Canadian violinist Nikki Chooi is one of 12 finalists performing this week at the 75th anniversary edition of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. The QEC is one of the world's most prestigious classical music competitions. In the event's long history, only 11 Canadians have previously made it to the final round (see timeline below), including two violinists: Annalee Patipatanakoon (who placed 11th in 1989) and Martin Beaver (who placed fourth in 1993). The grand prize has only ever been awarded once to a Canadian: a distinction earned by contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux in 2000.
Chooi's final-round performance takes place in the Henry Le Boeuf Hall, at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, on Wednesday, May 23 at 8 p.m. CEST. He will tackle Maurice Ravel's Sonata in G major* accompanied by German pianist Thomas Hope, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Concerto in D major, Op. 35* with the National Orchestra of Belgium under Gilbert Varga.
[*Links to public domain .pdf scores from the International Music Score Library Project.]
Chooi will also set his bow to a brand new concerto for violin and orchestra from the pen of Japanese composer Sakai Kenji (winner of the 2011 Queen Elisabeth Composition Competition), an imposed work created specifically for the competition.
Followers in Canada can watch all the QEC finals live via low definition or high definition streams, or listen to CBC Radio 2 for highlights from Chooi's performance: the Ravel Sonata will be broadcast on Tempo (Thursday, May 24) and the Tchaikovsky Concerto on In Concert (Sunday, June 3). Extensive audio and video archives are also available from the competition's website.
Here's an excerpt from Chooi's May 10 semifinal recital, in which he performs Ernest Chausson's Poème, Op. 25*:
Twenty-three-year-old Chooi of Victoria, B.C., has studied at the Mount Royal University Conservatory in Calgary under William van der Sloot, and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia under Joseph Silverstein and Ida Kavafian.
Chooi has competed in several international competitions, including the Klein International String Competition in San Francisco (winning first prize in 2009), and the Montreal International Musical Competition (winning the award for best Canadian artist in 2006 and 2010).
A frequent recitalist in Canada and the United States, Chooi has also been featured as soloist with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the Victoria Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, among many others.
Chooi currently plays a 1729 Guarneri del Gesù violin, on loan from the Canada Council of the Arts Instrument Bank.
Canadian QEC finalists (since 1937)
• 1960 (piano): Ronald Turini, second place
• 1964 (piano): Anton Kuerti, fourth place (as a U.S. citizen; Kuerti settled in Canada in 1965)
• 1978 (piano): Douglas Finch, fifth place
• 1987 (piano): Chia Chou, ninth place
• 1989 (violin): Annalee Patipatanakoon, 11th place
• 1993 (violin): Martin Beaver, fourth place
• 2000 (voice): Marie-Nicole Lemieux, first place; Robert Pomakov (unranked finalist); Karen Wierzba (unranked finalist)
• 2004 (voice): Hélène Guilmette, second place
• 2008 (voice): Layla Claire (unranked finalist); Michèle Losier (unranked finalist)
• 2012 (violin): Nikki Chooi (placement to be determined)
2012 QEC finalists (in competition order)
• Monday, May 21: Josef Spacek (Czech Republic, age 25) and Ermir Abeshi (Albania/U.S.A., age 25)
• Tuesday, May 22: Hyun Su Shin (Korea, age 24) and Tatsuki Narita (Japan, age 20)
• Wednesday, May 23: Marc Bouchkov (Belgium, age 21) and Nikki Chooi (Canada, age 23)
• Thursday, May 24: Andrey Baranov (Russia, age 26) and Dami Kim (Korea, age 23)
• Friday, May 25: Artiom Shishkov (Belarus, age 28) and Nancy Zhou (U.S.A., age 19)
• Saturday, May 26: Esther Yoo (U.S.A., age 17) and Yu-Chien Tseng (Taiwan, age 17)
2012 Montreal International Musical Competition on CBC Music
Honens hears 50 pianists from 6 continents
Today in history: Van Cliburn wins Tchaikovsky Competition
on May 22, 2012