Competition Calendar

  • Queenstown Memorial Centre
    Photo credit: Francis Vallance, 2014.

    Set in the centre of town with the backdrop of The Remarkables, this half of the Competition is where all 18 Competitors are run through the gauntlet over three very intensive days to see, at the end of Monday’s programme, who the judges will advance to Round III.

    Collaborating pianists Diedre Irons and Sarah Watkins support the semi-finalists through Round I and II. The repertoire being performed in Queenstown has been very carefully chosen to display the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors to the judges, yet be enjoyable for audience members. Half of our Queenstown audience travels from outside the region to attend the Queenstown rounds so don’t wait to the last minute to secure your tickets.

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  • Thursday 4 June

    Three course Dinner at The Hills

    $99 per person – three course dinner and performances by Development Prizewinners Amalia Hall and Markiyan Melnychenko. RSVP to Sophie or phone 03 409 8290.

    Amalia Hall Markiyan Melnychenko

    RSVP to Sophie
  • Friday 5 June

    The Competition’s public programme kicks off with a few launch events, intended to introduce the Competition artists to the public, and get everyone in the right mindset for what is to follow in the next few days.

    The theme for this day is about the violins themselves – what they are and who made them.

    5:30pm – 6:30pm
    Violins and their Makers: Past and Present
    a panel discussion hosted by Kerry Stevens (free to public)

    How do you judge a violin? How much does the instrument contribute to the success of a performance? Old versus new – how can you tell? What are the Jury’s instruments of choice? Few young artists can afford a Stradivari, Guarneri or Amati, so what should they aim for? Are 300-year old violins from Cremona really better than the best modern instruments?
    Hear the range of views offered by the experts: the international jury of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

    6:30pm – 7:30pm
    INSIDERS’ GUIDE: The Old Masters and New World Maker 
hosted by Dick Panting, Official Competition Luthier and Johannes Leuthold, Geigenbau JG Leuthold, Zurich (free to public)

    Dick is available for the Competitors throughout to the Competition to immediately examine and tweak or even repair their violins should they need urgent attention to ensure they’re delivering their maximum capacity. Dick is also a well-known violin maker in New Zealand and Australia and will be sharing some tricks of the trade and his views on modern violins in today’s world. He will be joined by Johannes, a well-regarded dealer of European fine stringed instruments in Switzerland.

    Welcome Back Winner Recital
    Session 1Nikki Chooi (2013 winner) with pianist Sarah Watkins
    A captivating concert which includes a charming trio for Nikki Chooi, Amalia Hall and Markiyan Melnychenko (NZ and Australian Development Prizewinners). A variety of violins (old and new) will be played so the audience can get a sense of the options available to young artists these days.

    Mozart Sonata in B-flat major, K378 > Programme Note

    Herman Three Capriccios > Programme Note
    – Capriccio No 1, Op 2
    – Capriccio No 2, Op 5
    – Capriccio No 3, Op 13

    Prokofiev Violin Sonata No 1 in F minor, Op 80 > Programme Note

    Sarasate Zigeunerweisen > Programme Note

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  • Saturday 6 June
    Round I

    With collaborating pianists Diedre Irons and Sarah Watkins

    18 international rising stars are put through their paces in the grueling first round with works by Bach, Paganini, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake solo, and a salon (encore) piece of their choice. The range of the competitors’ skills of extreme technical precision and utter charm will be tested on this first day.

    9:00am – 9:25am
    INSIDERS’ GUIDE – host Tessa Petersen (Otago University)

    Hush! (The Concert) by James Tissot, painted 1875
    Hush! (The Concert) by James Tissot, painted 1875

    Flights of Fancy – the enduring perfumes of the Salon Genre
    Tessa will contextualise the salon pieces being heard on this first day. What was their purpose and what would it have been like in the day?
    > Programme Note
    > View Handout

    9:30am – 12:45pm
    Session 2 (Competitors #1-6)

    2:15pm – 5:30pm
    Session 3 (Competitors #7-12)

    7:00pm – 10:15pm
    Session 4 (Competitors #13-18)


  • Sunday 7 June
    Round II

    With collaborating pianists Diedre Irons and Sarah Watkins

    This demanding round tests the 18 violinists in their interpretative abilities: NZ composer, Kenneth Young’s new commission, Gone, will be premiered 18 times. All the competitors will be tested with very telling Mozart concerti and Romantic era sonatas and will then dazzle with a show-off piece of their choice.

    9:00am – 9:25am
    INSIDERS’ GUIDE – host Martin Riseley (NZ School of Music)
    Composing: The Creative Process
    Martin has provided creative input into three of the Competition’s NZ works and is joined by Kenneth Young to talk about the process for these commissions.

    9:30am – 1:10pm
    Session 5 (Competitors #1-5)

    2:40pm – 5:40pm
    Session 6 (Competitors #6-9)


  • Monday 8 June
    Round II (con’t)

    With collaborating pianists Diedre Irons and Sarah Watkins

    9:00am – 9:25am
    INSIDERS’ GUIDE – host Martin Riseley (NZ School of Music)
    Mozart – It’s so hard to make it sound easy!
    What are the interpretive challenges and stylistic issues? Martin will also have some fun with the party pieces.

    9:30am – 1:10pm
    Session 7 (Competitors #10-14)

    2:40pm – 5:40pm
    Session 8 (Competitors #15-18)

    At the conclusion the judges will determine the six competitors to advance to Round III. The announcement will be made approximately 7pm.


  • Auckland Town Hall. Photo credit: Simon Darby
    Photo credit: Simon Darby, 2013.

    The old-world grandeur of the Auckland Town Hall is the setting for the second half of the Competition. The top competitors have been advanced to these rounds; meanwhile their unsuccessful peers are undertaking professional development and presenting educational workshops with Competition partners The University of Auckland and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

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  • Wednesday 10 June
    Round III Concert Chamber

    Joined by New Zealand favourites Michael Houstoun (piano) and Ashley Brown (cello), the top six semi-finalists will perform the complete piano trios of Beethoven. The chamber music round is a distinctive feature of our Competition and illustrates not only the collaborative skills of our young artists, but is a real example of a modern musical career (juggling solo, ensemble and educational presentations).

    7:00pm – 7:30pm
    INSIDERS’ GUIDE – host Elizabeth Holowell (University of Auckland)
    Is there such a thing as Beethovian violin “technique”?

    This will be a lively topic which encompasses preparation, role of the violin and historical perspective of the Beethoven piano trios

    (Competitors #1-3)


  • Thursday 11 June
    Round III (con’t) Concert Chamber

    With collaborating artists Michael Houstoun (piano) and Ashley Brown (cello)

    (Competitors #4-6)

    At the conclusion of the performances the judges will determine the top three competitors to progress to the Grande Finale. The announcement will be made approximately 10:30.


  • Saturday 13 June
    Grande Finale Great Hall

    The three finalists have proven themselves technically, collaboratively, and musically, so now it’s time for the final and hardest challenge – performing a demanding violin concerto with a full symphony orchestra.

    The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra is conducted by Rumon Gamba of the UK. Celebrate with the winners as the evening closes with the announcement and presentation of the prizes (including the Audience Prize so be prepared to cast your vote by text.)

    6:30 pm– 7:00pm
    INSIDERS’ GUIDE – host Lara Hall (Waikato University and Michael Hill competitor 2001)

    The Interplay between soloist and orchestra
    Lara will be joined by her sister (and winner of the NZ Development Prize), Amalia Hall, to explore the night’s concerto repertoire and discuss how the finalists will approach this final challenge.

    (Finalists #1-3)


  • A Feast is on offer this week! In addition to Competition rounds, New Zealand celebrates the finest of youth’s achievements in music.
    New Zealand Choral Federation The Big Sing is a national, annual event involving around 10,000 young singers from around New Zealand. 150 secondary schools and 250 choirs enter the 11 regional festivals with the final taking place Auckland Town Hall 9 – 11 June.

    The event aims to encourage enjoyment in singing and foster excellence in performance.

    Celebrating 50 years of New Zealand’s iconic Chamber Music Contest

    This fabulous alumni ensemble, made up of Contest winners spanning 25 years and many familiar Michael Hill artists, takes to the stage in Auckland on Friday 12 June. The concert is presented by Chamber Music New Zealand, our touring partner for the competition, and showcases New Zealand talent.

    Touring NZ 2 – 25 June 2015

Mozart: Sonata No 26 in B-flat major, K 378
Allegro moderato
Andante sostenuto e cantabile
Rondo (Allegro)

Although his primary instrument was the keyboard, Mozart learnt to play the violin from a young age and soon became highly adept. His proficiency as a composer for string instruments no doubt owed much to the teaching of his father, Leopold, who had written a significant textbook on violin technique.

Composed in 1779, the Sonata in B flat is one of a set of six dedicated to Mozart’s pupil, Josepha Auernhammer, possibly as a consolation for her unsuccessful attempts to attract his amorous attentions. The work is evidently designed for performance by instrumentalists of matching abilities, demanding as much dexterity from the pianist as from the violinist.

Programme note courtesy of Robert Johnson


Friedrich Hermann: Three Capriccios for 3 Violins
No 1 in D minor, Op 2
No 2 in G major, Op 5
No 3 in A major, Op 13

Friedrich Hermann was a violinist, violist, composer and teacher who spent most of his career in Leipzig as a Professor at the Conservatory for almost sixty years. Few composers have written trios for three violins, but in addition to these three Capriccios, Hermann composed a Burleske for the medium and a substantial Suite in five movements. All of these works were designed as vehicles for exceptional performers, and the style is both Romantic and highly virtuosic. The Capriccios are distinguished by the intricate interweaving of three matching voices.

Programme note courtesy of Robert Johnson


Prokofieff: Violin Sonata No 1 in F minor, Op 80
Andante assai
Allegro brusco

Sketched, brooded over, and finally written down over a period of eight years, the Sonata in F minor reflects Prokofieff’s intense anxiety in the shadow of Stalin’s cultural purges. The highly introspective first movement is followed by a violent Allegro and a wounded and painfully expressive Andante. The finale begins hopefully and energetically, but troubling reminiscences of all three previous movements undermine its confidence. At the movement’s climax the eerie final section of the first movement, which Prokofieff said should sound like “wind in a graveyard”, returns in colours that leave no doubt as to the tragically brutalised tone of this extraordinary music.

Programme note courtesy of Robert Johnson


Prokofieff: Violin Sonata No 1 in F minor, Op 80

Spanish violinist and composer Pablo de Sarasate was a child prodigy who became one of the most famous virtuosi of the nineteenth century. His compositions are mainly showpieces designed to highlight his outstanding technique, and of these the most celebrated are the Carmen Fantasy and this caprice on Gypsy melodies, both of which remain popular after more than a century. Zigeunerweisen is loosely based on the csárdás, a Hungarian folk dance. Sarasate adapted a melody by the Hungarian composer Elemér Szentirmai in the slow middle section of the piece and another by the Gypsy violinist János Bihari in its virtuoso finale.

Programme note courtesy of Robert Johnson


The salon piece for violin and piano developed during the nineteenth century as a popular style of music for domestic performance, or at regular gatherings of writers, artists and musicians, usually held in a household deemed by high society to be fashionable. Sentimental pieces or light vignettes such as those by Fritz Kreisler and Elgar are among the best-known examples, as are arrangements of operatic arias and pieces originally composed for the piano alone. Chopin’s Nocturnes and Liszt’s Consolations are models of this style of music elevated to the level of great art.

Programme note courtesy of Robert Johnson

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