Enjoying being part of an historic night
The Queen Elisabeth Violin competition 2019 had been under way in since April 29th, with 71 candidates narrowed down to 12 finalists. Dice were cast, we chose the 5th final to attend the prodigious musical event at Bozar. Would we be lucky enough to discover the two top finalists, or at least, one of them?
12 outstanding finalists
Secluded at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, they had been learning without outside assistance a new unpublished work composed for this competition by Finnish composer Kimmo Hakola. During the final, each finalist was to play this work as well as a concerto of their choice, with the Belgian National Orchestra, at Bozar.
Jury members for the 2019 competition included chairman Gilles Ledure, Lorenzo Gatto, Pierre Amoyal, Martin Beaver, Corina Belcea, Patrice Fontanarosa, Pamela Frank, Koichiro Harada, Yossif Ivanov and Dong-Suk Kang.
On Friday 24th2019, Stella Chen and Timothy Chooi had to play exactly the same programme: the compulsory unpublished work “Fidl” by the Finn Kimmo Harola, and Tchaikovsky’s famed Concerto for violin and orchestra in d major, op. 35.
Stella Chen (USA, 13.07.1992) started the evening, carving her way through the difficult field of the work that some people in the audience were hearing for the first time. “Fidl” by the Finn Kimmo Harola, sounded like a hugely contrasted paramount piece of film music. Really worth discovering live!
Stella appeared as a really experienced violinist that mastered the most elaborate musical traps. She had the unsuperable concentration, the power, the delicacy, the energy and the dedication. However, did she transmit real affinity with the work? One might wonder… As to Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, her playing was impeccable, though somehow tense, while hunting down the virtuoso parts. But of course, at this level of excellence, can one really judge such confirmed talents? Such a completion involves many requirements: knowledge, memory, technicality, stamina, nerve and above all, we think, musicality.
Musicality and involvement is what we got with Timothy Chooi (Canada 17.12.1993). He was the one who creates that peculiar kind of rapturous attention, at every development of the piece of music. He was a purveyor of emotions. Grasping the essence of the scores. Unearthing the secrets of the difficult Finnish concerto. He even seemed to happily fiddle his way through the piece. It all started with an obviously easy ability to communicate with the various groups of instrumentalists and their very refined conductor Hugh Wolff. He behaved nearly …playfully. As if in a band, he regularly set his own accents. And his violin emerged as a breeze, even among the loud percussions and numerous keyboards surrounding the usual instrumentalists!
Also the way he played Tchaikovsky was inventive. He seemed to toy with the far-reaching Beauty of the worldly renowned piece, conveying flushes of feelings, and most of all, the intense Slavic spleen and soul. What we can call the epitome of musicality. Set apart his seemingly perfect technical command of the scores – but what are we to judge such a thing? – his artistic approach seemed very alluring. We were struck by his genuine grace and finesses of playing, keeping silent, remaining transported by the flow of music, wide eyes shut any time he was not in the spotlight. Such a pity bravi and ovations are always cut short in such serious contests, but it is obvious that the audience was won over.
So we thoroughly enjoyed being part of this historic night. Timothy Chooi embodied soul and spirit, both music history and universal truths, giving off a sense of eternity and a taste of the healing power of the universal language.
Canadian violinist Timothy Chooi is regarded as one of Canada’s most promising and exciting young artists. Described as “the miracle” by Montreal’s La Presse, Chooi won a top medalist at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in New Zealand. He won the Verbier Festival Academy’s Yves Paternot Award, the Academy’s highest honour bestowed on the most accomplished Verbier Academy musician, and most recently was awarded first prize in the 2018 Joseph Joachim Violin Competition Hanover. Obviously, digging further into the artist’s brilliant path made us dream that he would probably be elected among the best, if not, the first laureate of the competition.
Surprise came when the results were announced: Stella Chen (USA, 13.07.1992) came as first prize of the Competition , and Timothy Chooi (Canada 17.12.1993) , second! However it is, it was an historic night indeed!
Dominique-Hélène Lemaire , Arts et Lettres