Keep Up With The Play

Important information and behind-the-scenes bites.

  • It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. We’ve had a marathon of emotion, beginning in Queenstown, with sixteen extraordinary young musicians sharing their passion and pathos, charm and confidence, vigour and vivacity.    

    Ioana Cristina Goicea with Christine, Lady and Sir Michael Hill

    Announced tonight at the Auckland Town Hall, Goicea receives NZ$40,000, a recording contract with the Atoll label, an intensive performance tour across New Zealand and Australia in 2018, a Michael Hill Spirits Bay pendant designed by Christine, Lady Hill, and a personalised professional development programme.

    She is also invited to perform on Sir Michael Hill’s magnificent personal violin, a 1755 Guadagnini named “The Southern Star”, on her Winner’s Tour, and will receive a gown by Kiri Nathan to perform in.

    In tonight’s Grand Final, the three finalists, USA’s Luke Hsu, Goicea and New Zealander Benjamin Baker, each performed a concerto with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

    Of the 2017 Competition, Sir Michael Hill says, “Nineteen years ago the idea for this Competition was born and it has never faltered in standard or its ability to put violinists on the international stage.

    “Tonight’s winner was a competitor four years ago and at the time said wouldn’t return until she was capable of winning. She’s worked very hard and her playing has matured – she proved what commitment, perseverance and tenacity can do.”

    The full top prize list is:

    First Prize:        Ioana Cristina Goicea, Romania

    Second Prize:   Luke Hsu, USA

    Third Prize:       Benjamin Baker, New Zealand

    Fourth Prize:    Olga Šroubková, Czech Republic

    Fifth Prize:        Sumina Studer, Switzerland

    Sixth Prize:       Kunwha Lee, South Korea

    Luke Hsu also won the Chamber Music Prize for his poised and colourful performance of Mozart’s String Quintet.

    Olga Šroubková won the Prize for the Best Performance of the NZ Commissioned Work, awarded in Queenstown at the end of Round II.

    Also awarded tonight was the Michael Hill Audience Award, which went to Sumina Studer from Switzerland.
    It’s been a wonderful journey – we’re so glad you could join us, together with these wonderful young musicians.

    It’s time to say goodbye, but not for long – you’ll be able to recapture the magic when Goicea returns for her winner’s tour in 2018.

    Let the celebrations begin!

  • Prepare to be dazzled! Tonight will see the three Michael Hill International Violin Competition finalists performing three titanic concertos, “the ultimate test of each competitor’s ability for violin playing on the grandest scale,” says the Competition’s Artistic Advisor Dene Olding.

    The Michael Hill International Violin Competition finalists, from L-R: Luke Hsu, Ioana Cristina Goicea and Benjamin Baker

    Luke Hsu (USA) opens the evening with the enchanting Sibelius, followed by Ioana Cristina Goicea (Romania) playing sparkling Tchaikovsky. New Zealand’s own Benjamin Baker plays after the interval with luscious Brahms.

    Flanked by the symphonic forces of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, concertos demand a dynamic performer with “a big tone, able to match the weight of the symphony orchestra and the dimensions of a large concert hall.” Added to this, Olding says, “The concertos are also amongst the best works in the classical music canon and will require each performer to be able to convey a musical message to the audience that can only be conveyed with these larger forces.”

    The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra with Maestro Giordano Bellincampi

    Join us tonight at the Auckland Town Hall (or follow the livestream on or The Violin Channel’s Facebook page) as the excitement of the past nine days builds to a climax.

    Come and hear three electrifying young violinists perform spell-binding concertos, and find out who will claim first prize.

    Don’t forget to have your say by voting for your favourite competitor in the Michael Hill Audience Award at

  • Just as the best athletes in the world move in the best way possible, says Physical Therapist Howard Nelson, so for musicians to perform optimally and without injury, they need to move in the best way possible.

    Howard Nelson

    “One of the main reasons for difficulty in musicians, mostly string musicians, is inefficient use of their muscles,” he says. “Too much effort, too much tension, and not allowing their limbs to be free.”

    Together with his wife, violinist and pedagogue Pamela Frank, Nelson works with musicians to identify and eliminate movements that are unhelpful.

    “The more optimally you move, the better you’ll perform and the less likely you are to have an injury.”

    Nelson takes a holistic approach, looking not only at the relationship between how a musician plays and their symptoms, but also at how they use their body throughout the day.

    “I don’t just look at the way they’re playing the instrument, it’s also how they read, use a computer, what exercises they choose, how they lift their instrument…. all those things can tie in together to create a problem if a person repeat the same lousy physical pattern over and over again.”

    Pam Frank

    The system of movement analysis Nelson teaches is attractive to musicians because it’s simple, clear and logical, he says. “If we can identify a pain with that kind of abnormal motion and we change the motion to be more neutral, more natural, and the pain goes away, that person’s got a clear treatment path. We offer the musician hopefully a logical path to improve themselves; theoretically if you move better, you’ll perform better and you’ll be less likely to have an injury.”

    The Michael Hill International Violin Competition is committed to developing and supporting its competitors in all aspects of their career,  so is delighted to be providing competitors with a workshop focusing on movement and injury prevention with Nelson and Frank today.

    Nelson will also be addressing medical students at the University of Auckland, working to improve the general knowledge of the New Zealand medical community on musicians’ health.

  • New Zealand’s Benjamin Baker, Romania’s Ioana Cristina Goicea and USA’s Luke Hsu will battle it out for the top prize on Saturday 10 June

    The Michael Hill International Violin Competition finalists, from L-R: Luke Hsu, Ioana Cristina Goicea and Benjamin Baker. Photo: Sheena Haywood

    Following two electric evenings of semi-finals, the three finalists moving on to the final round in the 2017 Michael Hill International Violin Competition were announced at the Auckland Town Hall last night.

    The three violinists will each perform a concerto with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Giordano Bellincampi.
    Their performance order is:
    Luke Hsu (USA) – Sibelius Concerto in D minor
    Ioana Cristina Goicea (Romania) Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major
    Benjamin Baker (New Zealand) – Brahms Concerto in D major

    Of the finalists and their journey thus far, international juror, Dene Olding says, “We are in for an exciting finale on Saturday. The judges have chosen three excellent violinists who exhibited virtuosity, passion and musicianship in the Queenstown quarter-finals, and style and polish in the chamber music round in Auckland. It was most inspiring to hear such talented young violinists and New Zealand should be proud of this exceptional international event.”

    Congratulations to the three finalists, as well as the three semi-finalists who didn’t make it through but also performed brilliantly.

  • We were treated to some delightful Mozart Quintets last night thanks to the first three semi-finalists, Sumina Studer, Ioana Cristina Goicea and Olga Šroubková.

    Also joining us last night was thousands of audience members from around the world on our livestream and the Facebook Live stream on The Violin Channel’s Facebook page. We hope to see them all there again tonight.

    Tonight’s schedule is below:

    7:30pm: Kunwha Lee – Quintet in C major, K515
    8.15pm: Benjamin Baker – Quintet in G minor, K516
    9.10pm: Luke Hsu – Quintet in G minor, K516
    Approx 10pm – Announcement of the three Finalists

    Collaborating Artists: Justine Cormack, Gillian Ansell, Julia Joyce and Ashley Brown

  • We are working with Michael Hill, the jewellery business, on something very special today. As a way of celebrating the sponsorship, this morning, violinist Hanny Lee will be performing outside the Michael Hill store in Auckland’s Vulcan Lane. If you work or walk near there, please pop down and enjoy her beautiful playing. 

    Michael Hill Vulcan Lane

    We interviewed Hanny recently about the importance of access to a good instrument…

    Having access to a good instrument is a major challenge for many young violinists today. To help address this, part of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition development programme is the two-year loan of a Bergonzi violin (made in 2005 by contemporary luthier Riccardo Bergonzi) offered to a deserving player identified by the jury.

    “The award of the Bergonzi came at just the right time for me, when I desperately needed a better violin,” says Hanny Lee, the recipient of Bergonzi loan at the 2015 Competition. “It was a great impetus for me to continue my Masters degree [at the University of Auckland] and boosted my confidence.”

    “I personally think the Bergonzi is a very masculine violin,” says Lee about the character of the instrument itself. “Very straightforward, strong, passionate and loud!”

    Over the past two years, the strong and straightforward character of the Bergonzi was the perfect match to Lee’s Masters recital programme of music from World War II, and it’s powerful Gstring sound played an important role in her performances of the Shostakovich string quartet No. 8. The Bergonzi has also seen Lee through masterclasses, scholarship auditions, solo recitals and professional work as an orchestral violinist.

    The nature of the instrument furthered Lee’s development as a musician, she says. “The Bergonzi challenged me to be more accurate with intonation and to be more creative with the variety of sound character. Because the Bergonzi wouldn’t resonate perfectly unless I used very accurate fingering or the right type of vibrato, it trained me to have more sensitive ears and broadened my imagination to seek the most ‘attractive’ sound on each piece I played.”

    Looking to the future, Lee hopes to continue working with professional orchestras at the same time as building up her chamber music experience.

    The next recipient of the Bergonzi violin will be announced at prize giving at the Competition Final on Saturday 10 June. 

  • Get to know our six outstanding semi-finalists in advance of their Round III performances. We love these photos, courtesy of Sheena Haywood Photography (excl. Kunwha Lee), taken yesterday in beautiful Queenstown!

    Sumina Studer (Switzerland)

    “What you experience outside the rehearsal room is important,” says Swiss violinist Sumina Studer, who rejects the idea that more practice automatically equals better performance. And perhaps that’s why this 20-year old young woman, the youngest of all the semifinalists, is able to present such emotive performances. Her playing has already won her numerous prizes, including Second Prize at the Arthur Grumiaux International Competition as well as the Second Prize and the Sonata Prize at the Louis Spohr International Competition, all in 2016.

    Born and raised in Zürich in a musical family (her father teaches piano, her mother teaches singing and her sister is a cellist) Sumina now studies at the prestigious Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin with Antje Weithaas – who also taught Suyeon Kang, winner of the 2015 Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

    Ioana Cristina Goicea (Romania)

    Ioana Cristina Goicea

    Music runs in the family for Romanian violinist Ioana Cristina Goicea. Her mother won the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition and made a career as a violin soloist, so she was surrounded by music from birth. Her grandfather, also a professional violinist and concertmaster, started teaching Ioana when she was four years old: “He was very patient in teaching me the technique,” she says.

    She won fifth prize in the 2013 Michael Hill International Violin Competition when she was only 20 years old and fell in love with New Zealand. “I’ve been thinking about coming back ever since!” she says. Ioana’s impressive list of prizes (including the “Stefan Gheorghiu” special prize for the most accomplished Romanian contestant at the George Enescu International competition in 2016, Fifth Prize at the International Fritz Kreisler Competition in 2014, and First Prize and Audience Prize at the Johannes Brahms International Competition in 2013) is a testament to her inventive and colourful sound.

    Olga Šroubková

    Olga Šroubková

    Czech violinist Olga Šroubková carried away the prize for the Best Performance of the New Zealand Commissioned Work in the 2017 Michael Hill International Violin Competition on Monday, a work written specially for the competition. She performed from memory, having had only two weeks to learn it, impressing audiences with her commitment and musical creativity.

    Originally listed as an alternate and called in to replace a sick competitor, Olga flew to New Zealand off the back of multiple prize wins at the 2017 Prague Spring International Music Competition, including First Prize, Best Performance of a Contemporary Work, and Best Interpretation of Bohuslav Martinů.


    Kunwha Lee (South Korea)

    Kunwha Lee

    Described by Kyung Sun Lee, professor of violin at the Seoul National University, as “a gifted musician who is thoroughly dedicated to her music”, South Korean Kunwha Lee employs her “amazing technical facility” to bring a sense of poise to her performances.

    A student at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München, and prior to that at Seoul National University, Kunwha won Second Prize at the Mirecourt International Violin in 2011, and was also a participant in the Leopold Mozart International Violin Competition in 2016. Recently, twenty-four year old Kunwha became interested in exploring traditional Korean music and how that can inform her classical training.

    Benjamin Baker (New Zealand)

    Benjamin Baker

    “If I hadn’t played the violin, I would have been an All Black,” says Wellington-born Benjamin Baker. But violin hooked him first – as a three-year-old he told his mum he wanted to play ‘that guitar thing’ and he’s never looked back!

    His most recent accomplishments include first prize at the 2016 Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York and numerous solo engagements, including being engaged by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra as a last minute replacement to perform Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, in October last year, a performance many Aucklanders will remember.

    In 2014, Benjamin toured with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, an experience that not only altered his perspective on the physicality of performance but sparked an interest in cross-performance discipline collaborations, the fruits of which were seen in his captivating multimedia performance in the Competition’s Ad Libitum section.

    Luke Hsu (USA)

    Luke Hsu

    “NZ is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been”, says American violinist Luke Hsu. He came to NZ for the 2011 Michael Hill Competition and didn’t progress, but now he’s back, with major prize wins under his belt – 1st prize at the Ima Hogg Houston Symphony Competition (as well as scooping up the Hermann Shoss Audience Choice Award and the Robert and Nancy Peiser Award for Artistic Encouragement) Fourth Prize and Best Mozart concerti at the Wieniawski International Violin Competition and Third Prize at the Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition, all in 2016.

    The first time Luke got to hold a violin, he says, “I ran all around our lounge yelling in excitement!” That excitement is still audible in Luke’s playing.

    The Semi-finals will be spread over two evenings, Wednesday 8 and Thursday 9 June – click here to buy tickets and find more details.

    If you missed the semifinalists’ Round I and II performances, don’t worry, you can catch up at Look out for their Ad Libitum performances in particular as these open a window into their wider musical personality.

    The semi-finalists also spent half an hour yesterday answering questions from fans on The Violin Channel‘s Facebook page, so check that out too!

    The semi-finalists on Facebook Live for The Violin Channel
  • Nimble fingers at play, long arching lines over a murmuring accompaniment – the Mozart quintets are the music of carefree summer evenings, dining alfresco and reclining with a glass of wine.

    The quintets are no gentle experience for the competitors though: “The first violin parts of these quintets will challenge the semi-finalists to produce a refined Mozart sound whilst offering some technical difficulties which are the equal of his concertos,” says Michael Hill International Violin Competition Artistic Advisor Dene Olding.

    Dene Olding
    “Their chamber music skills will be tested to the limit as they strive for a perfectly blended string sound whilst still leading the ensemble and stamping their individuality and interpretation on the performance,” Olding says.

    Lara Hall, violin lecturer at University of Waikato and violinist in the New Zealand Chamber Soloists will be revealing further insights into these sublime quintets at the Insider’s Guide before tonight’s session.

    Lara Hall

    To see the semifinalists’ ensemble and leadership skills in action, join us in the Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber tonight and tomorrow evening (schedule below).

    Tickets are still available, but get in quick! (or, if you can’t join us in person follow the livestream here)

    If you missed any of the semifinalists Round I and II performances, don’t worry, you can catch up on our YouTube channel – all the performances are now available on demand.

    See you there, and don’t forget you can vote for your favourite competitor!

    The details for tonight’s semi-final are: 

    6:30pm: Insider’s Guide “The Mozart String Quintets” – Lara Hall
    7:30pm: Sumina Studer – Quintet in D major, K593
    8.15pm: Ioana Cristina Goicea – Quintet in G minor, K516
    9.10pm: Olga Šroubková – Quintet in G minor, K516

    Collaborating Artists: Justine Cormack, Gillian Ansell, Julia Joyce and Ashley Brown
    Repertoire: Mozart String Quintets

  • Disappointed your favourite competitor hasn’t made the cut this time?

    Don’t despair, says Sir Michael Hill.

    In his opening address, he reminded competitors that the key to success is not prizes and recognition, but rather perseverance.

    And in fact, the 2017 semi-finalists are testament to that perseverance– this year’s semifinalists include Benjamin Baker, the New Zealand Development Prize winner from 2013; Ioana Cristina Goicea, 5th prize winner from 2013, and Luke Hsu, who competed in the 2011 Competition. Another two of the semifinalists didn’t quite make the original selection and were listed as alternates: Sumina Studer and Olga Šroubková. These are all individuals who have tenacity – no strangers to setbacks, but all the stronger for them.

    There couldn’t be a stronger example of the spirit of perseverance that is encouraged at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition. We’re justly proud of all our laureates and we put every effort into making sure every competitor leaves a finer musician.

    We can’t wait to see what you do next.

    Sir Michael Hill speaking at the Opening Reception
  • Following four days of fearless performances, the judges have voted and selected the six competitors who will be progressing to the semi-finals in Auckland.

    The 2017 Michael Hill International Violin Competition semi-finalists, in their performance order, are:

    Sumina Studer – Switzerland
    Ioana Cristina Goicea – Romania
    Olga Šroubková – Czech Republic
    Kunwha Lee – South Korea
    Benjamin Baker – New Zealand
    Luke Hsu – USA

    The semi-finalists will be performing Mozart String Quintets with New Zealand’s leading chamber musicians as they battle for a chance to be in the top three.

    The semi-finals will be held in Auckland, Wednesday 7 June and Thursday 8 June in the Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber.

    Also this evening, Olga Šroubková was awarded the prize for Best Performance of New Zealand Commissioned Work, Karlo Margetić’s On An Imaginary Folk Song, for which she receives NZ$2,000.

    We offer a huge bravo to all the competitors for a wealth of music over the last four days, and thank them for sharing their talent and musicianship with us. In the words of Sir Michael Hill, “You’re all marvellous.”

    It’s not time to say goodbye just yet, though. The competitors who didn’t progress to the semi-finals will also be coming to Auckland, participating in numerous professional development opportunities, as well as taking the opportunity to explore the sights of the City of Sails.

    We thank Queenstown for the wonderful hospitality we always receive, and look forward to seeing everyone in Auckland or on the livestream for exquisite Mozart, and then onward to the Final! 

    Benjamin Baker, Ioana Cristina Goicea, Luke Hsu, Christine, Lady Hill, Sir Michael Hill, Kunwha Lee, Sumina Studer, Olga Šroubková
  • Ravel’s virtuoso showpiece Tzigane was a popular choice this morning, performed by three of the four competitors in this session (pictured below).

    It’s well-known that Ravel was inspired by the gypsy violin tradition in this work, but less well known that the work grew out of an improvisation session with Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi, one of the first female violinists to make a career as a concert artist. Jelly then commissioned the work, which Ravel dedicated to her.

    The competitors spirited performances echoed the charisma of Jelly’s premiere of the work in 1924.

    Yoo Min Seo
    Jaeook Lee
    Ioana Cristina Goicea
  • Are you placing your bets on what concertos we’ll be hearing on Saturday night?

    Three grand staples of the repertoire – Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius – all have a strong chance. Four competitors have selected each of these concertos, giving a 25% likelihood for any of these to appear on stage on Saturday.

    Or will it be one of the bolder choices? Two competitors plan to present the Shostakovich, while one competitor has chosen the brusque Stravinsky and another the darkly lyrical Prokofiev 2nd.

    Today is the final day of Quarter-final performances (schedule follows), and this evening the six progressing violinists will be announced. Those six will perform Mozart Quintets on Wednesday and Thursday evening before the three finalists are selected.

    Stay tuned – and let us know what you think by voting for your favourite competitor online at

    10:00 – 10.45am       Ioana Cristina Goicea, Romania

    10:45 – 11:30am        Olga Šroubková, Czech Republic


    11.45am – 12.30pmYoo Min Seo, South Korea 

    12.30 – 1.15pm        Jaeook Lee, South Korea


    2.30 – 3.15pm        Kunwha Lee, South Korea

    3.15 – 4.00pm        Benjamin Baker, New Zealand


    4.15 – 5.00pm         Luke Hsu, USA

    5.00 – 5.45pm         Mari Lee, South Korea / Japan 

  • “What you wear is such an expression of who you are,” Diane Kruger, Actress

    The array of ensembles worn by our competitors only reinforced the incredible display of talent on stage over the last three days. Check out some of our favourite images, captured by Sheena Haywood Photography

    Natsumi Tsuboi
    Sumina Studer
    Mari Lee
    Momo Wong
    Yoo Min Seo
    Jung Min Choi
    Benjamin Baker
    Asako Fukuda
    Elizabeth Basoff-Darskaia
    So Young Choi
    So Young Choi

    “It is paramount that a violinist feel empowered and inspired by what they are wearing” – Kiri Nathan, NZ fashion designer

    Because the Michael Hill International Violin Competition seeks to empower and develop all aspects of their winner’s professional life, one part of the stunning prize package on offer is a bespoke gown or suit from Kiri Nathan (female) or Working Style (male).

  • The competitors’ musical personality and interpretive creativity was on show yesterday as each competitor gave their own rendition of Karlo Margetić’s On an Imaginary Folk Song. Each violinist brought something new to this evocative work, with its contrasts between rambunctious rhythms and atmospheric passages.

    Luke Hsu

    Competitors had a wide range of choice in what they prepared for their sonata and virtuoso work so their choices in this round gave further insight into their overall style as a musician.

    With only one day left in Queenstown, everyone in the audience is playing talent scout, marking up their programme books with comments and observations, debating their favourites with their neighbours. 

    Live and online audiences can vote for their favourite Competitor in the Michael Hill Audience Award

    This morning, Round 2 will continue as the competitors vie to wow the judges for the chance to compete in Auckland as one of the six semi-finalists. Make sure you have your say by voting for your favourite competitor to win the audience prize at

    (If you missed any Round I performances you can catch up on our youtube channel – check out

  • The Competition staff are beavering away on a row of laptops, looking out at the gondola ascending the pine-covered mountains while the skydivers float downwards in their parachutes to land on the field in front.

    (Front: Yee Yang
    Members of the production team

    It takes a team effort to make sure everything runs smoothly and that all the competitors, judges, and audiences have the warm and caring experience that the Michael Hill International Violin Competition is famed for.

    Luthiers and bow makers are also on site, both supporting the competitors and displaying a variety of new instruments and bows, drawing back the curtain for audience members on the significance of old vs new and Stradivarius vs Guanarius.

    Our on-site Luthiers

    This morning Round II kicks off with the first eight competitors – make sure you join in the fun!

    9.30 – 10.00am        INSIDER’S GUIDE Stephen Larsen and Karlo Margetic – On an Imaginary Folk Song (NZ commissioned work)

    10:00 – 10.45am       Elizabeth Basoff-Darskaia, Russia / USA

    10:45 – 11:30am        Jung Min Choi, South Korea


    11.45am – 12.30pm Asako Fukuda, Japan

    12.30 – 1.15pm        So Young Choi, South Korea


    2.00 – 2.30pm        INSIDER’S GUIDE – Gary Leahy – What about the bow?

    2.30 – 3.15pm        Galiya Zharova, Kazakhstan

    3.15 – 4.00pm        Momo Wong, Japan / USA


    4.15 – 5.00pm         Natsumi Tsuboi, Japan

    5.00 – 5.45pm         Sumina Studer, Switzerland

    Don’t forget the livestream and also to vote for your favourite in the Michael Hill Audience Award – both on our web site.

  • Nicolo Paganini, the first violinist to make a career as a superstar performer, left as his legacy the 24 Caprices, a compendium of all the fiendish techniques he dreamed up.

    Andrew Beer, concertmaster of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, inventoried some of these techniques for audiences in today’s Insider’s Guide session, ably demonstrated by Alexandra Lomeiko, the New Zealand Development Prize Winner. 

    Andrew Beer
    Alexandra Lomeiko

    As each competitor presented their caprice today, audiences were hanging in suspense, painfully conscious of all the hurdles facing the competitors, and erupting into delighted applause with each successful performance.

    The competitors’ Ad Libitum items continued to charm the audience, such as Kiwi violinist Benjamin Baker’s multimedia item – Kreisler’s Recitative and Scherzo in elegant dialogue with a video recording of dance (choreographed by Loughlan Prior), an unexpectedly fitting pairing that evolved from Baker’s work with Royal New Zealand Ballet three years previously.

    Round I has now concluded, but all of the competitors will be performing again in Round II from tomorrow, showcasing their skill at the complexities of large-scale Romantic Sonatas, virtuoso show pieces and, in a test of their independent learning and interpretation skills, a newly-composed piece by NZ composer Karlo Margetić, which they’ve had only two months to learn.

  • Here are a few of our favourite pics from yesterday and today, thanks to Sheena Haywood Photography. More to come!

    Asako Fukuda
    Jaeook Lee
    Olga Sroubkova
    So Young Choi
    Yoo Min Seo
    Kunwha Lee
  • Some of the best gifts come in small packages (as part of the Michael Hill family, we would know!) and today’s continuing Round I performances feature some of the jewels of the violin repertoire. These sparkling miniatures (known as Salon Pieces) demand “a sophisticated approach, a superior sense of style, exquisitely expressive playing, and sweet tone,” says the Competition’s Artistic Advisor, Dene Olding.

    Listeners will also be treated to some of the pinnacles of solo violin repertoire in Round I, with competitors presenting selections from Bach solo Sonatas and Partitas and the Paganini Caprices. And, perhaps most exciting, each competitor will be sharing a work of their choice, giving audiences and judges a glimpse into the personality of each individual.

    Make sure you join us, in person or online at, for the following performers remaining in Round I:

    9.30 – 10.00am        INSIDER’S GUIDE Q&A – Andrew Beer – Technical brilliance

    APO Concertmaster and today’s Insider’s Guide host, Andrew Beer

    10:00 – 10.40am      Ioana Cristina Goicea, Romania
    10:40 – 11:20am        Olga Šroubková, Czech Republic


    11.35am – 12.15pm  Yoo Min Seo, South Korea
    12.15 – 12.55pm        Jaeook Lee, South Korea


    2.00 – 2.40pm        Kunwha Lee, South Korea
    2.40 – 3.20pm       Benjamin Baker, New Zealand


    3.35 – 4.15pm        Luke Hsu, USA
    4.15 – 4.45pm        Mari Lee, South Korea / Japan

  • The new Ad Libitum (literally: At the performer’s pleasure) section in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition is designed to allow competitors to show off their distinctive qualities, personality and communication skills.

    The competitors were given free reign to choose a work that is meaningful to them, and the individualism of each competitor shone through today as a delightful variety of personalities forged their own personal connection with the listeners through spoken introductions.

    Among today’s performances was Elizabeth Basoff-Darskaia (Russia/USA) who related a charming anecdote from her childhood, when she was enraptured by a work she heard playing on the radio, inviting the audience to hear that work, the Ysaÿe Sonata No. 6, through the ears of a five-year old child.

    Many competitors took the opportunity to showcase works not usually heard at competitions, with Jung Min Choi (South Korea) giving a thoughtfully prepared introduction to Subito by Lutosławski (a work younger than she is!), transforming the potentially opaque piece into an engaging experience.

    Other competitors embraced a role as ambassador for their home countries, with Asako Fukuda (Japan) and Natsumi Tsuboi (Japan) presenting works by Japanese composers, and So Young Choi (South Korea) performing a work by Korean composer Young Jo Lee.

    To get to know the remaining eight competitors through their Ad Libitum selections, join us tomorrow, in person or online.

  •  Technology in rehearsal at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition

    Rehearsals are hugely important for the first rounds of the 2017 Michael Hill International Violin Competition – it’s the only chance the competitors get to meet their collaborating artists, who this year in Queenstown are Sarah Watkins and Jian Liu.

    Here’s a sneak peek at Competition pianist Sarah Watkins rehearsing with competitor Momo Wong (and watch a video on our Facebook page).

    A number of the competitors have selected the same works to perform, and Watkins is using her iPad to aid her in enabling each competitor to present their unique interpretation.

    This allows her to keep all her personal annotations and fingerings on the score, creating a fresh version from this template for each competitor, she explains.

    “This year will be my first time performing from an iPad,” says Watkins.

    “Each performance isn’t going to be wildly different but there could be subtle differences, and you just want to make sure that you have made enough notes in your music that you’ll be able to do that in the moment.

    “Technology can’t do all the work though, she says, “It’s listening to whoever it is you’re playing with and just engaging with them in the moment.”

    Sarah Watkins rehearsing with Momo Wong. Photo Sheena Haywood


  • The official draw for the Competition order took place last night by Sir Michael and Christine, Lady Hill, during a welcome reception at the Hills’ residence in Queenstown.

    In keeping with the spirit of hospitality and support that underpins the competition, competitors were welcomed with a mihi whakatau by local iwi, which included a performance by children from Arrowtown Primary School, and an inspiring address from Sir Michael Hill.

    The performance order for the 2017 Michael Hill International Violin Competition Quarterfinalists is:

    1. Elizabeth Basoff-Darskaia (Female) – Russia / USA
    2. Jung Min Choi (Female) – South Korea
    3. Asako Fukuda (Female) – Japan
    4. So Young Choi (Female) – South Korea
    5. Galiya Zharova (Female) – Kazakhstan
    6. Momo Wong (Female) – Japan / USA
    7. Natsumi Tsuboi (Female) – Japan
    8. Sumina Studer (Female) – Switzerland
    9. Ioana Cristina Goicea (Female) – Romania
    10. Olga Šroubková (Female) – Czech Republic
    11. Yoo Min Seo (Female) – South Korea
    12. Jaeook Lee (Male) – South Korea
    13. Kunwha Lee (Female) – South Korea
    14. Benjamin Baker (Male) – New Zealand
    15. Luke Hsu (Male) – USA
    16. Mari Lee (Female) – South Korea / Japan

    The first round gets underway now with performances of Bach, Paganini, salon pieces and a special item of each performer’s choice.

    If you’re cheering for a particular competitor, check out the schedule here to find out when they’ll be performing, or visit anytime for guaranteed show-stopping performances as these young violinists push the limits of violin technique.

  • Meet Alexandra Lomeiko, NZ Development Prize Winner
    Classroom Conversations

    Alexandra Lomeiko plays to inspire the Students at Wakatipu High School this afternoon.
    Photo credit: Sheena Haywood Photography

    And with fellow Violin Student Lynda Matthews.
    Photo credit: Sheena Haywood Photography

    One of the elements in the Development Prize Winner package is leading a Classroom Conversation with students.

    “I enjoy talking to younger people and sharing my experiences,” says Alexandra Lomeiko, this year’s Michael Hill International Violin Competition New Zealand Development Prize Winner, at her Classroom Conversation at Wakatipu High School.

    “While I was growing up in New Zealand, it was quite difficult to understand what a career in music entailed,” she says. “It’s not really something that many people do here and I’m looking forward to sharing some of my experiences and the very little words of wisdom I have on what a career in music has to offer.” Lomeiko is being typically modest – she’s about to graduate with a Masters degree from the Royal College of Music and has a series of solo recitals lined up following her return to the UK.

    Having lived abroad for the last 10 years, Lomeiko is excited to see the developments in music performance and education in New Zealand: “It’s really amazing to see how the classical music world here is developing, because I think it’s definitely expanded a lot more. Certainly with the Michael Hill International Violin Competition, it’s grown so much internationally that it’s really well recognised.”

    Ms Lomeiko will also be performing at a range of events throughout the competition as well as observing the competition as a whole. She has played in a lot of competitions previously, so she’s looking forward to observing from a different perspective. “It’ll be really interesting to just watch how others do it and be part of the audience and see what it’s like to be on the other side,” she says.

    To hear Alexandra Lomeiko play, come along to the Insider’s Guide session with Andrew Beer, 9.30am Saturday 3 June (Queenstown) where she’ll be demonstrating some of the technical wizardry of virtuoso works heard later in the day.

2017 Competition Online Voting Booth