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The Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition Officially Relaunches After One Year Postponement

The structure of the competition is the same as previous editions, but the format has changed so it begins with online events and finishes in person.

The Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition Officially Relaunches After One Year Postponement

The third Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition, which has been postponed for one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kicks off on August 12, 2021. The competition received 102 applications from 31 countries and regions around the world by the application deadline in January last year, and now the list of 36 contestants selected for the Quarter-Final Round is officially released.

The structure of the competition is the same as previous editions, but the format has changed so it begins with online events and finishes in person. Thirty-six contestants participate in the online Quarter-Final Round from August 13 to 16, and the eighteen contestants who advance participate in the online Semi-Final Round from August 18 to 21. On August 22, the six contestants who have advanced to the Final Round are announced. In the end, the six selected contestants come to Shanghai to participate in the live competition in 2022 according to the national pandemic prevention and control guidelines.

SISIVC is the first renowned Chinese international competition to resume in China. Contestants from all over the world have been looking forward to it for a long time. Since the first competition was held in 2016, the Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition has attracted worldwide attention for its professional, authoritative jurors; fair selection; standardized schedule; outstanding contestants; and distinctive features.

Although the event was postponed due to the pandemic, in order to pay tribute to Maestro Stern's life and musical spirit, the current edition maintains its original name - 2020 Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition - since 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Domestic and foreign contestants have cherished the opportunity of this competition very much, looking forward to an authoritative international stage, and have asked the SISIVC Organisation Committee often about updates. Based on this feedback and in consideration of COVID-19 prevention and control measures, the Organisation Committee decided to proceed with the competition online, becoming the first top Chinese international music competition to resume in China.

The president of the Organisation Committee Long Yu said: "The pandemic has dealt a blow to the global performing arts industry, and it has also caused many young people to lose opportunities. We cannot let them wait for too long. The violin competition is restarting online, and we hope to give a stage to young people from different countries to allow them to display their talents, realize their dreams, and use music to convey confidence and hope to the world."

The string quartet component in the Semi-Final Round has merged into the Final Round, so the Final Round has become even more difficult. But, the Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition is known for its tough requirements. Contestants must prepare repertoire lasting about four hours in total, which is very rare in similar competitions. From the Quarter-Finals through the Semi-Finals and then to the Finals, there are many challenges for the competitors. Performances of solo pieces, a string quartet work, and concertos with the accompaniment of a symphony orchestra provide a comprehensive view of the overall quality of the contestants.

Although the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals have been moved online in this edition, the overall difficulty and variety of genres remain the same as in previous editions. Contestants select their own piano accompanist and record their video performances in their respective countries. After they are submitted to the Organisation Committee, the jurors score them online together at the same time. The six finalists then come to Shanghai next year to perform the final repertoire with the competition's collaborative orchestra and guest artists.

The competition pays great attention to the comprehensive quality of the contestants, so in the Semi-Final round, string quartet and chamber orchestra repertoire is included. David Stern, one of Isaac Stern's sons, once said that the purpose of the competition is not to teach young people how to compete, but to help inform them what kind of musician they should become in the future. Since the format of the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals has been shifted to online, the string quartet section will instead be included in the Finals and the Mozart violin concerto originally planned with a chamber orchestra will be adapted to be with piano accompaniment instead. The Organisation Committee will issue corresponding subsidies to the contestants to pay for the piano accompanist and recording costs.

During the Finals, in addition to the string quartet piece, contestants also perform a newly-commissioned Chinese work - Violin Concerto "Night Tour" by Chinese composer Zhou Tian - and a violin concerto of choice with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, which fully demonstrates the contestants' artistic level, musical personality, and irreplaceable in-person appeal.

Through the efforts of the first two editions, the influence and reputation of the Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition has continued to increase, and the nationalities of contestants participating in this competition have become more diverse. The 36 SISIVC quarterfinalists for the 2020 edition come from 17 countries and regions, and more than half of them study at, or graduated from, top music schools including The Juilliard School, Curtis Conservatory of Music, Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, New England Conservatory of Music, Royal Conservatory of Music, Oxford University, and Conservatoire de Paris. Many contestants have participated in top international music competitions such as the Wieniawski International Violin Competition, Menuhin International Violin Competition, Sendai International Music Competition, International Violin Competition of Indianapolis and Fritz Kreisler International Violin Competition.

SISIVC is not only a competition platform, but also through the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra's own international influence, it recommends world-class artist management companies to the winners and facilitates its cooperation with first-class orchestras around the world, in order to help the winners' careers.

Despite going online for some events, the difficulty of the competition has not been reduced. A number of measures have been enacted to ensure the fairness of the competition. Fedina Zhou, the Executive President of the SISIVC Organisation Committee says, "A first-class competition requires a first-class structure. If a competition is compared to a house, fairness is its cornerstone. If the foundation is unstable, no amount of decoration is meaningful." There is no uniform standard for art, but music competitions must adhere to their own standards and use reasonable judging mechanisms, rigorous implementation, and strict supervision to ensure the fairness and transparency of the competition.

In order to ensure fairness and justice of the online competition, the Organisation Committee is inviting a professional technical team to specify detailed recording requirements for competitors. The contestants also sign an agreement promising that there will be no cheating during the recording. Contestants are not allowed to edit; the recorded video and audio must be submitted to the Organisation Committee in unaltered and original format.

The jury members of the competition are located in Europe, the United States, and several Asian countries. They will overcome the challenges of time differences and will score online. The jurors also sign an agreement in advance promising to avoid all communication with the contestants and other jurors during the competition, to ensure that the judging process is fair and just.

In addition, the competition will also be broadcast publicly online. Although there will be no live, in-person components in 2021, the online broadcast allows global audiences to watch the competition through various platforms.

Long Yu says, "Consistency is the foundation of international competitions. Although the pandemic has disrupted the rhythm of the competition, we will adhere to high standards and high levels to persevere and create new highlights. We are committed to cultivating talented young musicians for the international music industry of performing arts, and also to enhance the international influence of Chinese music in the world."

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2020 SISIVC Quarter-Finalists (in alphabetical order)

Oganes Arustamov | Russia
Yunfei Bai | China
Marie Bégin | Canada
Stefan Besan | Romania
Angela Sin Ying Chan | Hong Kong, China
Hawijch Elders | Netherlands
Hiu Sing Fan | Hong Kong, China
Liucong Feng | China
Kristine Clair Galano | Philippines
Lusine Harutyunyan | Armenia
Maja Horvat | Slovenia
Sayuri Kuru | Japan
Alice Lee | Canada
Shannon Lee | United States
SooBeen Lee | South Korea
William Lee | Taiwan, China
Youjin Lee | South Korea
Thomas Lefort | France
Ruifeng Lin | China
Charlie Lovell-Jones | United Kingdom
Nao Mizukoshi | Japan
Elias David Moncado | Germany
Ashley Jeehyun Park |United States
Yue Qian | China
Anna Savkina | Russia
Felicitas Schiffner | Germany
Zixuan Shen | China
Steven Song | United States
Haozhe Song | China
Stepan Starikov | Russia
Sophia Su | United States
Katherine Woo | United States
Rino Yoshimoto | Japan
Arata Yumi | Japan
Jingzhi Zhang | China
Philip Zuckerman | Sweden

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