Violins take centre stage in Geneva
For the first time in its history, the world's leading international competition for young violinists will be held in Switzerland. The Menuhin Competition, known as the 'Olympics of the Violin' will see the 44 top young violinists worldwide compete in Geneva from 12–22 April. This year two Swiss artists – Sumina Studer and Anatol János Toth – have made the competition, selected from over 300 young violinists from all over the world.
The Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition brings together the best violinists aged under 22. They will display their talent in an 11-day celebration designed to get audiences from all walks of life talking about the violin and classical music. In addition to the competition, Geneva will put on a host of other events, from tours at local violin makers to a programme of documentary screenings at the Centre des arts, exceptional concerts and unique masterclasses.
A bit of history
In 1983 violinist Yehudi Menuhin founded the competition to inspire a next generation of violinists by bringing them together on a large scale to share their passion. This year Geneva will join the list of major cities (Oslo, London, Beijing and Austin) to host the competition, which is coming to Switzerland for the first time.
Yehudi Menuhin maintained a close relationship with Switzerland throughout his life. Arriving with his family in Gstaad in 1957, he founded the Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy in the same year. He presided over the festival until the age of 80, three years before his death in 1999.
A classical music competition – accompanied by some unique activities
The Menuhin Competition is a classical music competition with a twist. Candidates who do not get through to the next stage do not just go home. They are invited to take part in multiple activities until the end of the event. As Menuhin intended, the competition will give the young prodigies the opportunity to share their chosen art form with their musical peers, the young people of their host city and the general public.
The Centre des arts of the International School of Geneva has a line-up of activities, including a programme of documentaries on how music has shaped our societies.
Some of the contestants will visit Genevan school pupils to show their instruments and share their passion with local young people.
Others will take part in a performance combining tango and musical impro – the outcome of several workshops with the Parisian dancer and director Lionel Rougerie and musician Jean-Marc Aeschimann, professor at Geneva's Haute École de Musique. The performance will take place on Saturday 21 April at 12.30pm at the Anières collective accommodation centre, which is run by the Hospice général and houses 250 migrants of 25 different nationalities.
The musicians will stay with Genevan families to give them an authentic experience of local life. This will give them a chance to make contacts with young Swiss people and to share their passion still further.
Much anticipated masterclasses
The masterclasses of the members of the jury (Pamela Frank, Ilya Gringolts, Itamar Golan, Henning Kraggerud, Lu Siqing, Soyoung Yoon, Joji Hattori, Maxim Vengerov) are another much-anticipated element of the competition. These icons of the musical world will be sharing their knowledge and experience with members of the public.
Inside the instrument – meet the violin makers
To demystify the world of classical music, the competition is also organising several encounters with international and local luthiers, makers of string instruments. The public will have the chance to talk to Florian Leonhard and Christophe Landon, world authorities in their craft.
Other public visits to the workshops of luthiers based in Geneva will add to the local appeal of the competition. François Lebeau and Kaspar Maurer will open their workshops to the public several times. Some of these visits are reserved for the 44 contestants, to give them the chance to ask these two exceptional craftsmen everything they would like to know about their instruments.
A weekend finale not to be missed
The competition's 11 days in Geneva culminate in a weekend of performances in the magnificent Victoria Hall. The five finalists of the Junior section of the competition will be accompanied in the finale by the Geneva Chamber Orchestra. Each finalist will play one of Vivaldi's Four Seasons in addition to Self in Mind by Jaehyuck Choi, who was commissioned to create the piece as winner of the 1st Prize of the 2017 Concours de Genève Composition Award.
On Saturday, the Senior finalists take to the stage for their finale and the high point of the competition. Four of the best young violinists in the world will play the violin concerto of their choice from a selection of works by Bruch, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Prokofiev and Saint-Saëns, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Julian Rachlin.
The Closing Gala Concert will feature the Junior and Senior prizewinners, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, also conducted by Julian Rachlin, and three jury members: Maxim Vengerov, Soyoung Yoon and Ilya Gringolts. The programme spans 200 years of violin masterpieces from Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins to Kreisler’s Old Viennese Dances.