Alina Pogostkin wins Jean Sibelius Violin Competition
Advance favourite Alina Pogostkin, 22, of Germany was the winner of the ninth International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition, which concluded in Helsinki during the weekend. The panel of judges announced the winner on Friday after a four-day final round.
Pogostkin said that the prize was the fulfilment of her dreams. "I had to try, and I am happy that I did", she said after the awards were handed out.
Second prize went to 18-year-old Chinese musician Jiafeng Chen.
The Asian input was as strong this year as it was in the previous Sibelius Violin Competition five years ago. The third prize was again split between two Asians - Hyun-Su Shin of South Korea and Wei Wen of China.
The winners were announced already on Friday, and on Saturday they played with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in a special winners’ concert. Pogostkin played Sergei Prokofiev’s Second Concerto. On December 9th she will be back in Helsinki as a soloist for the Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Pogostkin had to wait for her breakthrough for a long time. She is a veteran of music competitions, finishing fourth at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels in 2001. She also reached the finals in the Indianapolis Violin Competition.
"You simply cannot get international soloist work without a victory in a competition, or unless a conductor takes you around the world as a soloist."
Pogostkin has played under many maestros, including Kurt Masur, Christoph Eschenbach, and Mikko Franck, but she felt that she simply had to take part in the Sibelius competition.
Pogostkin was magnificent in Sibelius Violin Concerto, but she avoided risks with her Prokofiev performance, which was quite conventional.
"That orchestra (the Radio Symphony Orchestra) did not know Prokofiev concerto very well. The Helsinki Philharmonic naturally knew the Sibelius work, and it was wonderful to play with them."
Pogostkin has an interesting background: her father was a professor of violin music in the Soviet Union, and her mother was an orchestral musician. When the Soviet Union fell apart, the family started from scratch in Germany as street musicians.
"At first there was no money or work, but now my parents are happy as private instructors in Heidelberg, and I study in Berlin under Antje Weithaas", Pogostkin laughs.
Jiafeng Chen was magnificent with her Tschaikovsky interpretation, but was not able to get as much feeling into the mandatory Sibelius piece. However, both performances were those of an intensely confident soloist.
"Second place is no disappointment. I am so happy to play Sibelius with a Finnish orchestra."
Chen is keeping busy. On December 5th she appears at London’s Wigmore Hall, where her programme will include Sibelius’s Humoresques.
Third-place winner Wei Wen was pleased with her performance with the orchestras in the competition.
Wen is a graduate of the Juilliard School in New York, and is the student of Cho-Liang Lin, one of the judges of the Sibelius Competition. However, she sees more than just playing the violin in her future.
"I want to play and teach music, but also to dance and teach Latin dances. I might also go into entertainment as a producer of a Chinese TV show. Or I might just be a Chinese housewife", Wen says with a twinkle in her eye.
Hyun-Su Shin answered questions in Korean through an interpreter.
"I came to Finland because Sibelius composed my favourite concerto. I was very tense, but everything went well. Now I might go to some other competition, or then play concerts", she said.
The Finnish finalist Sini-Maaria Simonen said that her fighting spirit only grew when the shoulder support broke off her violin in the middle of the Sibelius Violin Concerto on Thursday. Surprisingly, Simonen managed to continue playing without a hitch.
"This has been good practice. Now I have to go shopping, wash some clothes, read books, and do other things that I have not had time to do", she said.
Simonen and the other unplaced finalists got EUR 2,000 each, while Pogostkin leaves Helsinki EUR 22,000 the richer, after claiming the EUR 20,000 first prize and an award of EUR 2,000 for the best performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, donated by the Finnish Broadcasting Company. The runner-up collected EUR 10,000 and the two 3rd-placed entrants were rewarded with EUR 6,000 each.
There will be more about the winner of the competition in this week's weekly selection of stories on Wednesday.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Sini-Maaria Simonen reaches final round of Sibelius Violin Competition (28.11.2005)