Young violinists from all over the world will soon be gathering in London for the Menuhin Competition – which this year returns to the UK in honour of Yehudi Menuhin’s centenary.

The Yehudi Menuhin School is extremely proud of three current pupils, Louisa Staples, Coco Tomita and SongHa Choi who are now in their final stages of preparation having been selected as competitors earlier this year. Coco will be the first to compete in the Junior rounds on 8 and 9 April, while Louisa and SongHa’s Senior rounds take place on 10 and 11 April.

As well as relishing the opportunity to share their music with the world, all three are particularly looking forward to meeting and hearing the other young competitors, and being involved in the events that surround the competition. These include concerts, masterclasses, exhibitions and talks honouring Menuhin’s legacy and building up to the competition finals on 15 and 16 April. Winners of both the Junior and Senior sections will play in the closing Gala Concert on 17 April.

Each competitor performs a 30-minute recital of works drawn from a repertoire list that spans three centuries of music. We asked each of them about their favourite pieces in their programmes:

SongHa: “I enjoy playing Bartόk’s Solo Violin Sonata because of its unique musical language which portrays Bartόk’s personality so vividly. The work also contains many technical challenges that push the violinist's capabilities to the limit, and they are a joy to work on and overcome. Because it was written for Menuhin, there is a very personal link through him to the composer, which I feel very dearly.”

Louisa: “My favourite piece out of my competition repertoire is Enescu’s Impromptu Concertante, because prior to applying to the competition I had never heard of the work before, and I really love discovering new pieces and getting to know them. On top of that, it is a gorgeous piece, full of colour and emotion and is so idiomatic- it is a joy to play!"

Coco: My favourites are Grieg’s Sonata No 2 and also the newly commissioned work by Oscar Colomina i Bosch, Shpigl. The Grieg sonata is very romantic, full of emotion and a variety of characters. It is almost like programme music with a hidden story line. I also like Grieg's use of folk elements in his melody as well as in the texture.

The newly composed piece by Oscar Colomina i Bosch is very deep but colourful. I have not had much experience playing contemporary music until now, so for me, it was very interesting learning this piece. It really was an eye-opening experience and opened up my curiosity towards this genre. I like the way the Oscar uses different extracts and elements from other pieces such as the Bartόk sonata and Elgar’s concerto. I also like the fact that the he has given us performers a lot of freedom both musically and theatrically.”

When asked how they organise their practice for these final stages, they all stressed the importance of continuing to pay attention to the technical details of each piece as well as finding the wider musical meaning.

SongHa says that she spends a great deal of time reading the scores of both her part and the piano/orchestral part to understand the overall composition. “I always think about achieving beauty of tone as without it, phrasing and expression is rendered useless. Whatever one does, it must be convincing, and create a strong rapport with the audience.”

For Louisa it’s important to play through her repertoire as many times as possible, even if it’s just in a practice room. “I find it so important to get a feel for the whole work before an important performance.”

Coco says that she continues to look for new things to say through each piece right up until the performance. “I focus on clarifying musical characters not just with sound and phrasing but with physical presentation and stage manner. I find recording myself performing and watching it back really helps me to correct and improve my playing.”

We wish all three of them a truly enriching and enjoyable experience.

For more details of dates and times of all events, visit the competition website here.

Read about our other connections to the competition in our earlier story here.

01 Apr 2016