Australian violinist Emily Sun has been awarded First Prize – ₤6,000 – in the Bromsgrove International Musicians’ Competition. Held annually since 1981 at Bromsgrove School, UK, the competition is open to instrumentalists and vocalists of all nationalities aged between 18 and 25 (28 in the case of singers), and many finalists have gone on to national and international success, including Australian saxophonist Amy Dickson, who won the prize in 2002. This year’s jury comprised former Royal Welsh College of Music director Edmond Fivet, cellist Hannah Roberts and pianist Andrew Zolinsky.
“The adjudicators had a most difficult task this year as the three finalists had been selected from 12 semi-finalists heard last Friday,” said Chairman Ian Morris. “This year we had 108 applications from 38 different nationalities for just 54 places in the Preliminary Round of the competition.
“The finalists’ technique and playing was of world-class quality but the winner Emily Sun had that extra something that just pushed her past the post in front of her rivals.
“The really warm applause she received when Edmond Fivet, chairman of the adjudicators, announced her win showed that the audience also thought her win was just.”
Jury member Andrew Zolinsky, concert pianist and professor of piano at the Royal College of Music, added: “Emily Sun played a highly varied programme in the final round of the Bromsgrove International Competition. She not only showed us her outstanding virtuoso technical skills, but her depth and musical insight and her ability to really communicate with her audience.”
“Emily switched styles with effortless ease – her Debussy Sonata was quirky and playful, spiritual and expressive and showed great awareness of how violin and piano combine in this work.”
“The Strauss Sonata displayed Emily’s warm, expressive tone. From the audience’s point of view, she saved the best until last! Frolov’s Gershwin Fantasie had great style, swagger and panache. It was songful and thrilling in equal measure.”
“Emily was the very clear winner of the competition. She is one of the most promising young violinists I have heard in a very long time, and I am sure has a wonderful career ahead of her.”
Sun, who holds a Bachelor of Music and a Masters of Music with First Class Honours from the Royal College of Music (RCM) is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma at the RCM with Professor Itzhak Rashkovsky, with whom she has studied with for the past six years.
“The Bromsgrove competition is a very special prize for me,” Sun told Limelight from London. “It will give me more performance opportunities such as concerts at the Three Choirs Festival, Birmingham Conservatoire and solo with UK based Orchestra of the Swan.”
The young violinist, who started playing the violin at age four and made her concert debut at ten, has won awards in Australia and internationally. She is the winner of all major Australian violin competitions including the coveted Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year Strings Award, has won all available prizes at the Royal College of Music, London, and was only last year awarded the gold Medal of the 2016 Royal Overseas League Music Competition, UK, the first violinist to win the award since 1981.
“I have to admit, I hate competitions! I always feel nervous, and judged,” Sun said, “but this is exactly the reason why I do them. Participating in a competition forces me to prepare repertoire to the highest level that I can, and this process is the most important thing to take away from any competition, not the result.”
“Although I have been lucky in competitions and won prizes, there have also been many where I haven’t,” she said. “But each vulnerable experience on stage has been invaluable to my personal development as a musician.”
Sun won ‘Best Newcomer’ in the 2012 Limelight Awards for her role in the documentary Mrs. Carey’s Concert. The feature-length film followed her high school, MLC Sydney, preparing for their biennial end-of-year concert at the Sydney Opera House.
Performing the Bruch concerto in that concert was a turning point in her life, confirming that a career in music was what she really wanted to pursue. “I recently saw a video of the SSO Schools concert programme,” she told Limelight. “We need more of this! It’s up to all of us to keep fostering the arts for children.”
Sun moved to London after a year at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where she studied with Dr Robin Wilson, her teacher for several years previously as part of the Conservatorium’s Rising Stars Open Academy. Now building a career in the UK and Europe, while she has no immediate plans to return to Australia, home never feels far away as she is still performing on an Australian violin – an A.E. Smith, made in Sydney in 1946.
She played this violin for HRH Prince Charles earlier this year when she performed the Bach Double Violin Concerto with violinist Maxim Vengerov at a Royal Gala Concert for the More Music Campaign at Buckingham Palace to raise funds for the Royal College of Music. “One of the first questions Prince Charles asked me was what violin I play on,” Sun told Limelight at the time. “I proudly answered that it was an Australian instrument.”
And her instrument will be getting a workout in the months to come. “I have recitals coming up in the Dorset Beaminster Festival, Lake District International Music Festival, King’s Lynn International Music Festival, Edinburgh International Fringe Festival, at Bridgewater Hall Manchester and in concert venues in Wales, Lincoln, Preston and Bournemouth,” she said. “I also have performances of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the European Union Chamber Orchestra.”