After an extremely enjoyable week of concert-going at the 7th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition I’m feeling nostalgic. Each competition throws us some favourites, and it’s no surprise to Melbourne audiences that their musical darlings might not walk away with the Grand Prize. On Sunday night the impressive outfit, the Noga Quartet (French / Israeli players, based in Germany) took out the Monash University Grand Prize, as awarded by the jury. The Noga (pictured) are great individual players, humble winners who graciously thanked their host families and other competitors.
As was the case in 2011 when the 2nd placed Hungarians, the Kelemen Kvartett stole the collective audience heart, this year’s 2nd placed Giocoso Quartet (Germany / Romania / Netherlands) took the Musica Viva Australia Prize. This means we’ll be seeing them again in a few years for a National tour from the world’s largest chamber music promoter. There is nothing more valuable to an emergent ensemble than the support of a world-class promoter and the promise of future engagements.
Let’s take a look at some past winners, it’s a remarkable list. Till 2019!
1991 – the inaugural MICMC
Leningrad String Quartet (now the St.Petersburg String Quartet). Together for 30 years and surviving the fall of USSR, the SPSQ is very sought-after, having relocated to the States to take up a University residency in Kansas of all places. With a Grammy nomination and over 20 CD recordings to their name on classy labels. http://www.stpetersburgquartet.com/index.phtml
Gould Piano Trio. Based in England and oft compared to the old Beaux Arts Trio, the Goulds also have a large discography with Chandos / Hyperion / Naxos and are devoted to teaching, running not one but two festivals in Northumberland and Cardiff. http://www.gouldpianotrio.com/
The Canadian St. Lawrence String Quartet are now based in Stanford. Perhaps the most successful of this inaugural bunch (they were 2nd place), the SLSQ perform everywhere, and in coming months will be at Berlin Philharmonie / Carnegie Hall / Edinburgh and Lucerne Festivals. Only the original 1st violinist and violist remain. They have 2 Grammy nominations, and after winning the Deutschen Schallplatten Prize, record exclusively with EMI. http://www.slsq.com/
1995 – 2nd MICMC
Trio Jean Paul. I’ve heard them many times here and overseas, and they continue to speak with intellectual authority. Their performance of Beethoven’s ‘Ghost’ Trio in the Final is still being talked about (I overhead a reminiscing audience member this year.) Based in Berlin / Hannover / Zurich, their concert calendar is not as busy as some, but still high-end. http://triojeanpaul.de/en/
Vertavo String Quartet. Violinist Berit Cardas joined the MICMC jury this year. An ensemble of strong women, with a passionate, humanitarian bent. They notoriously arrived at Melbourne Airport in 1995 with a different violinist than expected, but wowed the audience nonetheless. Hear them back in Australia at the Huntington Estate Music Festival in late November 2015. http://www.vertavo.com/
1999 – 3rd MICMC
As competitors in the 3rd MICMC Simon, Yinjia and I (Trio 3.0.3) felt the weight of expectation as we were the first Australian ensemble ever to qualify. We loved hearing Kungsbacka Trio win our section, playing the Schubert E flat, especially their expressive violinist Malin Broman http://malinbroman.com/ They are not playing as a trio at this time.
Aviv String quartet were the audience and jury favourite. Now with a different violist and cellist, the quartet are still busy, but seem to be living in different countries. Their “Death and the Maiden” was unforgettable in 1999. http://www.avivquartet.com/index.php/en/
2003 – 4th MICMC
Proud Austrian brothers, the Eggner Trio, took the Musica Viva Prize in 2003 with a stunning and confident performance of (surprise, surprise) Schubert’s E flat piano trio. Known for their good humour and relaxed attitude they have been back many times, including for another Musica Viva tour this coming November. http://www.eggnertrio.at/en/news.html
Grand Prize winners, the Danish Paizo Quartet are also no longer performing together. Australia’s Tankstream Quartet (3rd prize) changed members once or twice, evolving into the Australian String Quartet for a few years, before choosing other musical career paths.
2007 – 5th MICMC
Aaah the Atos Trio – we really loved them. The cellist Stefan Hoppe was a ball of white hot energy and his playing was matched by two worthy German compatriots. They swept all of the prizes, and have been back for their Musica Viva Australia tour, also producing 7 CDs. There’s some curious whimsy on their webpage (“Nobody plays it like us”, “there’s a time for Beethoven and a time for Kreisler”, and “cheesy stuff of the finest”.) http://www.atos-trio.de/atos/index.php
2011 – 6th MICMC
Musica Viva tapped into the MICMC audience zeitgeist in 2011, inviting the 2nd placed Kelemen Kvartett for their touring prize ahead of the Swiss / German Amaryllis Quartet. Both ensembles are extremely busy, and it seems the momentum of Melbourne has continued their stellar careers.