The Selection Panel will convene for three long grueling days to meticulously select the 18 semi-finalists, alternates and Development Prize winners from the 2015 Competition applications.
The selection process will be held in three stages, with the identities of the applicants not revealed to the panel until the conclusion.
Andrew Beer (Canada/New Zealand)
Violinist Andrew Beer has been described as a “virtuoso soloist” by the San Francisco Classical Voice, as possessing a “glorious string tone” by Strad Magazine, as a performer displaying “accuracy and subtle charisma” by the Boston Globe, and as a “musical gift” by the New York Times. He has performed extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia, and his performances have been broadcast on NHK Japan, Vietnamese television, CBC Radio-Canada, Minnesota Public Radio, Vermont Public Radio and WQXR New York.
As a soloist, he has performed with leading orchestras in Vancouver, Montreal, New York, Boston and Catania (Sicily), with conductors including Joseph Silverstein, Gil Rose, Victor Feldbrill and Daisuke Soga. As a chamber musician, he has performed at the Banff, Orford, Domaine Forget, Tanglewood, Aspen, Music@Menlo and Prussia Cove festivals, and has appeared in concert with Midori and members of the Emerson String Quartet.
Contemporary music has played a large role in Mr. Beer’s musical life, and he has worked closely with some of the leading composers of our time on their solo and chamber works, including Pierre Boulez, Mario Davidovsky, György Kurtág and Steve Reich.
Mr. Beer was the grand prize winner of concerto competitions at the New England Conservatory of Music and Stony Brook University, and was a prize-winning laureate at the Monte Carlo “Violin Masters” international competition in Monaco, and the “Dr. Luis Sigall” competition in Chile. Humanitarian and outreach concerts have also played an important role in Mr. Beer’s musical output, and through such endeavours he was awarded a U.S. Congressional Commendation in 2006.
Also an accomplished composer and arranger, Mr. Beer has completed numerous works for solo, duo, chamber and orchestral ensemble. He has had four pieces published on the Lighthouse label: Introduction and March (2013, for symphony orchestra), Chanson Cramoisie (2012, for violin and piano) and arrangements of two complete Dvorak String Quartets for symphony orchestra (Op. 51 in E-flat major, 2011, and Op. 105 in A-flat major, 2013).
Born in Vancouver in 1982, Mr. Beer commenced his studies on violin at the age of five, and his principal teachers were Lawrie Hill, Gwen Thompson, Gerald Stanick, Ani Kavafian and Donald Weilerstein. He holds a BA magna cum laude from Stony Brook University, as well as an MM and GD from the New England Conservatory of Music. He served as a performing and teaching fellow at Carnegie Hall and the Juilliard School from 2007-2008, and in 2008 was appointed as assistant principal 2nd violin at the Montreal Symphony. As of 2014, Mr. Beer has begun as concertmaster of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. He performs on a Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin, made in 1845.
Justine Cormack (New Zealand)
Violinist of NZTrio, Justine appears regularly both around NZ and internationally as a recitalist, chamber musician, adjudicator and concerto soloist. Prior to her full-time commitment to NZTrio, Justine was Concertmaster of the Auckland Philharmonia from 2000-2004, following many years as sub-principal first violin in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
A graduate of the University of Canterbury, studying with Jan Tawroszevicz, Justine went on to complete a Master of Music degree at the San Francisco Conservatory with Isadore Tinkleman and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the State University of New York at Stony Brook under Joyce Robbins and Mitchell Stern. She has taught violin at Wellington’s University of Victoria and from 2004-2010 she was a lecturer in performance violin at The University of Auckland, during which time NZTrio was also Ensemble in Residence for five years.
“It is always a hugely humbling experience to hear so many wonderful violinists from all over the world in this first round of the competition. It will be a really difficult task to whittle the competitors down to a mere 18.” – Justine Cormack
Vesa-Matti Leppänen (Finland/New Zealand)
Vesa-Matti Leppänen, Concertmaster of the NZSO, was born and raised in Turku, Finland. After completing his studies at the Turku Conservatory and Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Vesa-Matti Leppänen joined the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the oldest symphony orchestras in Europe. Over the following ten years he held a number of positions including Principal Second Violin, Third Concertmaster and Co-Concertmaster. Leppänen’s early success in solo and chamber music competitions helped to establish himself as a chamber musician and a soloist.
Since moving to New Zealand in 2000, Vesa-Matti Leppänen has toured the country as NZSO Concertmaster, soloist and chamber musician, working alongside internationally renowned soloists such as Pinchas Zukerman, Hilary Hahn, Steven Isserlis and Lang Lang. Leppänen has also performed as a featured soloist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia, Southern Sinfonia and Christchurch Symphony. He has also toured the country with chamber music groups like Stroma and Felix the Quartet.
Vesa-Matti Leppänen led the NZSO on its European/Japanese Tour in 2005 and in 2010 he lead the NZSO on their European tour that included performances in the Musikverein in Vienna and Lucerne Festival Hall. Leppänen has also led other leading orchestras, including Melbourne Symphony and Sydney Symphony orchestras, most recently during SSO’s tour to China in October 2012.
Vesa-Matti Leppänen is a featured artist with Naxos Records. His recording of Lyell Cresswell’s work for violin and voice (with Madeleine Pierard) has won critical acclaim. He also teaches at the NZ School of Music and was a member of the 2011 international jury for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition.
Dene Olding (Australia)
Dene Olding is recognised as one of Australia’s most outstanding violinists. He is currently Concertmaster of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and first violinist for the Goldner String Quartet and the Australia Ensemble (resident at the University of New South Wales).
As a soloist he has worked with all of the Australian Symphony and Chamber Orchestras in a range of repertoire. He has performed over forty concertos and worked with some of the world’s leading conductors including Edo de Waart, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Stuart Challender, Sir Charles Mackerras, Jorge Mester, Gunther Herbig, Werner Andreas Albert, David Porcelijn and Vladimir Ashkenazy. He gave the Australian premiere performance of Lutoslawski’s Chain 2 with the composer conducting, Elliott Carter’s Violin Concerto and the Violin Concerto of Philip Glass. In addition, he has performed world premieres of violin concertos by Carl Vine, Ross Edwards , Bozidar Kos and the Double Concerto for violin and viola by Richard Mills, written for himself and his wife, Irina Morozova.
Dene has also held the position of Leader and Director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and is often sought after to lead/direct concerts with many other orchestras. He has also been the Artistic Director of the Mostly Mozart Festival at the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Festival Chamber Music Concert Program. He has appeared regularly at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music and at many festivals in Australasia and Europe. In 2010 he appeared at the Edinburgh Festival as soloist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and conductor, Vladimir Ashkenazy.
Dene attended the Juilliard School In New York from the age of fourteen as a scholarship student of Ivan Galamian and Margaret Pardee. He graduated in 1978 with the Master of Music Degree and was awarded the Morris Loeb Prize. Other studies included master classes with Nathan Milstein and further lessons with Herman Krebbers and Gyorgy Pauk. In 1985, he was awarded the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship to further his musical studies and during that year, became a Laureate of the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Violin Competition.
Solo recordings include a sonata disc of Brahms, Beethoven and Mozart for ABC Classics with his father, Max Olding, the CD premiere of concertos by Frank Martin and Milhaud and concertos by Samuel Barber and Ross Edwards (Maninyas) – winner of the 1994 A.R.I.A. award for “Best Classical Recording” and the prestigious Cannes award. He has also recorded the Hindemith violin concerti with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Werner Andreas Albert for CPO. His numerous chamber music CD’s have also received acclaim. Recently, the recording of chamber music of Edward Elgar with the Goldner Quartet and pianist Piers Lane for the Hyperion label was selected as Gramophone magazine’s “Record of the Month” and spent time on the “Classical top 10” in the UK. His recording of the complete Beethoven string quartets with the Goldner quartet for ABC Classics was chosen Classical album of the year by Limelight magazine and a recording of rare Rachmaninov violin works with pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy also received praise from The Strad magazine.
In 2011, he gave the premiere performance of the Carl Vine violin concerto with the Australian Youth Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House.
As a member of the Goldner String Quartet and the Australia Ensemble, he regularly tours to Europe, Asia and New Zealand. He has been awarded the Centenary Medal of Australia and has received numerous awards and accolades for his performances in all spheres of music-making. Currently, he is also Artistic Adviser and frequent jury member for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition held in New Zealand bi-annually. He also directs the annual Music in the Hunter Festival, a chamber music event that takes place in the Hunter Valley wine-making country near Sydney. He manages to combine a passion for Aikido and sailing with his busy musical career and spending time with his wife, Irina and son, Nikolai.
Dene Olding plays a fine Joseph Guarnerius made in Cremona in 1720.
Wilma Smith (New Zealand / Australia)
Concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra since 2003, Wilma Smith combines her love of the symphonic repertoire with a busy chamber music life.
After leaving Fiji as a small child, Wilma began piano and violin lessons in her new home, Auckland, New Zealand, culminating in study at Auckland University and early professional experience with the Auckland Symphonia (now Philharmonia) and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. She then continued her studies in Boston at the New England Conservatory with the legendary Dorothy DeLay and Louis Krasner, playing in masterclasses for many others including Joseph Gingold, Yehudi Menuhin and Sandor Vegh.
She was founding first violinist of the Lydian String Quartet, prizewinners at Evian, Banff and Portsmouth International Competitions and winners of the Naumburg Award for Chamber Music. She also worked with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and led the Harvard Chamber Orchestra, the Handel and Haydn Society and Banchetto Musicale, a period instrument baroque orchestra. An invitation to form the New Zealand String Quartet took her back to Wellington in 1987 and she was first violinist of the quartet until her appointment as Concertmaster of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in 1993. During her years with the quartet they toured New Zealand and Australia extensively and performed at the Tanglewood Festival. Prior to her departure for Melbourne, the NZSO honoured her with the title of Concertmaster Emeritus.
Wilma has enjoyed duo partnerships with pianists Michael Houstoun and Ian Munro and, since moving to Melbourne, has performed with the Munro/Smith/Berlin Trio, Ensemble Liaison, the MSO Chamber Players and Hopkins Quartet. Her chamber music collaboration with Steven Isserlis for the 2008 International Festival of the Arts in Wellington led to her ongoing participation in his Open Chamber Music Seminar at Prussia Cove in Cornwall, England.
In 2012, Wilma began curating her own chamber music series, Wilma & Friends, in which she invites a collection of her illustrious musical colleagues to join her in unique combinations of chamber music.
Whilst performing the symphonic and chamber music repertoire is undoubtedly the core of Wilma’s musical life, she is also a committed teacher of violin at Melbourne University and privately.