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Korean Hayoung Choi crowned winner of Queen Elisabeth cello competition

10:09 05/06/2022

The 26-year-old cellist Hayoung Choi (pictured centre) was announced the winner of the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition at Bozar on Saturday evening.

Following the month-long arduous contest, devoted this year to the cello, the rankings of the six winners was proclaimed at midnight by jury president jury Gilles Ledure.

After the rapturous reception to Choi’s final performance on Wednesday evening, when she played the rarely performed Lutoslawski concerto, it was not a surprise win.

And her reaction to the €25,000 Queen Mathilde Prize, reported RTBF: “I don't even know how I feel… so many things! It's a dream come true!”

The second prize was awarded to 20-year-old Chinese cellist Yibai Chen. He gave an extraordinary performance on Saturday evening, playing Shostakovich's first concerto with passion and precision.

“Of course, I'm very enthusiastic, but above all I'm exhausted! This is something huge for me… This competition is one of the most difficult in the world!,” responded Chen.

Estonian Marcel Johannes Kits picked up 3rd prize, the 4th went to Ukrainian Oleksiy Shadrin, the 5th to Serbian Petar Pejčić and the 6th to Canadian Bryan Cheng.

Among the remaining six finalists, who are considered tied, was Belgium’s Stéphanie Huang. She was nevertheless proud of her accomplishment. “Tonight, I don't have the words, I'm very happy, and very relieved! I was so happy to be in the final, it changed me a lot as a person, because it's something so unique!” The 26-year-old also received the Musiq3 public prize and the Canvas-Klara public prize, awarded by VRT.

After almost four weeks devoted to the gruelling competition, the candidates have little time to rest as they shortly begin a concert tour around Belgium. It includes a closing concert at Bozar on 16 June, when the first three winners will perform with the Belgian National Orchestra conducted by Eivind Aadland.

Next year, the Queen Elisabeth Competition will be devoted to singing.

Photo: Yibai Chen, Hayoung Choi and Marcel Johannes Kits © Belga/Nicolas Maeterlinck

Written by Sarah Crew