski International Violin Competition will embark on a grand tour, consisting of 30 concerts in Poland and 30 abroad. The winner of the competition will perform with orchestras in Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In addition, she will make appearances in countries in Asia, the Americas and Africa. The winner will also visit such venues as the Salle Gaveau in Paris, the National Concert Hall in Taipei, the Seoul Art Center, Muziekgebouw Eindhoven and the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest.