Australian cellist Rachel Siu has taken out the top prize at the David Popper VIII. International Cello Competition in Hungary. Siu, who graduated from the Juilliard School in New York earlier this year, and recently made her Carnegie Hall debut, won equal first with South Korean cellist Hayoung Lee in the most senior category of the competition in Várpalota, Hungary, open to contestants born between January 1, 1996 and December 31, 1998.

Rachel SiuRachel Siu

The win was “quite unreal,” Siu told Limelight. “This has been an achievement that I have been striving for and dreaming of, for as long as I can remember, and now that it has happened, I’m not sure how to feel! Having the opportunity to participate in and perform at international competitions in new countries this year has just been a joy on its own, so to receive the gold medal for one is just pure excitement!”

Across the competition, Siu performed music by Cassado, Beethoven, Bach and Elgar –as well as music by David Popper, the cellist and composer for whom the competition is named. “Popper is a composer of music that I had pretty much pushed away from attempting to learn properly due to the technical difficulty,” Siu said. “So the preparation for the competition was a very interesting one…”

“I really thoroughly enjoyed performing all my repertoire in front of the jury and audience, and especially when I was given the honour to perform the Hungarian Rhapsody by Popper in the Winner’s Gala concert in front of a Hungarian audience! I received comments from the highest figures at the competition that my interpretation of the piece was so Hungarian and full of taste and flowers. It practically hurled me over the rainbow!”

“Preparing for this competition alone has helped me grow tremendously, and I’m hoping that this has opened more doors to various opportunities for me!” she said. Every new musician I get to speak with and every new opportunity that arises is a learning experience that contributes to inching my career forward. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by artists my whole musical life, starting with Rising Stars, to all the fantastic mentors, teachers, friends, and family in my life.”