The 65th edition of the Kocian Violin Competition took place in the town of Ústí nad Orlicí from May 3rd to May 6th, 2023. Due to the post-pandemic situation and the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine, a slightly smaller number of contestants participated in the competition compared to previous years.
A total of 50 violinists registered and 45 contestants arrived to Ústí. These talented violinists came from various countries, including Serbia, Israel, Germany, the USA, and Japan. Promising young musicians from the Czech Republic also took part. It’s amazing that the Kocian Violin Competition, as the world’s oldest competition for children and youth under 16, still maintains an excellent reputation worldwide and attracts so many international participants.
In the 1st category, there were a total of 13 contestants. As usual, it was held in a single round, and the compulsory piece was Bohuslav Martinů’s Intermezzo No. 2. I believe that every performance in this youngest category should be awarded highly to support their efforts and preparation for the competition.
We eventually awarded the performances of the contestants as follows: one Certificate of Merit of the 3rd grade, three Certificates of Merit of the 2nd grade, and three Certificates of Merit of the 1st grade. The performances of the contestants in the following places were very balanced, so we awarded four 3rd prizes. These were received by Vít Langášek from the Czech Republic, Gansuld Ganerdene from Mongolia, Iva Rakočević from Serbia, and Lara Tamcan from Ukraine. In this category, the 2nd prize was awarded to Tadeáš Prokop from the Czech Republic for his beautiful performance of Komarovskij’s Concerto No. 2 in A major. The clear winner in this category was Anna Olecká from the Czech Republic. Her confident and expressive performance of G. F. Händel’s Sonata in F major and C. Bohm’s Introduction and Polonaise was very musical. Anna is a great talent, even though she is still very young. She has a beautiful vibrato and a great musical sensitivity. Her performance was captivating, and I look forward to her future appearances. I believe that Anna is a talent that will continue to grow and develop.
In the 2nd category, the compulsory piece was Jaroslav Kocian’s Spring Song. Eight contestants advanced to the second round. The overall level of the second category was excellent. The winner in this category was Lin Tokura from Japan, who played Paganini’s La Campanella and Wieniawski’s Scherzo-Tarantella brilliantly. She received a full score from most of the judges and deservedly won the competition. The second place was taken by Nika Ruotong Zhu from Germany, who impressed with her performances of Glier’s Romance and Sarasate’s Introduction and Tarantella. Magdalena Anna Watzko from the Czech Republic received the 3rd prize for her beautiful rendition of Suk’s Un poco triste and Pugnani-style Preludio a Allegro by F. Kreisler. Furthermore, four Certificates of Merit of the 1st grade and one of 3rd grade were awarded.
The 3rd category at KVC usually features a high level of competition, although this year, it seemed to lag slightly behind the level of the previous year. The compulsory piece was Váša Příhoda’s Romance Élégiaque. This beautiful composition, which is rarely performed on concert stages, is an important contribution to emphasizing the legacy of Czech violinists from the past. It is great that the Kocian Violin Competition supports this part of the musical heritage in this way. Six contestants advanced to the second round. In today’s time, their performances are expected to have a high-quality technique and already deep musical expression. The free program in the 2nd round has a duration of 12 to 20 minutes, and most contestants try to make full use of this time limit.
The winner of this category, Natalia Dragan from Poland, delivered a captivating and musical performance. She played the demanding Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy and Vieuxtemps’ Tarantella with great virtuosity. She demonstrated excellent technique with clear staccato and a wide range of dynamics. The other performances were very good as well, so the jury awarded three second places. These places were taken by Mi-Helen Horn from Germany, Sora Sato-Mound from Canada, and Adriel Collomb from Belgium. Vintíř Langášek from the Czech Republic received an Certificate of Merit of the first grade.
In the 4th category, exceptional performances from the contestants were already expected. This year, to my great delight, we encountered such performances among the six contestants who advanced to the second round. First, I would like to mention three contestants who were awarded Certificates of Merit of the 1st grade. These contestants are Viola Lukášová from the Czech Republic, Murun Ryuki Munkhbat from Mongolia, and Viktor Knap from Slovakia. I would like to focus on Viktor in more detail. Throughout the many years of observing the Kocian Violin Competition, I do not recall a blind violinist participating in the competition. The jury was completely amazed at how Viktor managed to learn the competition pieces despite this handicap. Viktor deservedly made it to the second round, where he brilliantly performed the 3rd movement of Saint-Saëns’ Concerto No. 3, Paganini’s Caprice No. 13, and Bach’s Preludio from Partita No. 3. His rendition of the Prelude was so exceptional and sensitive that I decided to award him the Special Prize of the Jury Chairman for his outstanding interpretation of this piece.
The jury awarded the 3rd prize to Gefen Rabin from Israel, who showcased her skills in the 3rd movement of Bruch’s Concerto in G minor and Saint-Saëns’ Havanaise. The 2nd prize was given to Denis Ryabovol from the USA, who played the 1st movement of Sibelius’ Concerto in D minor brilliantly and with a unique approach. The 1st prize in this category was won by Milan Kostelenec from the Czech Republic. Milan is a regular participant in the Kocian Violin Competition and has already achieved 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places over the years. This time, he came with the goal of becoming a laureate. He was under immense pressure, but it turned out that he has nerves made of steel. In his performance, “The Last Rose” by H. W. Ernst, one of the most challenging compositions in the violin repertoire, seemed like a relatively simple piece. He played it so well that he received the maximum number of points and rightfully earned the title of laureate. I truly wished him this success, and the emotional announcement of the results revealed his beautiful connection with his parents and his teacher Petr Matěják. The circle closed for Milan Kostelenec, and thus ended one of the many beautiful and long stories of the Kocian Violin Competition.
I am delighted that this year’s competition was again exceptional. Personally, it was my second time serving as the chairman of the jury at KVC. I tried to lead the jury impartially and objectively, and I had excellent colleagues as jury members. I thank them once again for their participation.
I wish all young violinists, their parents, and teachers a lot of success and perseverance. We will be looking forward to seeing them again next year.
With best wishes,
Pavel Šporcl, Chairman of the Jury 2023