Fifteen-year old Australian violinist Edward Walton has won 2nd Prize in the Junior finals of the prestigious 2021 Menuhin Competition. This year’s event, which was run out of Richmond, Virginia, took place digitally, culminating on Sunday 23 May with a Gala Presentation.

Accompanied by his regular pianist, 25-year-old Melbourne-based Laurence Matheson, Walton played Szymanowski ‘s Mythes Op. 30, No 1, La fontaine d’Arethuse, the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47, Allegro moderato, and Bound Away, a new commission written specially for the competition by the popular American composer Mason Bates.

Edward Walton performing in the Junior Finals of the 2021 Menuhin Competition

As Limelight followed his successful journey through the competition, Walton – who studies with Dr Robin Wilson Head of Violin at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) in Melbourne – spoke to us after the first round, as he prepared for the semi-finals, and after the semi-finals.

Speaking to Limelight again after winning 2nd Prize in the Junior competition, he says: “It is very hard to compare this competition to others as the experience was so different. I have attended competitions where you have one go playing live to an audience, or competitions where you put in a tape with your best attempt, but never a competition where you have one attempt at a stated time with a clock and proctor present, and with a camera and no live audience!”

“It definitely was a very different experience. However, the organisers did a wonderful job of still making the experience friendly and supportive by arranging for us to have Zoom calls with the other participants and the composer of the commissioned piece. Also, the jury gave very detailed feedback, so this gave it as much of a festival feel as it possibly could online.”

Walton is delighted to have done so well, coming second to Keila Wakao from the US, who took home the Junior 1st Prize, while Spanish violinist María Dueñas won the Senior 1st Prize.

“I was just so pleased to get to the finals, so being awarded 2nd place was unexpected as the finalists, and indeed all the participants, were of such a high standard. I have learned so much from watching all their performances,” he says.

Asked about his choice of repertoire for the finals, Walton says: “I chose the Szymanowski, together with my teacher, because we felt it would offer a significant contrast to the other pieces and would show another aspect of my playing. The Szymanowski is so atmospheric, with unusual sound effects and it requires an ethereal sound, transporting us to a world of Greek gods and nymphs. It offered a really contrasting experience for the audience.”

“I chose the Sibelius violin concerto as it is my current favourite concerto! I love how it conjures visions of a Finnish landscape with ice and snow. The passion, virtuosity and the intensity that Sibelius achieves with the orchestra is incredible. It seems to explore everything that the violin is capable of. “

“It was different experience, because I couldn’t connect with all the orchestral instruments, and you miss the unique soundscape, but I was very fortunate to have pianist Laurence Matheson bring drama and sensitivity to the piece. Of course, it would have been wonderful if I could have performed it with orchestra. Being immersed in that sound helps you feel the emotion of the music, and of course that is how Sibelius intended it to be played. However, after last year when I couldn’t even play with Laurence, due to the COVID restrictions in Melbourne, it was just wonderful to be able to perform it with piano!”

As for the commissioned piece by Mason Bates, which was performed by all five Junior finalists, Walton says that he really enjoyed playing it “and learnt a lot from it. It introduced me to Bluegrass music, which I found to be great fun to play, and the Shenandoah song, a traditional American song upon which the piece is based. This led me to research the history of that area in the US.”

Asked about what he has on the horizon, he says:  “The quartet I am part of [the Eureka Quartet, which won Musica Viva’s Lockdown Legends competition in 2020] has some coaching sessions coming up with the Flinders Quartet which I am very excited about, and in July I am taking part in the Australian Youth Orchestra’s Winter Season. I will be performing Sibelius Violin Concerto with Bendigo Symphony Orchestra on 10 October in Bendigo as well.”

The 2021 Menuhin Competition rounds can be viewed on the Menuhin Competition website and its YouTube channel

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