Studied: Sydney, London, Belgium
Likes: Art, ocean, wine
Dislikes: Grey weather, city traffic, coriander
How does it feel to have been named Young Performer of the Year?
I’m obviously delighted, but also very humbled by the whole thing, to be given this title, given the list of impressive other people who have won in the past.
How did you feel about your finals performance at the time?
I honestly just had such a great time, because I haven’t played with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Opera House before – I’ve played with them in the Sydney Festival in the Domain in 2011 – so I was just happy to have the experience. I really treated it like a concert, like a performance – I wasn’t thinking at all that it was a competition.
Violinist Emily Sun
What do you think this will mean for your career moving forward?
I think this prize will definitely have a big impact on my career, just because of all the performing opportunities. It’s had incredible exposure this year, MOST has done a great job. The news spread like wildfire. The other great thing is that I get to be ABC Classic FM Artist in Residence, so that will give me a real insight into my development as a recording artist, which is something that I haven’t done before.
The Beethoven Concerto, which you performed in the final, is a stalwart of the repertoire. When did you first come across it?
It was probably as a child, and then as a teenager I always said, “I’m not going to play this concerto till I’m 30, ‘till I’m mature enough to understand it.” I was always like “No, no, no, Beethoven, I’ll never touch it” but then at some point last year I thought, “You know what, I might as well start my journey now. It’s going to take a lifetime, so why not start earlier?” This was still only my first discovery of it. I would need another 20 or 30 years to digest it even more, and I think every performance
will be different. That’s the beauty of this concerto, there’s just so much space.
Australian audiences remember you from Mrs Carey’s Concert, but you’ve racked up some impressive achievements since then. What have been the highlights?
Definitely performing with Maxim Vengerov in Buckingham Palace for the Royal Gala last year. That was really exciting. And hanging out with Prince Charles in Buckingham Palace, getting to stay for the Royal Dinner, that’s something I will never forget. I was really lucky and privileged to have that opportunity – that was very cool. And my Wigmore Hall debut was pretty special. And definitely the one that’s way up there now is playing Beethoven with Sydney Symphony.
What led you to study in the UK?
At the time I wanted to be closer to Europe. I had a wonderful teacher here in Sydney, Robin Wilson, who I still feel like I didn’t actually get enough time with, but it’s more that I wanted a life experience. I wanted that feeling of moving overseas on my own, the struggle of being a poor artist living in London – and it worked out wonderfully. I’ve been really happy there, and it’s been about seven years now, and I was very lucky to find my great mentor at the Royal College of Music, Itzhak Rashkovsky.
What have been the biggest challenges for you as a musician?
One of the challenges, for me, was realising that it wasn’t just about playing the violin well. It wasn’t just about if I could nail this piece, or this recital, or this concerto. It’s made me figure out that when I’m on stage, it’s 100 percent me, as a person, that’s what I’m showing. It can’t just be that I’m just standing there playing the Beethoven Concerto. So that’s been a real struggle for me to come to terms with. That it’s about who I am as a person and how I develop as a human.
As a performer, where do you feel most at home? Is it on the stage as a concerto soloist or in a string section or playing chamber music?
All of the above. Whatever it is that I’m doing, if I just get to perform that day, in any kind of setting, that makes me really happy.
What advice do you have for young musicians who want to make a career of music?
If you really love it, never give up. That sounds so clichéd, but that’s the truth. If it’s something that you really love, you should keep going no matter what life throws at you.