Taiwanese violinist Tseng Yu-chien wins Singapore's US$50,000 prize

SINGAPORE - Two Taiwanese violinists who call themselves "besties" swept the inaugural Singapore International Violin Competition on Jan 21.

Tseng Yu-chien took home the top prize of US$50,000 (S$66,000) with a performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor during the grand final round with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

Richard Lin, his friend of 14 years and former schoolmate at the Curtis Institute of Music, won the US$25,000 second prize, as well as a US$2,000 Audience Prize for a rendition of Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major.

Along with third-prize-winner Sirena Huang from the US, they emerged tops among 35 musicians from 14 countries who were invited to Singapore for live competition rounds held from Jan 10.

These 35 were selected from around 150 initial applicants who sent in performance tapes  between June and September 2014.

At a press conference after the grand final round of the competition, Tseng, who turns 21 this year, hugged Lin and said: "All of them in the grand final are friends I've known since I was very young. It was just unbelievable to see how they grew up and improved so much. Even if I had won third prize, I would have been happy".

Speaking of Tseng's  performance, jury head Qian Zhou said: "We are confident we have a winner with the presence, awareness and instinct to take forward our art."

Held for the first time this year, the Singapore International Violin Competition is a triennial contest which aims to boost the career of a talented violinist under 30, from anywhere in the world.

Apart from the cash prize, the winning violinist is eligible for a recording produced and globally distributed with music label Naxos and performances with noted orchestras such as the London Philharmonic.

All winners are eligible for a three-year loan of a fine violin from the Rin Collection, which includes top-end instruments such as Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati.

The next competition will be held in 2018.

akshitan@sph.com.sg