Young violinists, cellists win use of rare instruments

Eleven young Canadian musicians have been awarded the use of rare and expensive violins and cellos after winning a national competition.

Eleven young Canadian musicians have been awarded the use of rare and expensive violins and cellos after winning a national competition.

The Canada Council for the Arts holds auditions for the Musical Instrument Bank every three years and winners were announced Thursday.

For the second time, Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, a 28-year-old violinist raised in Mississauga, Ont., has won first prize in the violin competition.

That gave her first pick of instruments, and for the second time she has chosen a 1729 ex-Heath Guarneri del Gesu violin.

"I developed a very close bond with this violin," Hou said of the instrument, which she has been performing and recording with for the last three years.

"It became my best friend, my voice, my method of expression."

Her debut CD Fire & Ice with Sibelius Violin Concerto and concert works by Sarasate features the instrument and she has two recordings to be released in the coming year.

The first-place winner in the cello competition, Toronto's Soo Bae, was awarded the three-year loan of a 1696 Bonjour Stradivari cello, the most valuable instrument in the instrument bank, worth nearly $5 million.

Korean-born Bae graduated with a master of music degree from the Juilliard School in New York and has performed throughout North America and Europe.

The musical instrument bank is a collection of rare and fine stringed instruments and bows, including Stradavarius, Montagnana and Pressenda violins.

The instruments are valued at more than $18 million, and musicians must audition for the privilege of using one.

The instruments have been donated or lent to the Canada Council for the Arts by wealthy philanthropists and music lovers.

"It's quite an amazing program because its objective is to give the career of a young artist a great boost — particularly someone who's embarking on an international solo or chamber career," says Carol Bream of the Canada Council.

Second place in the cello competition went to Edmonton native Rachel Mercer, who was awarded the 1824 Nicolaus Gagliano cello.

Montreal's Emmanuelle Beaulieu Bergeron, in third place,was awarded the loan of a Shaw-Adam cello bow.

Jessica Linnebach, a former Edmonton native now playing with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, won second place in the violin competition and was awarded the loan of the 1700 Taft Stradivari violin.

Another Edmonton violinist, Judy Kang, who now lives in New York, won the loan of the 1689 Baumgartner Stradivari violin.

Other winning violin players were:

  • Caroline Chéhadé, a Montrealer who now lives in New York.
  • Marc Djokic of Halifax.
  • Kerry DuWors of Brandon, Man.
  • Pascale Giguère of Quebec City.
  • Véronique Mathieu, who grew up in Quebec City.
  • Jean-Sébastien Roy, originally from St-Thomas-de-Joliette and now living in Montreal.