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NEC's Tchaikovsky Competition Finalists

NEC has 10 Finalists Chosen to Compete in XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition

International Tchaikovsky Competition 201110 NEC Musicians Chosen as Finalists in 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition, June 14—July 2 in Moscow, St. Petersburg

Six Violinists, Three Cellists, One Pianist are Either Current Students or Recent Alumni

JeHye Lee2011-06-25 Three NEC string players have advanced to the Finals, where each will have two Concerto performances. Find the performance schedule for violinists Nigel Armstrong and JeHye Lee and cellist Narek Hakhnazaryanhere. Armstrong has also been honored for "Best performance of the work written specially for the Competition"; Lee and Hakhnazaryan have both been honored for "Best chamber concerto performance" in their categories. All rounds of performances to date are now available as archived webcasts.

2011-06-21 Three of NEC's string players have advanced to the Concerto phase of Round II.

2011-06-20 Five of the eight NEC musicians who competed in Round I of the competition have advanced to Round II.

Ten young musicians, either current or recent students, from New England Conservatory, have been invited to participate in the finals of the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition, June 14—July 2. The six violinists, three cellists, and one pianist will compete in their respective instrumental disciplines for a share of the €300,000 prize money and three years of concert appearances at a variety of high profile international venues. A total of 122 contestants— 27 violinists, 25 cellists, 30 pianists, and 40 singers—were chosen from recorded applications by four panels of distinguished jurors. Conductor Valery Gergiev is this year’s Chairman of what is arguably the world’s most prestigious music competition, made famous by the triumph of American pianist Van Cliburn at the first competition in 1958.

Contestants with NEC ties are violinists Nigel Armstrong, Yoo Jin Jang, Tessa Lark, JeHye Lee, Xiang “Angelo” Yu, and Nancy Zhou; cellists Jacqueline Choi, David Eggert, and Narek Hakhnazaryan; and pianist Lukas Vondracek. (Note as of June 15, 2011: Xiang "Angelo" Yu and pianist Lukas Vondracek have withdrawn from the competition.)

Competition events, which will take place both in Moscow (piano and cello) and St. Petersburg (violin and voice), will be streamed live via the Internet. Competition officials expect a total of 1,000,000 viewers, with between 200,000 and 300,000 viewers for the final round of the competition.

The instrumental competitors are required to prepare two recital programs (one of 50 minutes, the other of 60 minutes), a concerto for chamber orchestra, and two concerti for full orchestra as well as a new work composed for the competition. They will compete in three rounds, with the field of contestants narrowed for each round. The Awards Ceremony will take place June 30 in Moscow followed by Gala Winners’ Concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg on July 1 and 2. For the first time in its history, the Competition will collaborate with three distinguished artist management agencies—Intermusica, Opus 3 Artists, and Moscow Philharmonic Society—to organize three-year concert engagements in Russia and abroad for the winners.

NEC Competitors’ Audition Videos and Biographies

Nigel Armstrong, violin ’07 Prep. 21 years old. A native of Sonoma, California, he studied with Donald Weilerstein at NEC's Preparatory School.

Nigel is a senior at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where he studies with Robert Lipsett. He recently came to international attention with his silver medal wins in the 2010 Menuhin Competition Senior Division, held in Oslo, Norway, and the First International Violin Competition of Buenos Aires. In both competitions he received additional prizes, including the "Premio Tango" in Buenos Aires. Since his solo debut with the Baroque Sinfonia, Nigel has performed concerti and showpieces with the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Asociación de Profesores de la Orquesta Estable del Teatro Colón, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, the Bozeman Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, the Downey Symphony Orchestra, and the American Philharmonic of Sonoma County, with which he performed during two seasons. He is currently co-concertmaster of the Colburn Orchestra as well as concertmaster of the American Youth Symphony.

Highlights of Nigel's 2010/2011 season include concerto appearances with the Burbank Philharmonic, the American Youth Symphony, and the Colburn Orchestra under the direction of Sir Neville Marriner. In the summer of 2011 Nigel will undertake a recital tour of Argentina.

Nigel Armstrong has performed as a chamber musician at the Aspen, Encore, and Music@Menlo music festivals as well as at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. As first violinist of the Peresson Quartet he has performed throughout the West Coast of the United States as well as in Montreal and Banff, Canada.

Nigel has received First Prize in the concerto competitions of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Downey Symphony Orchestra, the Culver City Symphony, and the Burbank Philharmonic. In addition, Nigel was the recipient of the Young Artist Award at the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, the American Philharmonic, and the Culver City Symphony. He took first place in the San Francisco Bay Area American Society of String Teachers (ASTA) 2004 competition, going on to win the California state ASTA competition.

In 2007 Nigel was profiled in the cover story of the January/February issue of Teen Strings. He has also made an appearance on NPR's acclaimed radio program From the Top.

Though classical music is Nigel's passion, he also enjoys exploring different traditions of musical expression such as jazz, fiddle, and tango. In 2000, he was the recipient of the Second Prize in the Cloverdale Annual Old Time Fiddle Contest's Waltz Division and in 2008 he performed an arrangement of Johnny Cash's Orange Blossom Special with the Bozeman Symphony.

Yoo Jin Jang, violin ’10, ’12 M.M., 20 years old, studies with Miriam Fried.

Violinist Yoo Jin Jang has performed extensively throughout her native country of South Korea. Recently, she has appeared with the top Korean orchestras including the KBS Symphony Orchestra and the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2007, Yoo Jin appeared with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under the direction of Ivan Fischer. Yoo Jin was awarded the Fourth Prize at the Seoul International Music Competition as well as Second Prize, the Audience Prize, and the Prize for Best Performance of the New Zealand commissioned work at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition. Yoo Jin studied at Seoul National University before coming to the U.S.

Tessa Lark, violin ’12 G.D. studies with Miriam Fried and Lucy Chapman. A native of Richmond, Kentucky, she is 22 years old.

In March, 2006, Tessa won First Place in the Johansen International Strings Competition in Washington, D.C., and in June 2008, she won First Place at the Irving M. Klein International String Competition in San Francisco. She has performed worldwide as a violin soloist, chamber musician and orchestra principal. Through June 2006, she was concertmaster of the Starling Chamber Orchestra at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (CCM), toured southern China with them in 2001, performed with them at Aspen in 2002 and 2004, and performed with them in Germany, Austria, and Russia in 2003 and in London in 2004. Since September 2006, Tessa has been studying with Miriam Fried at the New England Conservatory (NEC), Boston, majoring in violin performance. Since 2010 Tessa has been studying with both Ms. Fried and Lucy Chapman at NEC.

Tessa started playing violin at age 6, studying with Cathy McGlasson. At age 11, Tessa began 6 years of violin studies with Kurt Sassmannshaus at CCM through the Starling Preparatory String Project. Tessa has also played with Narrow Road, a Kentucky Gospel Bluegrass Band. As a member of the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, she was Assistant Concertmaster for the Concert Orchestra and a member of Symphony through Spring 2002. Tessa was Concertmaster at the Foster Music Camp at Eastern Kentucky University, attended the Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp near Nashville in 2000, 2003, 2005, and 2006, attended the Aspen Music School on a New Horizon Fellowship in 2004, and was a scholarship student at the Great Wall Academy in 2005.

Tessa is featured in several instructional and performance videos and has performed on the public radio program, From The Top. She was a featured soloist at the Forbidden City Concert Hall with the Beijing Symphony, and was a featured soloist at Music Hall with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in November, 2005. Tessa performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Gettysburg Chamber Orchestra in 2006, the Bruch Violin Concerto with the Peninsula Symphony in 2009, and the Tchaikovsky and Walton Violin Concertos with the Santa Cruz Symphony and NEC Symphony, respectively, in 2010.

During the summers of 2007 and 2008, Tessa was performer in residence at the Steans Institute for Young Artists at the Ravinia Music Festival, Chicago. In the summer of 2009, Tessa played in the finale week of Music in the Vineyards in California and was in residence at the Yellow Barn Music Festival in Vermont in 2009 and 2010.

Tessa currently plays the 1675 Tononi violin on loan to her from the Steans Institute for Young Artists.

JeHye Lee, violin ’08 M.M., ’10 G.D., 25 years old, studied with Miriam Fried while attending NEC. Jehye Lee was born in Seoul, Korea in 1986.

JeHye began her violin studies at the age of 7 with Prof. Nam Yun Kim at the Korean National University of Arts and received her Bachelor's Degree in 2002.

JeHye has been honored with numerous awards in various international competitions, including Third Prize at the Sion International Competition in Switzerland and the Yehudi Menuhin Competition in England in 2004. The following year, her Ziegen Quartet won the Second Prize at the Prague Spring International Competition (String Quartet Section). Also in 2005, she won First Prize, along with audience and the Sarasate prizes at the 8th Sarasate International Violin Competition in Spain. In May 2009, she received the audience, chamber music award, and the First (Mozart) Prize at the 7th Leopold Mozart Competition in Augsburg, leading to several important concert engagements.

As a solo performer, JeHye has appeared with the North Czech Philharmonic, the Mozart Chamber Orchestra (Vienna), the Bilbao Symphony, the chamber orchestra of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Munich Radio Orchestra. She has further appeared in major venues such as the Seoul Arts Center, Jordan Hall of Boston, Dvorak Hall (Prague), Victoria Hall in Geneva, Bordeaux's Grand Theater, and Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. With her passion for chamber music, JeHye has been invited to numerous festivals where she has worked and performed with musicians such as Menahem Pressler, Laurence Lesser, Franz Helmerson, Gidon Kremer, Tatiana Grindenko, and Miriam Fried. JeHye plays a violin by Nicolo Bergonzi, from 1760.

Xiang “Angelo” Yu, violin ’12. Student of Donald Weilerstein. A native of Shanghai, China, “Angelo” is 24 years old.

“Angelo” won the 2010 Menuhin Competition for Young Violinists, despite a nerve-wracking trip to Oslo, Norway during which he was stranded in the Reykjavik, Iceland airport because of the volcanic ash cloud. Thanks to the intercessions of a former ambassador to China and Norway who took him into his home, the violinist was able to get on a sold-out flight to Norway, sitting in the cockpit with the pilot. He arrived just in time for the competition’s first round and went on to win the finals. He was featured in the grand finale concert with the Oslo Philharmonic in the Oslo Opera House. That event was given in the presence of Norway’s King Harald V and Queen Sonja. Angelo attributed his triumph to his mother, who has been gravely ill with cancer, and for whom he dedicated his competition performance.

Yu studied at the Shanghai Conservatory before coming to Boston to study with Donald Weilerstein, who occupies the Dorothy Richard Starling Chair in Violin Studies. He has won First Prize at the Bode Cup Chamber Music Competition in China and Second Prize at the International Competition for Young Violinists in Honor of Karol Lipinski and Henryk Wieniawski (2006).

Yu has participated in masterclasses at leading international festivals including the Ravinia Festival, Verbier Academy, Morningside Music Bridge, and Yellow Barn Festival. He has given solo recitals in China, Poland, Germany, Canada, Singapore and the US and performed as a soloist with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the Young Euro Classic Orchestra.

Nancy Zhou, violin, will join the Harvard/NEC joint degree program as a freshman in September, studying with Miriam Fried. A native of San Antonio and daughter of a member of the San Antonio Symphony, she is 18 years old.

Nancy won First Prize at the 5th Johansen International Competition for violin, and in conjunction with that, received the award for the best performance of a commissioned work. She also received First Prize at the 2nd Chinese International Violin Competition in New York in August, 2009. Besides competing internationally and nationally, Nancy has appeared on the national radio show, From the Top, and has been constantly active outside of school. She was enrolled in the Aspen Music Festival and School, studying with Paul Kantor, and the New School's New York String Seminar, directed by Jaime Laredo.

As a recipient of the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation scholarship since 2008, Nancy will be collaborating with violinist Mutter on tour in Europe in 2011.

Jacqueline Choi, cello. ‘05 Prep, ’09 B.M. The 24-year old cellist studied with Paul Katz at NEC. She won the 14th annual Edwin H. and Lehigh W. Schadt String Competition 2010.

Choi, a native of New Jersey, began her cello studies at age ten, and two years later performed Haydn’s Concerto in C with one of the major orchestras in Korea. Around this time, she also won several competition awards in Korea, including the prestigious Kumho Prodigy Concert Audition. Back in the United States in 2002, Jacqueline Choi earned first place in numerous concerto competitions, including the New England Conservatory Youth Concerto Competition.

Her 2005 performance of Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations with NEC's Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and Benjamin Zander received outstanding reviews and Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer pronounced her “an emerging star." In the summer of that year, she also appeared as a soloist with the YPO on its Brazil and Venezuela Tour. In February 2007, Jacqueline was the winner of NEC’s Chamber Orchestra Competition and performed Haydn’s Concerto in D.

The cellist has a close affiliation with the Perlman Music Program, which has sponsored solo and trio recitals for her in New York in 2004 and 2007. A devoted chamber musician, Choi attended the International Program at Music@Menlo in California, as well as the Banff Centre Masterclass Program in Alberta, Canada, and the Masterclass Apeldoorn in Holland. Jacqueline gave performances with her trio on a Canadian tour in October 2006, and appeared in a gala concert with the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center in March 2007, performing with Itzhak Perlman.

David Eggert ’05, cello. The 25-year-old Canadian cellist studied at NEC with Laurence Lesser.

Born in Edmonton, Canada, Eggert was ‘cellistically’ raised by Tanya Prochazka, with whom he studied for thirteen years. At the age of 16, he and his string quartet won First Prize at both the Canadian Music Competition and the National Music Festival. He also toured Canada as principal cellist of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada.

He spent summers at masterclasses in Banff and Orford, and later in Switzerland and Germany, studying with renowned pedagogues such as Anner Bylsma, Frans Helmerson, Miklos Perenyi, and Aldo Parisot.

After two years at NEC, Eggert moved to Montreal, embarking on studies with the dynamic and trail-breaking cellist Matt Haimovitz. Focusing on 20th-century repertoire, he won First Prize at the 2006 Eckhardt-Grammaté Competition for Canadian Music, and completed a successful tour of 18 Canadian cities as part of the grand prize. He also won First Prizes at the ARAM Concours de Musique de Repentigny, Québec, and the TD Canada Trust Festival Competition in Elora, Ontario. the recipient of awards from the 2006 Orford String Quartet Award and the Walter Joachim Cello Award from the from the 2008 Walter W. Naumburg Foundation.

Eggert currently lives in Salzburg, Austria, where he completing his Master’s degree at the Mozarteum as a student of Clemens Hagen of the Hagen String Quartet. He plays a 1871 Niccolo Bianchi cello, generously loaned to him by the German Music Foundation.

Eggert is the recipient of the 2009 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award. Awards are presented annually to the most talented young applicants.

Narek Hakhnazaryan, cello. ’11 A.D. Studied with Laurence Lesser while at NEC. He is 22 years old and was born in Armenia. He studied in Russia before coming to the US to pursue an Artist Diploma at NEC.

During the 2010-11 season, Narek performs as soloist with the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra and the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Jorge Mester. He appears at the Caramoor Festival as part of their “Rising Stars” series, in The Embassy Series in Washington, DC, with Musicians from Ravinia's Steans Institute and the Bedford Chamber Concert Series (NY), at the Morgan Library and Museum, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (IL), Princeton University, and with the Howland Chamber Music and Cultural Center (NY).

Last season, Narek’s appearances included the Young Concert Artists Festival in Tokyo and two performances in Boston’s Symphony Hall: with the Boston Pops in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations with Maestro Erich Kunzel, and presented by Boston’s Celebrity Series, performing the Schumann Cello Concerto with conductor Hugh Wolff and the NEC Philharmonia. He has performed as soloist with the Long Bay, Fort Smith and Westmoreland symphonies, and in recital at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, for the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, Ravinia’s Rising Stars Series, the University of Florida, Vanguard Concerts, Congregation Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh, the University of Georgia, Candlelight Concerts, Missouri State University, the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in Olympia, Saint Vincent College, Lincoln County Concert Association, Patrons for Young Artists, The Paramount Theatre, and The Colonial Theatre.

As First Prize winner in the 2008 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, Narek debuted in the Young Concert Artists Series in New York at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, sponsored by the Jerome L. Greene Foundation Prize, and at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater in Washington, DC.

Narek has participated in Ravinia’s Steans Institute for Young Artists and received scholarships from the Rostropovich Russian Performing Arts Fund which brought him concerts in Russia, Germany, Italy, Austria, France, Great Britain, Greece, Turkey and Canada. His prizes include Fifth Prize at the 2007 Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow, First Prize in the 2006 Aram Khachaturian International Competition in Armenia, and First Place in the 2006 Johansen International Competition for Young String Players.

Narek was born in 1988 in Yerevan, Armenia, into a family of musicians: his father is a violinist and his mother is a pianist. His early studies were at the Sayat-Nova School of Music in Yerevan with Zareh Sarkisyan. At the age of 12, Narek began studies at the Moscow Conservatory with Alexey Seleznyov. Narek Hakhnazaryan plays a 1698 David Tecchler cello, on loan from Valentine Saarmaa, granddaughter of the renowned luthier Jacques Francais.

Lukáš Vondráček ’12 A.D., piano. Student of Hung Kuan Chen. A native of Opava, Czech Republic, he is 25 years old. Lukáš won First Prize in the 2010 Hilton Head Island Competition.

Lukáš, whose musical ability was first spotted at the age of two by his parents, both professional pianists, gave his first concert at the age of four. He made his first international tour at the age of ten, performing at various festivals in the United Kingdom and the United States. He has studied at the Vienna Hochschule, the Academy of Music (Katowice, Poland), and University of Ostrava (Czech Republic). Lukas performed debut recitals at La Cité in Paris, the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the Auditorio Nacional in Madrid, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and the Tonhalle in Zurich. In the United States, he has played in a number of festivals including the Gilmore Festival, Ravinia Festival, and the New York International Piano Series.

Lukáš made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in 2002 under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy. Since then, he has made frequent appearances with other major orchestras, such as the Philharmonia Orchestra in Birmingham; BBC Philharmonic; the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; the Helsinki Philharmonic with Ashkenazy conducting; the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra; as well as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Cape Town Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Malta National Orchestra, the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon, Sydney Symphony at the Opera House, West Australian Symphony Orchestra in Perth, and the Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de Sao Paulo. He has also toured in Japan with the NHK Symphony.

In 2001, Lukáš was awarded the Hanno R. Ellenbogen Award for the most exceptional young artist in Europe. At the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, he received The Raymond E. Buck Jury Discretionary Award.

About the International Tchaikovsky Competition

For more than 50 years, the International Tchaikovsky Competition has been regarded internationally as one of the major events in the global music community and as an outstanding opportunity for extraordinary young musicians to gain international recognition and establish their careers. In Russia, the event is considered one of the country’s most valuable cultural assets.

The International Tchaikovsky Competition is held once every four years. The first, in 1958, embraced two disciplines – piano and violin. In 1962, a cello category was added, and the vocal division (with separate prizes for men and women) was introduced at the third competition in 1966.

Among the competition winners who have achieved worldwide recognition are: pianists Van Cliburn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Barry Douglas, Mikhail Pletnev and Grigory Sokolov; violinists Gidon Kremer, Vladimir Spivakov, Viktoria Mullova; cellists Antonio Meneses, Natalia Gutman and Mario Brunello; and singers Evgeny Nesterenko, Paata Burchuladze, Elena Obraztsova and Deborah Voigt.

Under the competition chairmanship of such figures as Dmitri Shostakovich, Emil Gilels and Mstislav Rostropovich, past juries have included such legendary names as Sviatoslav Richter, Aram Khachaturian, David Oistrakh, Gregor Piatigorsky, Heinrich Neuhaus, Nadia Boulanger, Krzysztof Penderecki, Dmitri Kabalevsky, Irina Arkhipova, George London, Lev Oborin, Pierre Fournier, Maria Callas, Leonard Rose, Eugene List, Georgy Svirdov, Mario Del Monaco, Leonid Kogan, Carlo Zecchi, Joseph Szigeti, Fiorenza Cossotto, Natalia Gutman, Shlomo Mintz, Bidu Sayao and Magda Tagliaferro.

The XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition, 2011

The Chairman of the 2011 Organizing Committee is conductor Valery Gergiev, one of the most celebrated and influential musicians in the world today.

Leading Russian orchestras are invited to perform with the finalists in the last round of the competition. In 2011, for the first time, the competition will be presented simultaneously at a number of halls in both Moscow and St Petersburg.  Moscow will host the piano and cello competitions, while St. Petersburg will present the violin and vocal competitions.

Jury members in 2011 include Vladimir Ashkenazy, Barry Douglas,Nelson Freire, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Maxim Vengerov, Antonio Meneses, Teresa Berganza, Renata Scotto, Ferruccio Furlanetto and Krzysztof Penderecki.  Van Cliburn is Honorary Chairman of the Piano Competition; Honorary Chairman of the Vocal Competition is Plácido Domingo.  The complete list of jury members can be found on Competition website.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
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