Zhanbo Zheng wins the 2014 Primrose International Viola Competition

On the afternoon of June 14, 2014 at The Colburn School in downtown Los Angeles, 17 year old Zhanbo Zheng and fellow finalists Cong Wu and Manuel Vioque-Judde appeared during the Fourteenth Primrose International Viola Competition final round. Over the course of the evening there were riveting performances of Britten’s Lachrymae and the Handel-Casadesus concerto, performed with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Heiichiro Ohyama. The audience eagerly awaited results, joined by viewers watching live online from around the world.

Zhanbo Zheng, a student of Professor Wang Shaowu at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China, joyfully accepted his award from competition director and former winner Nokuthula Ngwenyama. First prize includes $5,000 USD, a gift of Elizabeth, Sarah, and Peter Mandell and the Mandell Collection of Southern California; a gold-mounted Arcos Brasil bow; and select concert appearances in the United States and Europe.

Second prize of $3,000 and an Arcos Brasil bow went to 23 year old Manuel Vioque-Judde of France. Third prize of $1,000 and an Arcos Brasil bow went to 27 year old Cong Wu, of China who also won The Mozart Prize for best performance of the required chamber work. The prize for best performance of the commissioned work Aldonza by Christian Colberg, which received its world premiere during the competition, was won by Matthew Cohen of the United States. The Bach Prize, supported by Linnet Press Editions, was awarded to Kei Tojo of Japan. The Primrose Prize for outstanding performance of a Primrose transcription was awarded to Kendra James of Canada. The Sonata Prize for outstanding performance of a sonata was awarded to second prize winner Manuel Vioque-Judde of France. The prize for best performance of a 20th century concerto was awarded to Yifei Deng of China. Olivia Palazzolo of the United States received The Tone Award. Born Lau of Hong Kong and Kei Tojo of Japan were awarded honorable mentions.

The international jury included Cathy Basrak of the United States, Martin Beaver of Canada, Claudine Bigelow and Caroline Coade of the United States, Wing Ho of China, Luis Magin of Spain, Massimo Paris of Italy, Cassandra Lynn Richburg of the United States, and Pierre-Henri Xuereb of France. Leading up to the finals was a week of intense competition for 27 quarterfinalists representing 13 countries. Anonymous scoring, supported by the Kyogen Content Management System (CMS) written by Innova programmer Daniel Rodriguez, was used a second time at an international competition and enabled live results.

Quarterfinal Rounds were held June 9th and 10th, during which competitors were required to perform the first movement of their 20th century concerto, selections by Bach and a Primrose transcription. Upon completion of those rounds the top eight competitors passed on to the semi-final round. During the semifinals competitors were required to perform Christian Colberg’s Aldonza, a second Primrose transcription, a sonata, the first movement of the Mozart ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio with Los Angeles Philharmonic principal clarinetist Michele Zukovsky and pianist Sandra Rivers, and another selection by Bach. From this round, the jury chose the three finalists. The quarter and semi final rounds were open to the public and broadcast in high definition live over the internet while the final round with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra was recorded for delayed broadcast. Some 18,000 unique visitors from 67 countries on six continents viewed the competition online during the week.

The triennial Primrose International Viola Competition aims to recognize and showcase young musicians who have achieved world class excellence through intensive hard work and unusual talent. Founded in 1979 as the first international competition solely for violists, William Primrose served as chair of the jury for its inaugural year. The American Viola Society, through an endowment established by memorial contributions made by friends, colleagues, artists, and admirers of the great virtuoso, has sponsored the competition since 1986. Over the last 36 years it has established an impeccable track record for identifying talents of tomorrow and is respected for its integrity. Past-winners are currently engaged in the highest levels of professional artistic careers.

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