String sisters – The Schoenfeld

The Schoenfeld is fast becoming one of China’s most important destinations for string players, now, combined with the new Art Leaders’ Summit, its ambition is to shine. Andrew Anderson reports

2018 Cello Division winner Zlatomir Fung
2018 Cello Division winner Zlatomir Fung

The Schoenfeld International String Competition, known as “The Schoenfeld”, might only be in its fifth edition but is already building a big reputation. In part that is due to the stature of its founders Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld, prominent players and educators who had a direct hand in literally thousands of young musicians’ lives.

2020 will mark the first edition since Alice passed away at the age of 98 in 2019 (Eleonore died in
2007), and their memory will be honoured by the success of the competition in Harbin, which has been named after them. Equally impressive is the fact that the mayor of Harbin has decided to build a sculpture of the Schoenfeld sisters in the musical city as a tribute to their contributions.

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At the root of its success is the quality of the players and judges. Previous jury chairs include Jean-Jacques Kantorow, David Geringas, Lynn Harrell, Shlomo Mintz, David Cerone, Jorge Mester and Christoph Poppen. As for winners, among them are Ulysses Quartet, Notos Quartet, Lorenz Chen, Christophe Croisé, Jiwon Song, Goldmund Quartet, Zlatomir Fung and many others.

“A competition needs to be run by people close to the international music life, curious about future developments, ambitious to promote their own candidates in the best possible way, guiding them to the most unexpected way of a career development,” commented WFIMC vice president Peter Paul Kainrath (of Ferruccio Busoni International
Piano Competition), when asked about the strength of The Schoenfeld at its 2020 launch event. “I have to underline the huge potential of this country offering probably the most interesting opportunities for a young musician to experience different kind of stages, of audiences and reactions.”

This year, in collaboration with WFIMC, The Schoenfeld will host the second edition of the Dean & Schoenfeld Art Leaders’ Summit during the 2020 competition, on the theme of ‘Music Competitions & Artistic Legacy’.

The summit will bring together CEOs and music competition directors within the WFIMC membership for an exchange of views on the artistic strategy, artistic legacy and artistic identities of competitions in different parts of the world, and on the role competitions play in the development of musical talent and cultural policy today.

As COVID-19 is dominating the news right now, how are the competition’s organisers
preparing for potential issues?

“Based on the evidence now and the experience China has had in 2003, the virus this time seems like it will be controlled before the end of March,” says The Schoenfeld CEO, Sisi Ye.

“The administration is confident that activities in Mainland China (but probably not the city of Wuhan, where is seriously affected) will resume by then.

“As a result, the competition committee and the jury panel are sure the current timeline is still secure and doable. In the worst case scenario – if there is no sign that the problem of COVID-19 in China has improved by May (before pre-screening results are announced in mid- May) – then The Schoenfeld office will adhere to their selection and reschedule the dates of our fifth edition.”

The competition is led by artistic director Suli Xue, with Jean-Jacques Kantorow (violin) and Arto Noras (cello) as jury chairs. Applications for the violin, cello and chamber music competitions close on 15 April.

The 5th Schoenfeld International String Competition runs in Harbin, China, from 15 – 29 July 2020.

NOTE: Check with your foreign office for travel advice before visiting affected areas and ensure your travel insurance is valid.